Fong Choo makes tiny teapots but, visually, they are anything but small. Fong successfully integrates the form with the surface to make exquisite little works of art.
The teapots bodies are thrown and altered on the wheel, and then embellished with handbuilt handles, feet, and spouts. Then Fong layers commercial glazes to get amazing surfaces. Today he explains his technique in detail, including his secret to taking commercial glazes to the next level. Good thing I am headed to the studio tonight because now I am fired up to mess around with layered glazes! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
Teapots That Pack a Punch
by Fong Choo
For more than a decade I’ve been exploring the teapot in its miniaturized form. The teapot form continues to challenge and fascinate me, and the idea of doing one thing and doing it well has been central to the success of my profession as a potter. There are a lot of techniques involved in making these teapots, and some of the techniques require tools that I have made for myself to suit a certain situation.
Although a native of Singapore, I attended college in North Carolina with graduate work in Kentucky at the University of Louisville. I’m inspired by my Chinese heritage, and particularly in the long tradition of Yixing pottery. My teapots are small and jewel-like, made of porcelain and often fired to cone 6 in an electric kiln.
Center a well-wedged 1-1/2 pound lump of clay on a removable bat. I use porcelain for my teapots because it has a better color response with my glazes (figure 1).
It is important not to overwork the clay, especially in the early stages of the process (and especially with porcelain!). In three passes, you should have the approximate form (figure 2).
I use a push stick to expand and redefine the form (figure 3). Follow the push stick on the outside with a metal rib to smooth the surface and remove excess moisture.
One feature I like to add to many of my teapots is a “moat.” It provides not only a visual base for the teapot, but also functions as a glaze catch (figure 4).
Begin the moat with a rounded tool and push in and down into the base. Using a bevel tool, round over the edge and move the tool underneath to provide lift (figure 5).
Next, I alter the teapot with a rib in a couple of passes, creating an interesting movement within the shape (figure 6).
I use a small roller and further alter the gesture of the form. After completing these alterations, I wire off the piece and remove it with the bat to set up (figure 7).
To create a spout, roll out a tapered coil then push a stick into it. With the stick inside, roll the coil to expand it (figure 8).
Once the spout is soft leather hard, I cut it to the appropriate length, trim the end and attach it to the teapot body (figure 9).
I adjust the spout to the correct angle and add pouring holes (figure 10).
For the feet, I roll and taper 3-inch coils. Gently flatten one side of the coil, then pick it up and curl each end toward the center. Set aside until soft leather hard (figure 11).
For the handle, I roll out a 6-inch coil that’s tapered on each end. I shape the handle into an interesting shape and set aside until soft leather hard (figure 12).
I throw lids off the hump using a small homemade tool (figure 13).
A finished teapot. The teapots are bisque fired then glazed with commercial cone 06–04 glazes combined with cone 6 glazes, and final fired to cone 6 in oxidation (figure 14).
You can get wonderful glaze effects by spraying on an even coat of a cone 6 glaze then brushing on cone 06 glazes. Test applications before use.
To learn more about Fong Choo or see more images of his work, please visit www.fongchoo.com.