Jean's many teapot designs are often inspired by her teapot collection, each one different, depending on the type of tea brewing – from Chinese jasmine to English Breakfast to Japanese green tea.
There is an art to teapot design and, much like combining the right amount of tea leaves to boiling water, it’s all about balance. Jean's teapot paintings are a balance of minimalist form, vivid colours and graphic design, with the occasional addition of a bold sun or bamboo forest.
Inspiration is blended into the balance by way of tea stories. After moving to Hong Kong in 1978, Jean discovered a traditional tea house, which she frequented for the next two decades. On that very first visit, Jean purchased a clay teapot which she is still using today. It’s a special teapot because although it was meant for Chinese tea leaves, it brews a delicious cup of Yorkshire tea.
The first time Jean visited Japan she attended a tea ceremony in Kyoto and encountered the tetsubin, a Japanese cast-iron kettle used for boiling water. Jean fell in love with the tetsubin’s unique yet clear cut and bold shape (here below is a teapot-inspired elaborated example).
Another favourite memory is how my grandmother, Molly, always had a special travelling teapot. Whether we were having a picnic in the New Forest in Hampshire or sitting on a pebbled beach in Southsea, water was either boiled on a Bunsen burner or poured hot from a flask into Molly’s blue and white porcelain teapot over tea leaves for a “proper” brew. It was always a perfect cup of tea served on a tablecloth and enjoyed with ginger biscuits and a view.
Stories steeped in memories are part of the balance when looking at a Jean Tori teapot painting. Blended alongside bright colours, simple shapes and decorative backgrounds, is the inspiration of stories of tea houses; hunting for Oolong tea; discovering a favourite teapot; or simply drinking a freshly brewed pot with friends and family.
As Molly would always say, “Let’s have a ‘nice’ cup of tea” – with the accent on nice!