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Ceremonial Teapots

Learn how a sculptor involves the entire family in his work.

He studied physics in school, but Brent Hill has always been a sculptor. His first teapots were made reluctantly for an assignment and ended up winning several awards. Years later, Hill got back into making teapots and is very glad he did. His work has become something of a family operation; his wife Velanya helps with glazing and their 2-1/2-year-old daughter Sevilla helps in her own way by playing quietly with the globs of clay her father gives her. His work is striking in the use of color and size, as well as being a seemingly top-heavy shape that makes the viewer wonder how it's not falling over.

Hill throws the body of the teapots that range from about 18 to 20 inches in height. The shapes tend to be narrow at the bottom and quite wide at the top, creating a top-heavy feel. Then handles are extruded and hand-sculpted to match each teapot. Spouts and handles are cut and hand-formed and then added onto the body of the piece. The separate lids are then thrown and cut to fit into the body perfectly. Some holes are cut into the lid for twigs that will be added later. The body and lid are then fired for the first time.

After the fired work has cooled, it is time to glaze. Hill is very into bright and vibrant color for his work. The way he gets the level of subtly in shading and still retains the strength of color that he enjoys is by airbrushing the glaze onto the piece. The glazing then becomes much more detailed, which is when Velanya steps in and takes over. All of the detailed glaze work is her area of expertise and patience. After all the colors desired have been layered onto the piece, there is yet another level of firing. After this has cooled again, the piece is almost complete. Several twigs of curly willow are added through the holes on the lid to add some more artistry to the work.

When this is all complete, Hill has created a nonfunctional sculptured teapot that truly feels like a work of art. It is tremendously vibrant in color, unique in shape and design, and involved the entire family before it was done.

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