Chinese Yixing Zisha Teapots
Leona Craig Art Gallery
Home Up Wall_Art Sculpture Chinese Teapots Decorative_Art
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Service in English:
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086 13632410877
clm@leonacraig.com
Office/Fax: 0086 20 37625069
Guangzhou, China
Service in Chinese:
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086 02 37625069
llp@incountry-china.com

Drinking tea had its origins in China about 5,000 years ago.  Tea drinking in nice ceramic cups first appeared in China during the Sung Dynasty (969-1279 A.D.).  However, steeping whole tea leaves in pottery cups and pots was a product of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 A.D.), which is famous for its ceramic art and from which many of the teapot themes that continue into today claim their origins.

The best teapots, in the world, come from the town of Yi Xing (Yixing), about 100 miles west of Shanghai, where teapots have been made since the Ming Dynasty.  What makes Yi Xing teapots so special is the material that they are made of: so-called zisha clay, which is not really clay, at all, but is actually rock paste made from the special rocks that can be found only in that area of the world.   The rocks of Yi Xing contain iron, mica, kaolinite, and quartz.  What makes zisha clay so special is its porosity, its ability to retain heat, and a low shrinkage factor when fired in a kiln.  Those three properties contribute to its excellence for brewing tea, the latter quality allowing for a tightly fitting lid.  You can tell the quality of a teapot by its sound when you turn the lid or “ring” the pot by tapping the lid against the body: high quality zisha clay pots give the same kind of clear note that you find if you ping fine crystal.  In addition to the main color, purple, other natural colors of zisha are yellow, cinnabar, green and beige, and still other colors can be created by adding various metal oxides.  Another important feature of zisha is that it is naturally free of toxins found in some ceramics or glazes.  We show some zisha rocks of various colors and a roll of clay, below.

blue zisha clay rock roll of zisha clay purple zisha clay rock zisha clay cylinder and Lu Wen Xia yellow zisha clay rock

Since at least the time of the Ming Dynasty, many teapot themes have emerged, and many have been redone by famous and not so famous artists.  Sometimes the theme is true to the original, and other times it is varied to take on the personal interpretation and style of an artist.  The former shows technical skills, while the latter shows creativity.  Some artists even specialize in making reproductions of famous teapots, right down to the signature of the original, just like someone in the West might make a reproduction of a Van Gogh painting.  Indeed, sometimes the reproductions are more pleasing than the originals, since materials, tools and techniques, in art, tend to improve over time.  There are also artists who create original designs, which takes them from the category of artisan and firmly places them in the category of true artist.  Beyond the materials that are used for making teapots and the skill of an artist, a final element that can add value is the number of copies of a particular teapot that the artist has made.  Some artists crank out one after another of the same teapot, while others make just one or two.  There are also those artists who have achieved fame, through their associations with famous teachers or families, and who charge prices that are simply unreasonable, given that their work is neither creative nor one of a kind.

It used to be that you could tell the ability of an artist by the "factory" (read: larger studio) with which they were associated.  Still, today, there are the first factory, the second factory, etc., the larger studios, in Yi Xing, where artists work to make teapots.  However, more and more, artists are going the way of artists in the rest of the world and in other arts: they are opening their own studios.  You should not be turned off by the term factory, nor should you, necessarily, be  impressed by the idea of an artists' studio.  They are, in this art, overlapping concepts, in that some artists at "factories" produces very limited numbers of teapots, and some studios produce many teapots signed by the head artist but actually made by an apprentice.  If that is one subtlety of teapot art, another piece of information that you should know about is that there are new rich Chinese who greatly overpay for teapots, just so that they can impress their friends with how much they paid.  That has allowed certain artists to raise their prices to unreasonable levels, and other artists try to ride on their coattails by raising their prices.  In turn, that has created a bubble in certain corners of the market, something that we at Leona Craig will not help to promote.  We have been in investment, in general, and the art market, in particular, for several decades, all around the world, and we have a good sense of what proper market prices should be.

Another interesting point is that the Chinese have not yet become interested in art, in general, and artistic teapots, in particular.  As a result, while many will pay exorbitant prices for mundane styles of teapots by artists who have achieved fame, there are few people inside China who appreciate artistic teapots.  As a well-know art dealer from Beijing was quoted as saying: Chinese people buy art with their ears, not their eyes.  However, as art collectors and dealers, we know good art, and we tend to like the more creative, innovative and artistic teapots, which comprise the bulk of those in our gallery

At Leona Craig, we are not impressed by names, we just know and appreciate good art.  We also know markets, and we have put together a selection of artistic Chinese teapots by artists whose work we appreciate and whose prices are not unreasonable.  These works represent some of the finest teapot art available, in Yixing, China, today.  You can view our current selections on the pages, below, and you can learn more about Chinese teapots on our In Country Analysis page.  While we display some of the teapots from our on-line gallery, in our gallery, in Guangzhou, we get others, directly from the artist when they are ordered from us by a client.  In addition, if you would like to see other teapots by the artists, whose work we feature, in our gallery, but that are not displayed in the on-line gallery, please, inquire by email or telephone, and we will send you more information.  We hope that you enjoy what we have to offer.  Please return from time to time to see our latest discoveries.

While we offer teapots by contemporary artists, we also provide assistance in authenticating and pricing older teapots, and we act as agents for sellers.  There are, at this point, many fakes in the market, so, we are careful in assessing older teapots, and we provide written certificates from the artists whose works we offer.  You can also explore the word of antique teapots on the China Tea Equipment Museum's website.

 

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