8th Annual Texas Teapot Tournament Commences in Style

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"This ain't your Grandma's teapot." With apologies to the grammar police, I highly recommend visiting 18 Hands Gallery to see ceramic creations that resemble space creatures, leopard-print boots, monkey heads or something straight out of Tim Burton's brain. Entries from the Houston-based Clay Arts Museum and Educational Organization are on display this month in CAMEO's 8th Annual Texas Teapot Tournament.

A person could easily picture Hobbits from Middle-earth drinking tea from Welsh ceramist Geoffrey Swindell's Best of Show entry; tiny polka dots on a delicate miniature pot with minaret top. Imagine viewing farmlands from an airplane window, but in hues of brown, orange and tan.

Second place winner Scott Dooley's Industrial Teapot was all angles and elbows; a mottled patchwork of yellow and olive tones, cobbled together with an Erector Set (though still fashioned from clay), and topped with the tiniest lid imaginable. He had another piece in the show, smaller and more neon green in tone, which strongly resembled a Rube Goldberg machine.

Anthony Martin's Frozen in Time amazing fantasyland creation features a snail-pulled box-like carriage teeming with frog, snake, worm, scorpion, gecko and spider.

Almost grotesque in appearance, though oddly appealing, was Texas-based Steve Hilton's Crossbedding XIV, which was awarded honorable mention. Resembling rosettes of fungi or rough, gnarled bark from a diseased tree, it seemed so natural that it could easily be overlooked in a forest setting. His other entry, Crossbedding XVII, was similar in style but with a rounder footprint.

Meryl Roth's Ra-ta-tat Tea featured a life-like woodpecker on a tree, and her Fit to a Tea leopard print boot with laces and leopard top was ingenious; the cat's tail served as the handle.

Tripti Yoganathan's Matsya was a peacock blue blowfish pot-within-a-pot with fish scale sides, plumed tail, and elaborate pen and ink patterning.

Susan Calafrancasco's Monkey Dude was a bit unsettling, with his stuck-out tongue and oddly placed horns encircled by a rope or snake.

Jamie Brogdon's Golden Ruffle teapot reminded me of a cabbage rose of piled linen, with faint whispers of gold dust tinting the folds and edges; very ethereal and beautiful in is delicateness.

I also marveled at the technical difficulty in some of the caged pots with decorative overlays, such as Collette Spears' dark green Articulated Storm and blue Gridded Pleasure.

Creating a teapot is the final test of a potter's art; the challenge of assembling four different pieces and making them look as if they belong together shows excellence in the technical aspects of this discipline. Even if you don't drink tea, please do find the time to view these pieces, many of which were already sold on opening night and will no longer be available for viewing come February.

CAMEO was established in 2006 as a nonprofit organization to support and encourage emerging clay artists; as a teaching center for Houstonians to get their hands in clay; and as a collecting museum that also hosts clay art exhibitions.

CAMEO's 8th Annual Texas Teapot Tournament continues through January 31, at 18 Hands Gallery, 249 W. 19th, Suite B, open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m., 713-869-3099, 18handsgallery.com.

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