Every three years, a small art gallery just outside of Durham, North Carolina, celebrates the humble teapot. Since 1989, Cedar Creek Gallery has been hosting the National Teapot Show, which showcases artists from across the country working in various mediums.
Sid Oakely was a painter and potter who founded the gallery with his wife Pat in 1968. He came up with the idea of an exhibition where artists would be invited to feature their work in the form of fine craft teapots. Though Sid died in 2004, his legacy lives on through the gallery and the National Teapot Show. More than 30 years after the first exhibition, the show is one of the biggest events at Cedar Creek Gallery.
More than 150 artists are invited to participate, many of whom submit multiple pieces so the show features more than 200 teapots. Many of these artists work in ceramics, but the folks at Cedar Creek make a point to invite artisans who work in unexpected mediums for teapots. As a result, the show features a wide range of teapots crafted from wood, metal, fabric, and more.
Inspiration for these pieces comes from everywhere you can imagine—nature, science, mythology, classical and modern art. At first glance, you might not even realize that some of them are functional teapots. Highlights from past shows include a pot in the shape of a roaring Bengal tiger, another in the shape of a Scottish thistle made from felted wool, one that doubles as a fully functioning lamp, and one designed to look like Andy Warhol peeking out of a can of Campbell’s soup. Photos of the teapots dating back to the 1999 show can be seen on the gallery’s website.
From the whimsical to the traditional, each of the show’s teapots are for sale, with prices ranging from less than $100 to $5,300. According to gallery manager Jennifer Dolan, speaking to Walter magazine, part of the mission of Cedar Creek Gallery is “to help as many American craftspeople earn a living as possible.”
In addition to the main gallery, Cedar Creek also has four working pottery studios, two glass blowing shops, and the Museum of American Pottery, which contains more than 400 pieces of pottery. They also host other events, including pottery and glass festivals every spring and fall and a holiday open house.