Design that celebrates utility, craftsmanship and beauty in equal measure can be hard to come by. However, this concept lies at the very heart of The Teapot Project, a collaboration between Hendrik Forster and Kenny Yong-soo Son. In this powerful joining of forces, Hendrik – one of Australia’s most significant and celebrated gold and silversmiths – and Kenny – a young designer on an upward trajectory – have created a series of 30 teapots in bright polished 24 ct. gold, copper patination and red gum, among other materials. Each teapot has been meticulously designed, hand-crafted and finished by these two masters, and what’s more, they’re the perfect vessel for enjoying a pot of tea with someone special.
Since migrating to Australia from Munich in 1974, Hendrik has cemented himself as one of the leading figures in metalwork in Australia. He has a number of exceptional projects under his belt, most notably being commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Department in 1981 to produce an edition of 20 plates as the wedding gift for Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. And in what seems like the perfect rapport, the emphasis of Kenny’s practice is longevity that celebrates hand-craftsmanship. His focus is producing objects that have ‘the ability to interact with the user and their surroundings, allowing a trigger of emotions and senses’.
So how did two designers from such different cultural and generational backgrounds come together? After being introduced by maker and lecturer Oliver Smith, Kenny visited Hendrik in his studio in Calulu, Victoria in 2016 and magic ensued. They combined their knowledge of both traditional and contemporary materials and processes, as well as the historical and cultural context of tea drinking, and The Teapot Project was borne.
‘Together we embarked on this journey across cultures and the ages, drawing together references and ideas that fitted into both our design sensibilities and our technical preferences to create an object of timeless beauty that fulfils all the functions of the perfect teapot,’ Hendrik explains.
‘The volume is 750ml, just right to share an intimate and reflective moment with your partner, or for a solitary and meditative period on your own. The form is simple and statuesque with the handle, knob and spout balanced to find their centre of gravity within the teapot.’
As Oliver Smith explains, the teapots and all accompanying material of this exhibition are not just a product of a shared vision, but of a partnership and mutual understanding.
‘The warmth of friendship is imbued in all elements of the project. Like tea for two, Kenny and Hendrik have carried forth a conversation, inspired by their mutual commitment to creativity and culture,’ he says.
These 30 teapots signify a deep understanding of the cultural and historical context of the teapot across East and West. They’re also a celebration of fine materials and incredible craftsmanship. Yet Hendrik’s advice to all of us is simple when it comes to what these two powerhouses have created: ‘Enjoy!’.