2024 Grad Show

Kendra Sleeman



I have spent most of my life observing people and their habits, my family in particular. I am interested in how habits turn into tradition. How an act so mundane and common, that it is not thought to be questioned, can evolve into ritual. The act of making a pot of tea. It is not so much as the process of making the tea itself, but what teapot is chosen, used and why. Growing up and observing my grandmother make a pot of tea, I noticed that she used a plain Brown Betty teapot. That in itself is quite normal, however, I questioned why she only used her Brown Betty teapot when she had another beautiful, ornate, teapot in a china cabinet. This observation has become my focus in this work.
I think that the use of functional objects found in the home relies on the value placed on the object. Some values placed are monetary value and some are related to sentimental value. Sometimes this value means not using the functional object. I have also realized that a part of this equation that determines the amount of use an object receives is due to the fear of damage. Objects with high monetary or sentimental values placed on them have a higher fear of damage, which results in the object being used less. Retuning to my grandmother and her teapots, the reason why the ornate teapot was rarely used was due to sentimental value, as the teapot was her mother’s. While the Brown Betty was an affordable teapot she purchased, if the it broke there would be no remorse. My grandmother would feel she has gotten the value of the teapot by the amount she used it over the years. However, if the ornate teapot broke replacing it becomes more difficult. This difficult process and the problems facing finding a replica don’t exist or threaten to happen if the object is never used.
However, the fact remains that the teapot was created with the intention of use and has the function of use, to brew, contain, and serve tea, intact. Placing it on a shelf, in a cabinet, never using it, results in stripping the function of that teapot away. The teapot becomes no more than a painting, only to be viewed. There is so much appreciation being missed, how balanced the teapot is when holding it, how well it pours, seeing the teapot in the round, it may also hide small treasures to reward the user that goes unobserved. The three-dimensional object becomes flat since you cannot see the other side of it in a cabinet. This appreciation being missed has become a fundamental aspect of my studio exploration. The decorative, the ornate are used to be gazed upon, to be showcased in a china cabinet, while the mundane and plain are to be used for their intended function day to day.
This body of work plays on the roles that are given to teapots. The plain cut-in-half Brown Betty teapots are showcased with function literally stripped away; one side flattened representing what happens to a teapot when placed in a cabinet. The sole ornate teapot, being the only teapot with the function intact, therefore the only option to be used for daily tasks. The ceramic cabinet accents being influenced by the ornate teapot creates a relationship, representing a typical environment of where the ornate teapot lives, which the plain teapots are strangers to. However, due to the number of plain teapots in the environment, causes the ornate teapot to be the odd one out. This play provides the viewer to take time to come to their conclusion, questioning the reason for using a specific object over another. The role of decoration and utility. The realization that these functional objects that are chosen to be displayed, results in stripping their original intention away.

In the Cabinet

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