Sun Moon Lake Teapots

from the Pots and Tea blog by Petr Novák

Whole month on Taiwan

This year I spent whole April on Taiwan, you know, pots and tea. It was amazing time and to call it rich and joyful month would be understatement. It was inspirational on so many levels and it is still live. To give you a glance into it, here is one story…

The Lake from Tea research institut, where new clones and tea varietals are developing for decades now.

The Lake from Tea research institut, where new clones and tea varietals are developing for decades now.

Sun Moon Lake and mysterious clay

Sun Moon Lake…for many years it was a symbol of Taiwanese hong cha for me. Red tea, which I love for its unique flavor and energy and which often came to me labeled “tea from Sun Moon Lake area”. I did know much about this terior or what to exactly imagine under this name. But when I bought my air ticket to Formosa, the 日月潭 was already on my have-to-see list. If you give a quick search on google images, you will see wonderful lake with mountains around, hotels and tourists but not tea fields. Well, there is a lot to see (and taste) for tea enthusiastic around that place when one drive up from Nantou. But tea finally was not the most precious thing, which I was carrying from that place this time. Nor teapot from local artist. Just ball of wet, yellow, greasy (and bit smelly) clay.

How it all have happened? It is so simple. Take three open minded/open hearted friends traveling together for days, combine those with a lot of tea and magical experiences around Sun Moon Lake, and you can bet that one of them is going to suggest swiming. It tooks us a while to find the right spot where “people will be not too many and jungle not too tight”. But we did it and with a lot of laughter we were baptized (and refreshed) in Zintun (as Taiwanesse originally call it).

Three friends

Three friends

One of my friends then just reach the bed of the lake (ok, on the edge of bank and water). With words “Petr, this looks like something for you”, he give me a small piece of Formosa island. At first touch I knew: I am going to take it with me, I am going to give it a try in fire. It can be slip glaze, it can be body for some small cups, we will see…

DSCN7544 Jíl z jezera

Way home

After some intermezzos the clay finally land on my work table, in our studio. As intermezzo you can, for example, imagine me, carrying 900g of clay in my jacket, during 7 hours night break on Dubai airport as all my luggage were overweight. Real fun!!… I play with it for a while, thinking what to do with it and how to do it. The clay was very nice, plastic and quite clean (when we consider that it was grabbed from bank of a lake). So I decided to leave it as natural as possible. I just took of some bigger stones, some sharp, smaller ones and few chips of old wood, which I found in it.
First, I make just test cones and put them in to our wood kiln. Such cones, laid out around kiln, can tell us a lot about any new clay. Color, texture but the main thing: How it stands in reduction firing and temperatures.

After this first firing I was pretty sure: It is on the the edge, but there is big chance that this clay will survive in coldest part of our kiln.
So final decision was not to make slip glaze, not bother with small cups. But directly take a chances and make some teapots from that mud! Well, we were three friends on that swimming spot. And as part of this trip, I still had Philip Brook from TaiwansesTeaCraft in my mind, we were happy to meet that day too (he was responsible for the tea in our veins and for much more of the good stuff along the road). So let’s make four teapots from bottom of Sun Moon Lake!

At the end…

What to say more? All important you can see on pictures. The clay was very nice to work with and final teapots are very interesting. Color and texture of the body, “the feeling” is incredible. Because I did not cleaned that clay, there were still some small stones, which on one hand give something special to those small pots. On other hand those stones were my obstacles during throwing and finishing. Pot could be finer without them, losing the rural touch. Either way, these are really unique tea pots. Some Sun Moon Lake hong cha is on its way to my doors. Guess which teapot I am going to brew that tea in.


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