In Defense of Non-Functional

No tea will ever brew in this guy, even when it's finished. ©2012 WTEK

Recently I posted about Steampunk being cooler if it actually worked. This may seem hypocritical since I’m currently making a teapot that doesn’t actually hold tea. Why do I think that there’s a difference?

Not that long ago, people actually used teapots. There are still some purists that do, but (especially in this country) it’s fallen by the wayside because it’s so easy to use teabags and make it by the cup. Strangely enough, there has been increasing interest in collecting teapots. Antique teapots, art teapots, functional or not, there is a demand for them.

Personally I see it as transforming a traditional format into something with a modern twist. It becomes a sculpture rather than something functional. The teapot has always been seen as a challenging piece, one that you must be able to make in order to be called a master silversmith. Of course, it needs to work properly in that context.

Steampunk Ray Gun 3 ©Diarment Creations/Maya Rafa But seriously, wouldn't it be cooler if this worked?

So I see it as a hollowware challenge. I’m making something with a lid, handle, spout, and a hollow body reminiscent of teapots of old. I’m making it in my style, similar to my bowls. Using layers and rivets with spaces in between the parts means that it can’t hold water (just as my bowls can’t.) But the spirit of the shape of a teapot is still there. Plus, I simply don’t have the correct equipment to be able to solder something together of that size.

So no, this isn’t the piece that will deem me a master. But it does challenge me and force me to become a better maker. The function of this teapot is simply to do that and look good.

And yes this is the way that many steampunk artists look at it. But I feel the spirit of that movement lies in being an inventor and in the mechanical. Maybe there really isn’t a difference in our motives. Maybe I just want a working ray gun…

About Wendy Edsall-Kerwin

Metal. To many it is hard, rigid, and immovable. But metal flows, bends, and can be worked over and over again. It is both industrial and
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4 Responses to In Defense of Non-Functional

  1. josephineconkie says:

    I’ve seen loads of silversmiths making teapots with little silver cups to go with them that no one could ever drink from (they’d be too hot)…and copper is even more conductive. I don’t think it’s a problem really, especially in the more art driven and less commercial side of metalsmithing.

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