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The art of tea art: Infusions at SLAB Art

March 31, 2011

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On the Sunday of the inaugural weekend of the Infusions show at SLAB Art in Ballard, a few exceptionally fortunate tea aficionados had the rare opportunity to participate in a round of tea tastings hosted by artists using their own teaware.

The arrangement of the show displays all of the teaware pieces exceptionally well, most of them laid out on the beautiful pure slabs of gorgeous wood that have been transformed into tables by the talented artisans at SLAB Art. The inner perimeter of the gallery space is lined with slices of some of the most luxurious woods, adding to the rich atmosphere of the space.

Of the four exhibiting artists – Richard Brandt, Geo Lastomirsky, Tina Pepa, and Christopher Shaw – all but Ms. Pepa were on hand for the tastings. Both Brandt and Shaw produce teawares designed for Gongfu Cha, and are connoisseurs of the leaf as well as its brewing and serving implements.

There was a delightful array of teas donated to the event by Shiuwen Tai of Floating Leaves Tea, and Brett Boynton of Black Dragon Tea Bar. The teas consisted primarily of Taiwanese oolongs, but also included a Da Hong Pao and an intriguing Organic Hong Cha from Taiwan. Also, instigated by a conversation with Chris Shaw about aged sencha the previous evening, I provided a Kuradashi Sencha, which brewed excellently (and beautifully) in one of his stoneware pots.

During the first session of tastings I was able to observe the initiation of Richard Brandt’s Wind Moon teapot as it was introduced first to a lightly oxidized Alishan and then to a darker roasted Dong Ding, put through the paces of a Taiwanese Phoenix Mountain Oolong and finally used for the Taiwanese black tea. The transformation was quite something to watch, as the surface of the teapot darkened, speckled, and acquired spidery dark streaks along its front.

The tastings, held over a leisurely four hours, took place in the lower back part of the gallery space as well as in the upstairs exhibition loft, split between the two hosts, Shaw and Brandt. I can say with confidence that all of the participants had an excellent time, including the artists themselves.

Although the opportunity to taste teas in these lovely wares has passed, you can still stop into SLAB Art and view the teawares available for sale this Saturday and Sunday, April 2nd and 3rd and the following weekend. The entire body of work in the show is impressive and varied, and all of the pieces look like objects one would want to hold and use. Even Geo Lastomirsky’s exquisite pieces, kindly on loan from Paccini Lubel Gallery, have a wonderful look to them which can be imagined heightened by a bath of tea liquor.

Photographs, from top to bottom:
Christopher Shaw, taken by Chris
Richard Brandt, taken by Chris
downstairs tasting with Christopher Shaw’s teaware, taken by Cinnabar
upstairs tasting with Richard Brandt’s teaware, taken by Chris

View more photos from the show on my Flickr page and in the Gongfu Girl Flickr Group.

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