Mary Cotterman, who is our dear friend and an immensely talented potter, is retiring (for now at least) from the world of pottery as she pursues a graduate degree. We are happy for her new path and wish her the best of luck in it, but of course we are deeply saddened that she won't be producing pottery anymore (for the foreseeable future).
Mary's ceramics career spans nearly two decades and she is distinguished by being the first non-Chinese potter to study the Chaozhou-style hand-thrown teapot technique 潮州手拉壶. Though she was trained using Chaozhou or Yixing clay, which are high-grade, medium-fired stonewares that are ideal for making teapots, those clays are unavailable in the United States. Since returning to the United States after studying in China for three years, she spent several years researching local clays to find a clay body that would behave similarly to the famous Chinese teapot clays.
She was able to acquire a small quantity of North Carolina wild clay with the right properties to give them the workability, heat retention, and porosity to parallel Chaozhou and Yixing clay - particularly with respect to their ability to absorb the character of the teas steeped in them and develop a patina over time, ultimately improving the quality of the tea.
We were fortunate to be able to reserve a handful of pieces from Mary's final firing in this chapter of her career, made from this North Carolina wild clay. Originally we had 3 gaiwans and 5 teapots; as of the time of this product description being made, there are two pots left.
Those pots are the classic Xishi pots, named after the legendary concubine of Chinese history, whose breasts are said to be the inspiration for this pot shape. This is one of the most classical and beloved of teapot shapes and lends itself to making all kinds of tea. The round form of this pot makes it especially suitable for expansive teas such as white teas, rolled oolongs, and pressed teas. These pots are handmade and are between 160-170 ml in volume.
These pots are pieces of history in and of themselves. Whether you are an avid collector or are new to Mary's work, these pots are the only examples of her work remaining on the market.