Suzanne Ross’ contemporary teapot collection, steeped in artistic merit, is a study in bright colors and warped dimensions.
When you hear that someone collects teapots, your thoughts may go to English bone china, lavender and chintz. But not in Suzanne Ross’ collection. “I’m not a lacy kind of girl,” she explains. The Aspinwall resident is a longtime board member, and one-time president, of Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip District. As such, her taste is decidedly contemporary. And so is her outstanding collection of teapots.
Ross, who works for Bank of New York Mellon, found her first teapot, a mosaic-tile beauty with an Andy Warhol theme, at an SCC board meeting. “I didn’t buy it because it was a teapot; I bought it because it just said something to me…it fit me,” she says. Later, she added two matching pieces to that teapot: a mug and a coffee pot, which is the only coffee pot in her collection. “I don’t like to leave matching pieces,” she says, “if there’s another part of the set, I’ll usually take it.”
It wasn’t until Ross purchased a sleek, geometric stainless-steel pot that she decided to make teapots the focus of her craft collecting: “I like the whole idea of a teapot. It has a warmth to it, and I like to see what someone can do with the basic elements of the teapot shape—the handle, the spout.”
Though some of her teapots could be functional, Ross has never used one for tea. “To me these are just to enjoy for the sake of the design, to appreciate the art,” she says of the teapots, all of which are handmade and have been thoughtfully selected by Ross over the past 15 years. She says she has no artistic talent herself, but has always appreciated what artists can achieve. “For a person to take a raw material, clay, or glass or metal, and create something beautiful—it’s always remarkable to me.”
The media in her collection include ceramic, wood, metal, cloth, cloisonné and lacquer, even agate. Her favorites tend toward the whimsical, including a dancing couple with outstretched arms that form the spout; the dramatic, such as the glass one she calls a “purple genie”; and the most colorfully vibrant—a collapsible pot made of cloth adorned with bold red roses. Other favorites include those that remind her of trips to New York, Los Angeles, the Bahamas, Japan and China, and gifts from her children, Kelly, Megan, Patrick and Erin.
Ross has only bought one teapot online—a triangular pot titled “Happy Marriage,” which she first saw on a postcard. “I have to see it in person, to touch it,” she says. In addition to the SCC, she frequents local galleries (many of which know to be on the lookout for a piece Ross might like), and she owns works by local artists, including ceramic artist Laura Jean McLaughlin. When searching for her next special teapot, she looks for quality, bright colors, a striking design, skilled craftsmanship, and, most important, the crucial Suzanne Ross intangible: “It just has to call to me.” These teapots whistle, but only to her.