I love teapots. All sorts of them. Old, new, fat, skinny, tall, short - it doesn't matter. I love the graceful lines of their spouts and the feelings they invoke inside me. Growing up, I used to drink tea with my Grandma. Actually, you couldn't really call it tea - mostly milk and sugar with a little Earl Grey mixed in. We would get our tea ready and Grandma would let me sit and drink it in her living room watching TV, and I would feel very grown up and special.
Grandma died a few years ago after nearly 10 years of progressive dementia at the age of 96. It was a strange emotional experience for me. I haven't lived in my hometown since I left for college nearly 30 years ago, and didn't get to see her very often. Yes, I got home to see my family at least once a year, but I didn't see Grandma on a regular basis like they did, and when I did get to see her, most of the time, she didn't recognize me. I guess in my mind, the woman I knew had passed on years before, and her actual death didn't seem as much as a loss to me as it might have otherwise.
A few months after her death as I was getting ready for a show, I finally grouted a teapot I'd glued the pieces to months before. I love how it turned out. I used old English china, along with a lot of other bits and pieces, and it turned out great. The black grout really showed off the bright colors of the beads and glass in the piece, and highlighted the broken china patterns beautifully.
Usually I get a chance to live with my pieces for a while before I sell them, but this time I needed to make sure I had enough mosaics to take with me, so I brought the teapot along. In reality, most of my mosaic sales from that type of show are for commissioned pieces, and I usually don't sell a whole lot of my higher-priced already-made pieces, so I was not expecting it to sell anyway.
Wouldn't you know it - the teapot sold right away. As I was packing it up to give to my customer, I was struck by a sadness that came out of nowhere. I had no idea what had caused it, and that bothered me a little. Later in the day it hit me - not only did I not get to spend time with this piece before selling it, but I realized that when I created it, it had been a love letter to Grandma. Finally I felt it - the loss of a wonderful, amazing woman who had given me a loving place to just be who I was, without apology or affectation, for my entire childhood. My heart filled with love and loss, and I finally grieved.
I miss Grandma, and at that moment I finally let myself feel that loss. I think I'll do another teapot - just for me this time - and have a cup of Earl Grey with milk and sugar now and again to remind me of her and the love she gave to me.
This post originally appeared on this blog on May 2, 2008.