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western teabowls

updated tue 18 apr 00


Janet Kaiser on mon 17 apr 00

I know someone who collected little basins, which we (in the UK) would =
as =22sugar bowls=22. The reason they gave for this collection: =22There =
were always
lovely little bowls to be found cheaply in junk shops and from rag-and-bone =
because all the rest of the set had been broken or lost=22.

This was in the 1950s and 60s so it was reasonable to think that. However, =
fact that there were never any other pieces (like odd cups and saucers) in a
similar design did not seem to have made them think. Very occasionally they
would see a =22cake plate=22or a larger more shallow bowl in the same =

Anyway, after a long time (I believe almost 20 years) spent collecting these
beauties and building display cabinets to house them, they were advised by =
sharp-eyed insurance agent it was may be time to add this fairly large
collection to their insurance cover...

A dealer came along and looked at it for a valuation... In his opinion 20=25=
actually sugar bowls of various ages, but the other 80=25 were teabowls. =
pre-1840s they included some pretty rare examples of imported porcelain =
made especially for the British and European markets (export ware from China=
Japan) from the early 1700s onward, as well as European Meissen, Sevres, =
and British Rockingham, Wedgwood, Crown Derby, Worcester, etc. etc.=21 Many =
painted, some early transfers, odd ones with real gold lustres, many =22egg
shell=22... in fact the whole gamut of teabowls as our forefathers had used.

Well, perhaps not all our forefathers... This was the sort of =22crockery=22=
used in
high places=21 Tea did not become a national beverage and cheap enough for =
hoi-palloi to drink until the second half of the 19th century. These =
would have served tea in palaces and country seats around Britain and =
The larger shallower bowls were =22cup plates=22 and the =22cake plates=22 =
were actually
spoon plates. This was because drinking tea out of the saucer rather than =
bowl was quite acceptable and the plates were then needed to put spoons down

And so many of these bowls which had cost a few pence were found to be worth
tens, if not hundreds of pounds=21 (This was the 1970s). It was actually a =
because the collection suddenly became a commercial proposition and a worry,=
longer the pleasurable seeking and finding of the true collector poking =
in back streets. The insurance would cost too much and yet the worry was too
great to own them without. From enjoying the bowls for their beauty, it =
became a
liability and family pressure (they were not very well off) meant that they =
all packed off to auction...

So you see, there is also a tea bowl tradition in the west, but it has been =
in favour of cups and saucers from Victorian times, followed by the mugs of
today... Teabowls, tea caddies, tea canisters, tea chests, teapoys, =
trays, sieves, strainers... a never-ending list of articles that could be
revived to sit along side the TEAPOT (=3D FUNCTIONAL) in the modern home.

But first we have to ban teabags and instant tea=21

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art, Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales
Home of The International Potters Path
TEL: (01766) 523570