Builders’ or antioxidant, herbal or fragrant, tea is a drink of many guises. Sipped, slurped and revered, a cup of tea is appreciated across the globe, and drinking tea is a favourite pastime in the UK.
Museums Sheffield is celebrating this national obsession in Teatopia, an exhibition that charts tea’s rise from its beginnings as an exotic import from the Far East and the cultural connections it has brought about.
Mixing up the museum’s social history and decorative arts collections, it explores how designers and makers have transformed taking tea into an art form, showcasing related paraphernalia, such as historic ceramics and metalwork from the museum’s collections and iconic contemporary examples.
Objects on show include a 19th-century Russian samovar, a silver and amethyst caddy spoon and historic ceramics from Yorkshire potteries. The exhibition also includes new commissions, such as a porcelain tea bush by UK ceramicist Hitomi Hosono, work from designers Welovekaoru and Kaori Tatebayashi, and textiles designed by Rob Ryan, Darling Clementine and Sheffield-based illustrator Geo Law.
Photographer Austin Houldsworth will show Surviving Englishness, a project exploring how the English can retain a small part of their culture during extreme circumstances by devising novel ways of making tea without regular amenities.
Rowena Hamilton, exhibition curator of craft and design at Museums Sheffield, says, ’The exhibition shows how the way that we take tea and the change of what tea is in our culture is reflected through the objects designed to make it.’
Teatopia is on at Museums Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery, Arundel Gate, Sheffield S1 2PP from 1 July to 24 October