In conversation with ceramicist Jessica Colebrooke about the inspiration behind developing a teapot book
By Kevanté A. C. Cash
“It didn’t have to take 10 years for this book to be published, but it did. Wherever there’s a vision, God will make provision; but the provision has to be made. So, if people aren’t willing to provide, we’re just doing the same things over and over again. And this causes a lot of Bahamians to lose interest in returning home to make contributions. But for me, this is just the tip of the iceberg to what I can give to my country and community.”
Jessica Colebrooke talks about the struggle she’s had to endure before arriving at this moment in time where she’s finally able to say – “I’m hosting a book launch and exhibit for my body of work.”
Colebrooke is a Bahamian ceramicist with a particular fascination for building teapots. Her book Whimsical Bahamian Teapots is scheduled for release on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at Hillside House, the home of Antonius Roberts’ Studio and Art Gallery.
The idea of developing a book came to her upon witnessing a beautiful image of her teapot captured by deceased Bahamian photographer Danielle Bethel-Farrington, who was a good friend of Colebrooke’s.
“The image was stunning! Her eye in capturing the essence of my teapot with all its colors and characteristics was breathtaking. It was when I was going through my files one evening, and I saw the body of work I had produced. I was amazed, and I said to myself ‘This is a lot of substantial work, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be archived.’”
Colebrooke says her fascination for teapots came during her early childhood years. Her mother had brought back a teapot set from her trip to New York with her father, and every Saturday since, after baking her famous bread, Georgianna Maycock would prepare hot Lipton tea using the teapot set.
Image captured by Danielle Bethel-Farrington who inspired Colebrooke to publish a book.
“Thinking of that just brings back warm memories of my mother. I was just always fascinated with the spirit behind the designs of the teapots. As a child, my mother would send me to Abilities Unlimited, not far from where we lived on Chesapeake Road – just before their relocation onto Dolphin Drive, to collect the cups and bowls she had ordered. I remember walking in and seeing an assembly line of people painting and working on their teapot sets, and I was mesmerised by the sight of this.
“Fast-forward to my college years when I had to make up a teapot set for class, I thought to myself: ‘This is just the perfect timing to rebirth this thing all over again.’”
Colebrooke cites her mom as one of her greatest inspirations and dedicates her book in memory of her and her friend, Danielle Bethel-Farrington.
Upon graduating from college and returning home to find work, she found herself searching for answers to help narrow down her options. Because she had attained a great wealth of knowledge that helped to increase her skillset, she was unsure of exactly what she wanted to do within her particular artistic field.
“I knew that I wanted to do tile manufacturing, which is what I mainly do, but I also wanted to do others things, and I knew that building teapots was one of them. So, I started making teapots again and realised there was a following for it here. So, I held about two or three exhibitions and made sales from them, and now, I’ve made over 300 teapots… and counting,” she chuckles.
Jessica Colebrooke at work in her studio.
Colebrooke likens her teapot designs to the dressiness and flamboyant nature of what observers would see at Baptist Day parades held in the country every year on the third Sunday in October. She approaches each creation as marchers would, in adorning themselves for preparation of this grand event. She sees her teapots, just like the parades, as a reflection of Bahamian culture.
Though each teapot is created with intent to be functional, Colebrooke says she just wants people to admire them for their beauty and unique personality as frivolous as it seems. Ironically, though her teapot creations are well received, the set does not follow in the same trend.
Years ago, when she had designed cups to go along with the pots, they were not accepted. She keeps to teapots essentially because it is where the money lies and where admirers of her work seem to place their adoration most.
An obsessive tea drinker and firm Christian woman, Colebrooke says her book is the contribution she wanted to make to the creative community and country at large, despite it taking years to publish, because it was a part of her “purpose-driven life”. She says she believes creative artists and industry supporters will only fulfill their purpose when they have knowledge of it, and realise the value in humankind and being one another’s keeper.
“You only know your purpose when you have a connection to God. That God connection is sacred and divine. When you’re not connected to God, you’re only fooling yourself.”
She credits her faith and belief system as her greatest source of inspiration for creating. She hopes that people reflect upon the values of perseverance, persistence and purpose from the production of her book.
Patrons of her work can collect a copy of Whimsical Bahamian Teapots from the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, The Current at Baha Mar Resorts, Chapter One Bookstore at the University of The Bahamas, Logos, Bahamas Arts and Craft Centre, Doongalik Studios from Pam Burnside or from Colebrooke herself after the November 11th launch date.
Interested book launch and exhibit attendees can purchase a ticket priced at $120 from Colebrooke, by contacting her at 324-3533 or [email protected]. The ticket is inclusive of a signed copy of the book, a keepsake teacup, finger food samplers, and samples of native teas catered by Naturally Teas Company.