Steeped in Ceramics : Display of teapots and functional art offers a cross-section of vision by artists.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

Though teatime, in our culture, lacks the prominence of baseball as a national pastime, it does have its devotees. Part of the fun is pouring the warm, comforting drink from a special teapot, and drinking it from pretty cups.

In recent years, ceramic artists have been increasingly fascinated with the teapot form, and all its shapely possibilities. They have provided tea drinkers with the most fanciful of pots, and have even enshrined the homey teapot in non-functional art pieces.

A delightful cross-section of artistic visions is on display in "Tea & Empathy," a show of teapots, functional and non-functional, and functional art at the Finegood Art Gallery in West Hills. Organized by Harriet Part and Rhoda Lewis, members of the Jewish Federation Council's San Fernando Valley Region Art Council, they have brought together the varied styles of eight ceramic artists.

Part, a home economist who used to teach gourmet cooking, has always liked ceramics, and began showing food on ceramic dishes. That led to her starting a ceramics collection and taking ceramics classes at Everywoman's Village in Van Nuys. "You make it with your hands. I love working with my hands," she said.

When her turn came to curate a show for the Art Council, she said she would do it if she could highlight ceramics. Lewis, who took ceramics classes when her children were very young--"for therapy," she said--joined Part to plan the show because of her fondness for the medium.

Two artists, Judi Freed and Toni Lawrence, have created ceramic art that can be used. Freed's colorful inlaid porcelain dinner service, "Celebration," is hand-built and wheel-thrown. In the gallery, her "Tic Tac Toe" game board, teapot and cups have been appropriated by Thelma Thompson and Faye Whippleby, two life-size soft sculpture ladies designed by Shelley Rapp Evans.

Lawrence's whimsically painted teapots in the shape of a woman were made specifically for the show. On each teapot, one arm gestures up toward the sky to form the spout. The hand of the other arm rests on a hip so that the arm serves as the handle.

Cliff Jacobs uses white and off-white textured glaze on his teapots, which, he says, "look and feel like the first-drifted snow."

Joan Rapoport, head of Everywoman's Village's ceramics department, chose to make oversized, box-shaped teapots that feature an iridescent and traditional smoke reduced raku glaze. Larry Wasserman's large, robust raku teapots each stand on four legs and seem as if they could walk away. In contrast, Christy Johnson, who coordinates the L.A. County Fair's art exhibits, is represented here by two small, delicate teapots.

Jo Lauria's exquisite pieces come in the shape of pyramids, an Aladdin's lamp and a jukebox. Joan Takayama-Ogawa's "Mad Hatter's Teapot" is sublime, with its repetitive circular motifs and exceptional execution.

Where and When

What: "Tea & Empathy."

Location: Finegood Art Gallery, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 16. Group tours arranged by appointment.

Call: (818) 587-3200.

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