Making a Yixing Teapot

There are infinite variations in the tools and techniques used by Yixing artisans for the construction of a teapot. This chapter can only be but an overview of the general stages and common techniques known to be in-use for zisha wares. The existence of order-variations, novel-tools, innovations in methods, and master-apprentice lineages of technique is expected and inclusive of the information included within this chapter.

The technique used to build Yixing teapots is most often translated as “slab building”. Within slab building are two more specific techniques: “paddle-shaping” for spheroid teapots, and slab-jointing for larger geometric teapots; both sub-techniques are included in the category of “fully handmade”[1] when no mold or shape-guide is used.

Zisha clay is not static during construction; the material begins drying out as soon as it is shaped, reducing the plasticity and shapability of the clay. The construction of the teapot can, in some ways, be seen as a race against time. Most Yixing teapots take 1 – 3 days to produce. During construction, in-progress works are covered with a damp cloth or sheet of plastic to prevent them from drying and hardening. Finished unfired-wares are left to dry for 2 – 5 days on average.

Large chunks of clay that have not been overworked are collected for future use, while small pieces and trimmings are considered waste-material and disposed[2].

The ordered steps and stages of Yixing teapot construction are discussed below.

Preparing zisha clay glue

Clay glue is a form of sticky clay-slip formulated by the artisan before crafting a ware. The clay glue is usually composed of the same aged zisha material as the item under construction[3]: for blended clay wares, the clay glue is usually composed of the same clay-blend or the majority-component of the blend; alternatively, the clay glue may be either blended with or entirely composed of nenni (嫩泥) or qingni (青泥) clay[4], particularly when the clay is very grainy or lacks stickiness. In either case, the clay glue is prepared by mixing the clay with a high-proportion of water, usually on a wooden board, until a desired sticky-liquid consistency is reached.

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