The teapot: a humble brewing vessel, an unremarkable countertop staple. But for many years at the Oregon College of Art and Craft the teapot was so much more than that. Creating one was a rite of passage in the metals department. Conceived by longtime department head Christine Clark, the project was the culmination of many hours of study, design, and craftsmanship that signified a certain mastery of the medium. One student’s work may resemble a rocket, another is shaped like a human heart, and yet another has a pair of bare legs as a handle. Some are elegant, some are aggressive, but they are all undoubtedly labors of love.
OCAC is no more. Last spring, the private college terminated its degree-granting programs, citing rising costs and sustained deficits, and sold off the campus to the neighboring Catlin Gabel School. The closure brought to an end a history that goes back as far as 1907, when artist Julia Hoffman founded the school as the Arts and Crafts Society to make the arts more accessible, especially to blue-collar workers.
But the teapots endure—at least on Instagram, with the hashtag #ocacteapot, created in January with a post by Amanda Linn. The 2018 grad says her silver and tagua nut pot—an anatomically inspired heart titled “Give and Receive”—took some 600 hours of work.
Linn and others had hoped the images would draw attention to the school and even help save it. Now, she says, they’re “a sort of memorial ...a way for our community and shared experience to live on and, hopefully, inspire new artists.”
One teapot maker, Alchemy Jewelers owner Laura Iles, has plans to gather some pots in real life for an exhibit. In the meantime, they delight online, including a Viking helmet teapot by Lacey Hanson, a whimsical creation that echoes her thoughts on the school’s demise: “OCAC is a magical place,” Linn quoted Hanson in an Instagram post before the closure was announced in May, “and to let it go would be like telling all of the children of the future they can never go to Disneyworld.”