Never ask potter Fong Choo how long it takes him to complete a piece unless you want a sarcastic answer, such as “20 years, two days and five minutes.” Truth is, his miniaturized teapots are created in a few minutes.
After moving to the United States from his native Singapore in 1983, Choo, somewhat serendipitously, happened upon ceramics when the business major registered for art classes and never looked back. “I was totally enamored once I handled clay, and I haven’t stopped,” Choo, 51, says.
While Singapore influences his work, he says the major factor is people. “For the most part, I think the large majority of the people here will actually stop and help. So that has been extremely influential, because what it has done is it has opened me up to be not afraid (of new experiences).”
Strictly a tea potter, his pots, also influenced by Chinese yíxing teapots, vary in shape and glaze, each unique in some way.
“For the most part, I’m interested in the process. I’m interested in the journey,” he explains. “A lot of us are generally fairly ADD. We want to do mugs. We want to do bowls. … We want to do tongs. And I teach the fact that I like to do one thing and do it well.”
Similar to his beginning in ceramics, Choo happened upon teaching when Bellarmine University offered him a resident-artist position. Choo teaches his students to network and promote themselves and their art — an art form he feels art education lacks.
Currently, his major project is creating a giant-sized teapot to contrast his small-scale works. “I figured that (tiny teapots have) gotten me an enormous amount of recognition that I never expected. Every show I do I get award after award after award, and after awhile, you have to ask yourself — there has got to be something, something better than just awards,” Choo says. “Recognition is good, but I am trying to push a little bit beyond.” —Caitlin Bowling
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