by thomasmagnahastings



Visit to the Prehistory & Europe Study Room at the British Museum, to see Marianne Brandt’s tea-infuser (1927).

After signing the visitors’ book, I was led through to the study room. There on the table lay the tea-infuser in a wooden tray. I filled out some forms and sat down in front of it. Not being able to touch and hold the tea-infuser, I started to make drawings of it instead. There are seven proto-types of the tea-infuser in existence. Five of them are silver-plated brass, while two are made of pure silver. This tea-infuser is one of those two.  You can see the hammer markings reflected in the sunlight, and slight stains from the silver polish. The tea-infuser is much smaller than I expected. There is room inside for maybe one cup’s worth of tea. The handle is fragile, and the curator has asked me not to put any weight on it. The main vessel forms a semi-sphere, while the lid forms a circle. This circle is slightly asymmetrical when seen from above. You can see at the base of the spout that it has been welded together, in the metal workshop at Bauhaus Dessau. When looking inside the vessel, the hammer marks become more exaggerated. There is a high contrast between the beaten out, matt interior, and the shiny, smooth exterior. The spout is small and stubby compared to the main body, and helps sustain the form, whose concentrically and progressively enlarging circles would otherwise distend and stretch the form out unflatteringly. The handle, the lid-holder and the spout are all relatively delicate, tactile and inviting. When looking frontally across the vessel, it is clear that these three parts do not line up. The lid holder is placed slightly to the right, in relation to the straight line that runs from the handle to the spout. The tea-infuser is heavier than it looks. If you take liquid into account, I imagine that the handle, which is attached by two nails and glue, would only just be able to support the total weight. The infuser has been removed from the teapot, allowing me to see in to the vessel’s interior. Looking in, you can see that the inside of the spout has been lined with what looks like a black and dull insulating material. The rear of the spout has been roughly cut out into the vessel’s interior, and forms a diamond shape. The base of the teapot sits on four legs that jut out from underneath. These legs are only visible from the side, and cut a sharp right angle edge, against the smooth sphere of the vessel. The bottom side of the spout runs into the vessel’s downward curve, and appears at a distance to be part of the same silver metal. The handle is made of dark ivory, and is clearly pockmarked. The handle slopes organically inward, as if it has retained the impression of the hand that fashioned it. It is roughly cut and polished and appears to be easily detachable. The handle is a semi-circle that leans slightly away from the vessel, either through use or through design. I am not sure. The overall form is well proportioned. The compacted handle and spout work to stabilise the vessel, which otherwise would seem to stretch out in an accelerated manner. It is a beautiful design.