Brandt’s tea infuser is the quintessential Bauhaus object. Its geometric and pure shapes are the expression of Functionalism. Only three inches high, its diminuitive size detracts nothing from its function.
Brandt’s tea sets have always used geometric shapes and little ornamentation, incorporating ideas from other contemporary movements such as Constructivism and De Stijl. The sets used a variegated catalogue of materials, such as silver plates, brass, and ebony for the handles. The reproduction rights to Brandt’s tea set were granted to Alessi, an Italian metalware design company, in 1985.
Designer: Marianne Brandt
Production date: 1924
Materials: Silver and ebony
Dimensions: (8.3 × 10.8 × 16.5 cm)
Features and details
The teapot was one of several prototypes designed and later fabricated by Brandt, when she still was a student, and even later when she became a teacher, in the Bauhaus metal workshop. The original prototype first came to fruition in 1924, her first year in the workshop as a trainee, then run by the charismatic Hungarian constructivist László Moholy-Nagy.
Image source: https://www.markanto.de/tee-extraktkaennchen-mbek.html
The design was inspired by Moholy-Nagy’s own constructivist roots: similar geometric compositions can be spotted in his collages. But Brandt also strove to ensure that the teapot’s form was directly related to its function: a maxim that would go on to become a fundamental principle of modern industrial design.
While incorporating the usual shapes and pieces of a teapot, the designer had reinvented them as abstract, geometric forms. Unlike conventional teapots, it is intended to distill a concentrated extract, which, when combined with hot water in the cup, can produce tea in any desired percentage.
The body is a hemisphere cradled on crossed bars. The thin circular lid, placed off center to avoid drips (a common fault of metal teapots with hinged lids), has a tall cylindrical knop. The handle, a D-shaped slice of ebony set high for ease of pouring, provides a strong vertical contrast to the object’s predominant horizontality.
Although entirely handmade, this teapot has a markedly industrial aesthetic, and Brandt subsequently went on to complete designs for its mass-production. The functionalism of this design is apparent in the neat built-in strainer, the non-drip spout, the off-centre placement of the lid, and the choice of using heat-resistant ebony for the handles, which would otherwise be too hot to hold.