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Published: Sunday, 7/1/2012

Collect Call

A few characters started area woman's teapot collection

Nancy Kelly collects teapots in the shapes of characters and figures. She has about 100 teapots in the shapes of animals, flowers, buildings, pumpkins, lighthouses, and sundials. Nancy Kelly collects teapots in the shapes of characters and figures. She has about 100 teapots in the shapes of animals, flowers, buildings, pumpkins, lighthouses, and sundials.

Six years ago when Nancy Kelly found a set of cartoon characters with a strong resemblance to Mickey Mouse adorning a teapot in an antique store, she just had to have it.

Little did she know that six years later she would have a vast collection of teapots in assorted shapes of figures, characters, buildings, furniture, and other objects that line three shelves in the basement of her Springfield Township home.

"I had never seen a teapot like that," said Mrs. Kelly, a former pharmacist and administrator for various businesses and agencies, of that first purchase.

That teapot cost $7 and has three characters: the gloved paws of one of the characters are clasped and serve as the spout, and the front legs of a character on the opposite side appear to hold onto the teapot, allowing the body of the animal to form the handle. And forming the lid is a grinning female character in a pink skirt.

Some characters and figures in Mrs. Kelly’s collection are immediately recognizable. There’s Garfield the cat. Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall. A red M&M appears ready to make a wisecrack. Betty Boop lounges in a chair. And a long part of Little Red Riding Hood’s hood makes the teapot handle. The tail of the wolf, sitting up in a bed as if it’s the grandmother, serves as the spout.

Other teapots representing animals include a lady bug, a Dalmation, chickens, a cow, a pig, a rabbit, and a monkey. And a collector of such items as Mrs. Kelly’s can’t live in the Black Swamp region and not have a frog.

Some teapots are shaped as pieces of furniture: an overstuffed chair with a book and Teddy bear, a sewing machine, and a potting shed with pullout drawers with garden tools.

She has a witch teapot by Fitz and Floyd, a company that makes ceramics for homes.

Mrs. Kelly searches antique shops and secondhand stores for teapots to add to her collection during travels with her husband, David Kelly, a retired electrical engineer.

She doesn’t just buy any old item.

"A collector’s collection is always a work in progress," she said, adding that its expansion depends on space and money.

The most expensive teapots in her collection cost $125, the ceiling she set for what she will pay. However, if she finds a teapot that’s a must-have and costs more, she will buy it.

"It would have to be really spectacular for me to go over that much," Mrs. Kelly said.

Some of Nancy Kelly's teapots. Some of Nancy Kelly's teapots.

The longer a person is a collector, though, the more discerning she becomes, she said. And she doesn’t buy teapots from online sources.

"I see teapots that I do not buy because they are crudely made or cheap. I care more now about the quality of the collection rather than expanding its size," she explained.

She has three favorites, and one is Garfield. Another is a hand-painted porcelain teapot that features a ginger lily, and another is a Japanese teapot, made of porcelain that features a monkey.

Last winter, Mrs. Kelly put several teapots on display at the Holland Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. She plans to do it again. After all, her display fascinated children and adults. It was "a huge hit," she said.

Contact Rose Russell at: rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.

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