An Interview with a Daydreamer

Sheridan was interviewed by food blogger Emma Rose Tulley in February 2013.

Q.1) Bio in 140 characters…
Impossible! (Actually, that is probably quite a good description of me!) I have an eclectic mind and a huge Teasmade collection. I get passionate about stuff, love my husband, family history, and designing websites.

Q.2) How do you take your tea?
After visiting Turkey and enjoying Turkish tea, (often made in a çaydanlık), I now drink black tea, lightly brewed, without milk. I am not hooked on one particular Teasmade, I willingly try them all, and I’m always looking for the ultimate one!

Q.3) Teasmade or TeaWaker? Tell us the difference…
The word ‘Teasmade’ is a trademark and as such it shouldn’t really be used generically (other examples are Linoleum, Thermos, Escalator, and amazingly, Videotape!) I did hope that we could get the work genericized, but understandably it is jealously guarded by the present owners, Swan. The word ‘Teamaker’ is not an adequate noun as it does not separate teamakers with and without an alarm function. In response to this dilemma I invented the word ‘Teawaker’. I cherish the hope that when there are enough references to it, the Oxford English Dictionary will accept it as a generic word. That would allow manufacturers to identify tea making products which include an alarm function without having to print a lengthy explanation. In the meantime, I promote all teawakers and have no loyalties to any brand, so I allow myself the luxury of mixing the two words up a bit!

Q.4) How did you first become interested in the Teasmade?
Ah, the stuff of legend! My ex-husband didn’t like Teasmades and wouldn’t let me have one. He thought they were too noisy and too bulky. There’s nothing like a bit of negative reinforcement, is there? I went out and bought my first from a nice lady who was selling one locally and it snowballed from there. It was quite a good example actually, as it had its original china teaset. I was always attracted by the history and the quirkiness. I understand the principles, but I’m not a mechanic and couldn’t repair a Teasmade to save my bacon!

Q.5) Tell us a bit about the history of the Teasmade and some of the rare items in your collection?
When I first started collecting everyone thought Goblin invented the Teasmade. Thank goodness I’ve laid that myth to rest! The first known inventor was an engineer called Samuel Rowbottom back in 1891. For decades Teasmades were rather Heath Robinson-ish affairs with separate clocks, kettles, spirit burners and flints to strike them alight. Dangerous stuff! Briefly they moved on to gas burners, then eventually, in the 1930’s, to electricity. I am very proud to have researched the previously untold story of George Absolom, the man who was largely responsible for creating the Teasmade as we know it today, and whose genius was overshadowed and lost for decades thanks to Goblin’s powerful marketing. I have two particularly rare Teasmades, one of which is George’s first Teesmade (sic) dated 1932. The other is Goblin’s first production model, an amazing wooden Teasmade which dates to about 1936. I have never seen another example. Mine was found under a house in Australia, complete with its yellow teapot! There are a few novelties I’m rather fond of, like the Russell Hobbs teamaker. For years I thought it didn’t qualify as a Teasmade, then by fluke I found a clock which was designed to be plugged into it as a controller with an alarm!

Q.6) How many items are in your Teasmade collection? Are there any items you are still looking to collect now?
I don’t know how many I have, too many to count. If truth be told I’d like to thin down the collection and concentrate on the really great ones, but it’s nice to be able to say I have the biggest collection in the world, so I don’t know… There are just a couple of early models I’d love to have, if the chance ever came up, but in reality at the level I’m now collecting, they are once in a decade finds.

Q.7) Which is your favourite Teasmade model and why?
Oh, Absolom’s Teesmade, without a doubt. I am not aware of any other examples and it is so unique with its wooden cabinet and the original lamp. I must take some decent photos of it for the website!

Q.8) Teasmade claim to fame?
There have been a few highlights, including a few TV and radio interviews (notably with Maggie Philbin, Hardeep Singh Kohli and Vanessa Feltz), but I guess for top billing I would have to single out appearing on Wallis and Gromit’s world of Invention!