Tea History & Culture

Cool Tea Bag Art Pieces to Inspire Your Inner Matisse

November 23, 2016

Here at the Tea Kitchen we’ve written about using tea as a beverage, beauty product, and cooking spice.  Now we’re here to tell you about another cool use for tea: artwork.  Bored of paint or clay?  Try using a tea bag in your next masterpiece.  Teabags are inspiring artists all over the world to create stunning works of art, and you could be next.  Here’s a few examples from three artists that call tea bags their muse to get your creative juices flowing:

1) Tea Bag Quilts by Ruth Tabancay

The idea to make quilts out of tea bags came to artist Ruth Tabancay when she was snuggling under comforters while drinking tea with her teenage daughter.  She writes on her website, “As the tea bags accumulated and dried on the window sill, I was inspired to stitch them into a quilt to capture those intimate moments.”  The result is a series of quilts made from hand-stitched tea bags, muslin, and paint.  Tabancay told NPR that like a quilt, tea bags “carried with them connotations of warmth and intimacy,” much like the catalyzing intimacy she shared with her daughter.

Below, “Extending The Useful Life” ” is a 26”x 33”x 54” quilt that won the Juror’s Award at Materials Hard & Soft in 2011 from the Greater Denton Arts Council in Texas. Note the multicolored tea bag labels and the variety of tea bag shapes stitched together with care.

Garden Variations,” a 49″ X 65″ X 1″ piece from 2009, is a less obvious tea bag quilt, thanks to its absence of tea bag strings and labels.  But this quilt demonstrates the many colors that working with tea bags can bring to a piece of art, enhanced here with acrylic paint. This quilt earned Tabancay First Place at HGA’s Convergence® 2012 Long Beach Latitude: All Media Exhibit in Long Beach, CA.

And here’s “Blankie,” a piece from 2012, perhaps the most on-the-nose tea bag quilt embodying the themes Tabancay stated as her inspiration.  Because what’s more intimate than a baby’s blankie?

2) Tea Bag Kimonos by Wewer Keohane

We’ve written about the importance of tea in Japanese culture, so it’s not a huge leap to use tea to make kimonos.  But it is very cool.  Colorado-based artist Wewer Keohane often uses found materials in her mixed media paintings, sculptures, and collages.  She turned to tea bags to create a series of tea bag kimonos that may not be the most practical apparel, but are certainly beautiful to behold.  Each kimono is made from a minimum of 600 tea bags, some silk and others paper.  Below, “Tea Ceremony” is a life-size kimono made from tea bags, muslin, and beeswax.  Keohane told the Post Independent that she has bounced from medium to medium throughout her career.  “In the beginning of my professional career as a fine artist, I was doing abstract pastels,” she said. “I just got bored with the one medium and started learning printmaking, which led to falling in love with paper and process. Eventually I found the tea bag and began using them because of their patina and texture.”

3) Tea Bag Canvases by Ann Laser

Ann Laser was inspired by her own tea-drinking habit to create tea bag artwork. Laser begins each day by drinking tea and looking out at the Santa Fe mountains from her home.  One morning, she noticed the colors present in her tea bag as it dried.  She told Stash Tea, “The stain became a memory of soft caramel mixed with a sharper vanilla cream color.”  Inspiration had struck.  She began to make mixed-media artwork incorporating tea bags.  She even included her fans: Laser launched The Teabag Project, calling on average Joes to send her their used, dried tea bags for inclusion in her work.  “The Teabag Project demonstrates how beauty can be found in small, ordinary objects and acts of life that span across cultures, connecting us all,” said Laser. “The art highlights how the lowly teabag can be elevated to the status of fine art.”

Take a cue from Tabancay, Keohane, and Laser and pair your tea bag with a canvas!

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