This post includes images of tea bag art done as paintings, mixed media collage, digital collage and 3D assemblage by 18 artists members of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM), a national organization founded by Mary Carroll Nelson 40 years ago.
I attend Tuesday Zoom meetings (1:00 Central Time) with SLMM members from KS, CA, TX, MO, OH, FL NC, VA, ME, NM, WY, WA and NY (me). We discuss our works at the Zoom meetings. We exhibit our work on the SLMM Facebook site. Our discussions often expand to include the media we use, how we work with it, resources for locating the media, books, social media platforms, new trends in the art world, etc. In addition to the tea bag project, we organized a collaborative project where 2 or 3 artists shared media through snail mail. We have a slide show of the collaboration works. Some members are currently creating art on small 4x4x2 inch panels as donations for a CA project titled Walls of Water, a fundraiser organized by a SLMM member to support the communities of Samburu, Kenya.
Before the COVID pandemic, SLMM members gathered in person locally, and met annually at a national conference in a different city across the US and abroad.
The image above is by Win Ratz and titled Celestial City. It’s 12×15 inches on panel. Win lives in Wyoming, and works with hand-processed abaca, cotton linters and tea bags. She created the white circles by hammering the paper while wet.
Win talked about this work at our Zoom meeting, and 18 artists decided they wanted to create work with tea bags. She organized the tea bag art project for our group. We didn’t set limits for size or media, and some artists created more than one work with tea bags. I limited the images in this post to one per artist because we have so many images. I’m including 2 images by Win Ratz because she set this project in motion.
The image above is a 2nd collage by Win Ratz. It’s untitled, 14 x 8 ½ inches, and includes vertical rows of tea bags and white abaca circles. Notice the unique patterns Win created on the tea bags.
Please view the remaining images and read the comments by the artists. I am grateful so many artists joined the tea bag project, and want to thank everyone in the group for sharing their works and their comments.
The image above is by Barbara Jo Stevens and titled All the Possibilities. It’s 6 x 4 inches and includes scattered tea grinds, drawing and painting and a tea bag that became a tiny envelope the artist filled with tiny words. The turquoise strip is a flap that allows her to add more words. Jo folded the tag into the shape of a bird and stapled it to the substrate. She says the bird represents dreams flying away, released. Jo lives in KS.
The image above is by Cal Mahin and titled Surprise in More Ways than One. It’s a mixed media assemblage, mounted on an 8×8 inch panel, and includes hand-made papers, tea stained papers, tea bags, a tiny section of a map, string, and a flattened bullet attached to the tea bag. Cal says he found the bullet on a shooting range. He included shiny papers and tiny stars and dots that create patterns. The tea tag says Luzianne Tea (it’s a favorite tea from Louisiana). Cal says the tea bag is free to move – and that’s the surprise. One side has color and the other side is achromatic. Cal lives in KS.
The image above is by Terri MacDonald. She lives in KS. This work is titled A Path in My Heart. It’ a mixed media collage on a 6 x 6 x 1 1/2 inch panel. Notice the one brewed tea bag is positioned near the top on the side of the acrylic painted panel. Terri used brewed tea to stain and create the collage papers on the front of the panel. She sealed the collage with Mod Podge. She said the place in her heart is Kiawah, SC, and this work is about the beach, the paths on the island, and the house she shares when she visits her oldest daughter.
The image above is a watercolor with collage by Jean Warren, titled Tea Tree. It’s 13×12 inches and shows Jean drew and painted tiny leaves and flowers on all the tea bags, and drew and painted on the background around the tea bags. The strings and tags are not attached and float freely. Notice most of the tea tags are red. Jean said it’s possible the tea tags influenced the rosy color palette in this work. Jean lives in CA. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is by Nicola Mason and titled Tea with a Twist. It’s a mixed media assemblage on 18×18 inch gallery-wrap canvas. The metal is a piece of twisted copper wire that Nicola found in the street (looped exactly that way she found it). She included a scrap of heavy canvas (it’s covering from a fire-truck water hose). The swollen, misshapen tea bags hanging from the copper wire are Thai tea – which is tea steeped with spices like star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom pods. Nicola said the shape of the tea bags reminded her of the poke sacks that itinerant people used, carrying their belongings from place to place, collecting things as they went along. She added: “I liked the feel of the scraps of discarded items coming together to create a loose assemblage (a looseness that I tried to mimic in the background)—a nod to the beauty that comes not from newness, but from use.” Nicola lives in OH. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is a mixed media sculpture by Carla Duncan titled Gallery Petite STL. The structure is a vintage metal toolbox, 6.75 x 9.75 x 6.75 inches, possibly 60 years old, (a gift to her husband’s father). Carla took tea bags apart to understand the way they were constructed. She’s a felter, and knew she wanted to make felted flowers to fit into the tea bag she repurposed as flower baskets, working with silk and wool roving. Carla used encaustic to coat the tea bag flower baskets she attached on the outside of the toolbox. You don’t see the inside (reverse view) of the toolbox. It contains images, but no tea bags. Carla lives in MO. Notice the tiny wood figure gesturing to one of the tea bag flower baskets. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is a collage by Robin Brooks titled Tea Tunes. It’s 12×13 inches and includes sheet music, fabric printed with musical notes, round and rectangular tea bags and tea stained papers. Robin added the red transfer drawing papers with swirling lines and hand made paper with spattered texture. Notice the layers and transparencies. Robin said an artist friend gifted her 3 old music magazines with printed sheet music and she’s been using the papers in recent works, including this piece. Robin lives in ME. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is a 3D assemblage in a box by Rachel X. Hobreigh titled Fairy Tea Garden. She says she created this ensemble for her Goddaughter Nova who loves to play with fairies in her garden. Rachel lives in CA. This work includes dollhouse-scale metal chairs, a tiny ceramic table with porcelain tea set, and Earl Grey tea grounds that are scattered beneath the tiny table and chairs. The wood box is 6x6x2 inches and painted green. At the back of the box is an image of a human-sized teacup and saucer. Rachel says the next time her goddaughter visits they will have time to enjoy their fairy tea. Rachel organized the Wall of Water project I mentioned above.
Liz Ruest is a digital collage artist. The image above is hand made – an analog collage – titled Holly, 9×6 inches on paper. Liz brewed tea and created a watercolor wash with the tea for the background here. She stained collage papers with tea, and added assorted decorative papers and sections of crossword dictionary pages. Liz says she’s scanned this image and it may wind up as a layer in a future digital collage, but adds “I’m quite fond of it, so might save it as is.” Liz was born in Ottawa, Canada and lives in WA now. Here’s a link to her website.
Sue Burke Harrington admits she doesn’t drink a lot of tea, but wanted to participate in the tea bag project. She’s a digital artist and the image above is a digital collage titled Bag It, a composition created with scattered tea bags. Sue ordered the round tea bags from the brand Republic of Tea, dumped them all onto a large watercolor pad, and noticed some of the turmeric tea spilled out from a few tea bags and rested on the other tea bags. She adjusted the image in Photoshop and created a composition with shiny silver tea bags, some tinged with red. Sue never glued anything down, and says, “I still have all the tea to drink!” Sue lives in TX. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is by Georgia Mason and is titled Tea for Two. It’s 10 x 6 inches, collage with hand-made paper with holes in it and 2 tea bags from two different brands (one is Celestial Seasonings and the other is Luzianne). Georgia stained the Celestial Seasonings tea bag green to match the tea tag with the message “Specially blended for savoring accomplishments”. The reverse side of the tag says Luzianne. Georgia lives in NC, but grew up in Louisiana and says summers were so very hot (they had no air conditioning) so they drank a lot of iced tea. She brews Luzianne tea, specially blended for iced tea, because it brings back memories from her childhood. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is a collage on canvas board by Kathy Farr, 12 x9 inches and titled Earth Link. Kathy said she wanted to use this title because tea bags are part of a living plant and represents the cycles of nature. The tea stains that are left are our reminder. Kathy used 4 family size and 3 individual size Lipton’s tea bags, 2 individual size Twinings tea bags (that have glued edges), and 1 triangular Huckleberry Tea bag she got at Glacier National Park. She used the tea bags in single to quadruple layers in a geometric pattern. Notice the dark outlines in the tea stained coffee filter in the middle. Kathy lives in TX. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is by Constance Fisher. She lives in VA. This collage, titled Tea for Two is 12×9 inches. It’s a collage created with tea bags and pieces of recycled, painted d’Arches watercolor papers. Constance says she selected the tea bags while reorganizing her pantry, and painted the tea bag strings to emphasize movement in the composition. Notice the calligraphy. Constance wrote the words in French: one phrase translates “It’s Tea Time” and the other translates “Tea for Two.” Constance says she always drank tea with her grandmother. Here’s a link to her website.
The image above is a collage painting on a 10x8x2 inch panel by Kathleen Kuchar, titled TEA LOVERS. She says “Although I am not a tea drinker, I decided to give the project a try, and the tea turned out to be very tasty.” She saved the bags from Passion tea and decided to create a piece that fits the theme. The bottom tea bag is actually a photocopy of a real one, but there’s an actual tea bag at the top, slit open to enclose a few pieces of paper that could represent “some thoughts that weren’t expressed in the actual conversation of the tea lovers.” Kathleen says the chairs symbolize two people sitting at a table having a cup of tea, and adds “Chairs have been a symbol for me since 1984. That was the year my dad passed away. Dad was no longer at the table but his chair was. The chair has represented people to me from then on.” Kathleen lives in KS.
The image above is a 10×8 inch collage I created for the tea bag project. It’s untitled and includes tea-stained hand-made papers, found papers and cut tea bags. The background substrate is a transfer drawing. I am a coffee drinker and was happy to start drinking tea to collect tea bags. Thanks for the project, I learned about the Republic of Tea brand that sells round tea bags (I love round, curvy shapes). My new favorite tea is chocolate strawberry – it’s very tasty and brews to a light, rosy tan color that’s perfect for staining white, thin paper for collage. I live I NY. Here’s a link to my website.
The image above is by Peggy Wambold and titled Moroccan Sunset. It’s a mixed media painting with tea bags and assorted papers, 11 x 14 inches. The sunset looks like a shiny coin (or foil wrapped object?) and the green Mumi tea bags add to the exotic, imaginary landscape. Peggy lives in KS.
Do you create art with tea bags? Do you stain papers with brewed tea for collage?
Or include tea grounds to add texture to a paintings or a collagraph print? Or use tea bags as a sculptural element in mixed media?
THANK YOU again to all the artists who shared their works and gave me their comments about the work.
Read about the Society of Layerists in Multi–Media (SLMM) – a network for artists who express a holistic perspective in any style or medium. We say layering is a way to think about creating art as a synthesis of ideas from many sources: the sciences, philosophy, metaphysics, experience, and imagination. The layers in layerist art are the references and meaning that the artist brings to the work rather than the materials used to create it. As a society, we are focused on the intentions of the artist.
Thank you for your comments.