Tea bags drawing project: a whole new art form
Some of us may give our used tea bags a second life by squeezing an extra steep out of them, but Ruby Silvious takes things a step further by using the thin paper as a canvas for miniature drawing projects. One day, while enjoying a cup of tea with her sister, Silvious looked at the tea bags in their cups and wondered if they, too, could be repurposed in a creative way.
This experiment to work on a daily tea bag project throughout a year, culminated in the book, “363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journey on Used Tea Bags.” “I had no idea that this innocent experiment would change my life — and it has changed my life,” said Silvious, whose tea bag artwork has since been featured internationally.
“I didn’t know it would resonate with so many people,” Silvious said. “I plunged into this thing not thinking this could make money or be exhibited,” she said, adding that the work was “just an outlet. It’s what makes me happy at the end of the day.”
“When there’s access to an abundance of materials and the total freedom to use your medium of choice, everything becomes possible,” Silvious has said in the book.
From her studio in Coxsackie, New York, Ruby Silvious (previously) repurposes the thin paper pouches holding her beverage of choice into miniature canvases. Silvious mirrors the simple ritual of tea drinking in quiet drawings that show slices of everyday life, like laundry drying and cats looking out the window.
Sometimes strung together or ripped to remove the leaves, Silvious’s tea bags depict the quiet, unassuming moments of everyday life: Passersby trudge through the snow, masks hang to dry, and two women meet for a swim on the naturally dyed backdrops.
With the book out, Silvious said she now has larger projects in mind. These include a wearable series of items made from tea bags, including kimonos and other styles of dresses. She’s also made shoes using paper scraps, another medium she’s always been fascinated with.
The Philippines-born artist has found an ingenious way to regenerate used tea bags into stunningly intricate drawing picks.
"As an artist you're always trying to find unique ways of expressing your art, and I think this is where all these discarded materials as canvasses came to light," Silvious tells CNN Travel.
Silvious might be a tea fanatic, but her art also connects with those who don't like the brew. "It seems to me that even non-tea drinkers are fascinated with my drawing project, maybe it's because it's just a unique canvas," she reflects.
These are absolutely amazing. Not only are the drawings themselves beautiful, they’re on such a small canvas, and the fact that they’re teabags just makes it unusual and interesting!
As an artist, Silvious is constantly thinking of new drawing ideas and considered it only a “matter of time” before she discovered tea bags as a canvas.
To explain her drawing idea further, the artist stated: “There’s something poetic about the stains that the tea leaves naturally create on the tea bags once they’re dried”.
Silvious had also decided to create a routine for herself by painting regularly. Hence, her determination to “push” her “creative discipline” also acted as an impetus to “start drawing on tea bags” and “creating something every day”.
The artist generally keeps the string and tag attached, matching the mundane subject matter with the material’s ritualistic origins.
To create these pieces, Silvious uses her hands, not scissors, to open the tea bag to empty it.
The bag is then ironed before she uses ink or watercolor on it. The resulting tea bags come in all shapes, textures and sizes.
Silvious’ tea bags drawings are round, elongated rectangles, and even triangles. She also plays with colors.
For example, she likes using turmeric tea bag, which have a yellow tint to them, for certain landscapes like sunsets.
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