The humble teabag as art

During lockdown I turned to teabags as an easy source of materials to stitch into, and so began my tea quest – you never know where an initial thought and idea can go.

Used, emptied and washed teabags
Clean teabags, washed, dried and ironed, ready to use

The journey of tea fascinated me, and, as well as collecting tea bags; I began to look into the history of tea, and the journey of tea today. The Camellia sinensis is the original tea plant, and this was the inspiration for my embroidered flowers. The repetitive nature of stitching became a meditative process, as I aimed to stitch one a day through lockdown.  

Two teabags stitched together, supported with dissolvable film with free embroidered flower motif
Stitched, washed and cut Camellia sinensis

At the same time Somerset Arts Work (SAW) initiated the project that was to become Somerset Reacquainted, an invitation to Somerset artists to share the work they have been working on and inspired by the restrictions of lockdown, and I took part. Initially, the project resulted in the ‘work in progress’ exhibition Somerset Reaquainted at the stunning Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury, in between the March and November 2020 lockdowns. The exhibition was so well received, that SAW decided to continue following the development of the artists’ work, and Somerset Reacquainted became a touring exhibition. Somerset Reacquainted Touring is currently exhibiting at ACE Arts in Somerton focussing on Materiality; showing a selection of artists with work responding to this theme. 

For my part, I have continued stitching teabags, resulting in two full size kimonos, referencing tea ceremonies and tea rituals around the world.

Blooms stitched together and displayed at ACE Arts
Second teabag kimono with foiled and beaded floral motif

The Somerset Reacquainted Touring: Materiality exhibition features two members of seam, myself and Nina Gronw-Lewis.  It’s beautifully curated, and highlights 14 artists’ work as well as a large format book of original works by fifty SAW artists assembled by Nina.

The exhibition continues at ACE Arts in Somerton, until the end of July, and is definitely well worth seeing.

Joy Merron