A Zoom with a Brew.
When thinking about how we ‘reconnect’ with others, I kept coming back, as a means of reconnecting, to ‘ritual’.
Rituals are governed by process, and process provides a sense of order that can bring comfort, stability, peace and tranquility.
For me, it’s simple things, like making a cup of tea, that are most powerful. This image, a cup of tea, kept coming back. The tea made with attention to detail and process, using boiling water straight from the kettle, stirring before leaving to brew for 2 minutes, then pouring – milk first – and drinking from a favoured cup.
The vessel is as important as the content. How it feels in your hand, how it looks, a small moment of appreciation for an object that is functional, but also beautiful.
Everybody has their own way of making tea, but whatever that is, it’s not just a practical function; we are fundamentally performing a ritual. One that punctuates the day, and provides order as well as sustenance.
We also associate it with socialising. The first thing we do when visitors arrive is offer them a drink.
Although we aren’t able physically to visit one another in lockdown, we can still share a cup of tea over the phone, on Zoom, or simply by appointment with the kettle and teacup and a mental nod to those we would like to drink it with.
I see it, the ritual of tea-making, as a bridge to, and framework for, reconnecting with others but also with ‘self’.
It’s easy to lose oneself when we are stressed, worried; when we’re thinking too much. In times like these when there is so much uncertainty, pausing to make a cuppa offers a way to reconnect with ourselves. A moment when we are engaged in an age, old simple ritual.
I knew I wanted to make two beautiful cups that would face one another, almost like a reflection, connected by a pathway, or runner.
The inspiration came from looking at teabag art on Pinterest. Lovely miniature paintings on teabags that have been dried, emptied and opened out.
I think a humble teabag makes for a beautiful, delicate canvas that conveys, despite it’s fragility, a kind of earthy, toughness and a hand -hold onto reality. I love the way the tea stains the paper, leaving its mark, infusing it with soft colour, and leaving its flavour for all to see.
For my piece, I made two teacups. The aim was to use teabags to make the pieces appear to be as fine as Bone China. Opaque, delicate and special. Fitting vessels for ritual. I wanted the markings on them to resemble cave drawings in simplicity. Marks that say: I am here: You are here: Life continues.
Reconnection through ritual, process and beauty.
I placed the cups on a glass runner, one on either side of an open frame to represent a window through which we can reconnect: be that through a window made of glass, a computer screen, or a window of time made by appointment, but joined, reconnected, by ritual.
Resist, teacups, teabags, white merino wool, ink and watered down PVA glue.
I dried used teabags, emptied them of tea, and used ink to draw and write on them. I experimented to see if they would felt into the wool. They did!
The teabags were ironed to ‘set’ the ink before I felted them into the wool. I made a resist taking account of shrinkage in order to use the teacups to block the vessels for their shape.
I wanted some areas of the teabags to be free of wool so that they would be transparent like the finest China teacup. I laid the wool using very fine layers so that the wool areas would also appear diaphanous.
I worked the wool until it was strong enough to full. Fulling was a delicate process. I discovered that boiling water washes the ink away entirely, so the fulling process was necessarily gentle and painstaking in order to retain the ink markings, and to prevent tearing the teabags.
Once the felted cups had dried, I removed them from the blocks (teacups), trimmed the top edges, and because the felt was so fine and delicate, I brushed them with a coat of thinned PVA glue to preserve the shape.
Artwork size in CM: The piece as a whole measures width:23 cm Length:62.5cm Depth:23cm. (Each cup measures Width:11.5 Length:11.5 Depth 7.5)