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Illustration of tea (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Illustration of tea (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Every now and then I run across an article that promises to reveal some number of alternative uses for tea. I rarely pay much attention to these since my only real interest in tea is drinking it. But I have to admit that, if you’re going to do something else with tea, you might as well use it as a medium for creating art.

Which is exactly what a number of artists have aspired to do. Take Andrew Gorkovenko, an advertising designer based in Moscow. Among his many works are a series created by using tea leaves and powder as his artistic medium, a style which the author was called upon to use when designing packaging for a tea brand. See some of Gorkovenko’s tea art here.

Gerda Liebmann is a Swiss-born artist and designer who now lives in the United States and who is also an ordained minister. As the artist notes in her bio, she works primarily in acrylic on large canvases. Among the tea-themed paintings she’s produced over the years are such works as Glass Tea Pot, Agony of the Leaves and A Royal Teacup. To see them click the Tea heading at her site.

Aaron Fisher last appeared in these pages when I reviewed his book, The Way of Tea. He has also published Tea Wisdom: Inspirational Quotes and Quips About the World’s Most Celebrated Beverage. Also an artist, Fisher has traveled extensively throughout Asia and currently resides in Taiwan. Not surprisingly, much of his painting and calligraphy is heavily influenced by Asian traditions of tea. More of his work at his Web site.

For some more high-profile attempts to bring the artistry of tea to the masses, consider a pair of commercials from none other than those august tea merchants at Twinings. In the first the artist uses nothing more than tea leaves, a canvas and her hands to create a work of art. In the other, artist Tom Parks uses actual cups of tea to make a striking work that falls somewhere between painting and sculpture.

Last up, an exhibition called Steeped in History: The Art of Tea. It ran several years ago at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, but you can still access information about it at their Web site.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Starting with the basics can be a great approach in many things. You crawl before you can walk. You ride your bicycle with training wheels and eventually those wheels come off. You learn the simpler dance steps before you go for the fancy ones. And so on.

This approach is the one I’ve taken when both doing and teaching drawing. A pencil, a sheet of paper, and of course a BIG eraser! Oh, and a sharpener. Time to draw. Hm… uh… gee… well, it sorta looks like a tree. Time to take a step back to the basics.

Tea inspires the artist within!

Tea inspires the artist within!

Years ago when I taught Beginning Drawing adult education classes for a couple of years my approach was simple: look for the basic shape in the object you want to draw and start there. A candle is basically a cylinder. An orange is a sphere/ball. A book is a rectangular box. And so on. Draw that basic shape very lightly with your pencil (don’t worry about being too exact since you’ll be modifying it) and then add the details that make that cylinder a candle or that ball an orange, etc. Invariably, the students in my drawing classes would tell me when the class had completed that they saw objects around them in a new way. The next step was to tackle things like flowers and trees that had these basic shapes but in a more complex and yet subtle way.

The same approach can work with teas. Start with the basics: green, black, white, and oolong all from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) and its varietals. Take it to the next level: Chinese green teas, Japanese green teas, Indian or Ceylon or Kenyan or Chinese black teas, etc. Then, you can add in flushes and gardens and blends. It’s like adding in those drawing details and shading, getting more precise, detailed, and nuanced as you progress. If you have the desire and the will, you can keep going, working further into the details and nuances of tea, trying not only different ones but different methods and implements for preparing them.

This approach can also work for tasting tea. Start by learning what flavors are usual for which teas. Grassiness, maltiness, fruitiness, haylike, smoky, and so on — each flavor type is generally associated with a type of tea.

Tea preparation is another area to start with the basics. Teapots, gaiwans, kyusus, steeping mugs, or even your teacup are used to steep. But be sure you know how hot to heat the water, how long to let the leaves steep, whether you can get a decent second infusion or not, and how to store the dry tea. It can seem daunting, but do what hubby and I do when learning something new or when faced with a big task: baby steps! Learn to crawl before you walk. Learn to draw a decent circle before you try to draw that orange or other ball-shaped object. And learn what tea is and how to fix a cup of basic black or green before diving into the details of tea.

Happy steeping!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In my last post, I talked about revisiting the UK. One of the things I decided to do was get my tourist hat on, take trips down memory lane in London, and in one of my trips, I came across this:

Tea Building Tea Sign

Tea Building Tea Sign

The typeface of the letters against the backdrop of a blue sky made me smile when I walked past.  The Tea Building, according to their website, is a centre for the media and creative industry based in East London.  I also loved their bill board:

Shoreditch High Street Tea Bill Board

Shoreditch High Street Tea Bill Board

I think we can all agree that we need tea :-)

So, from tea and art in the street, I made a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum to discover tea and art indoors. There are collections of art from Korea, Japan, and India, and naturally, as a tea enthusiast, I was drawn to the tea ware. When I went to the China room, I was amazed at the vibrancy of the colours. Two pieces really captured my heart.

Victoria & Albert Gaiwan

Victoria & Albert Gaiwan

This gorgeous Gaiwan shown above was made in the 1800’s in the Qing Dynasty.  The detail on this porcelain beauty is absolutely divine!  I especially liked the hole in the leaf which reminded me of the work of a Jacid ‘leaf hopper’ which bites on an oolong leaf to promote oxidation, but maybe that’s my imagination running wild, I don’t know. 

The beau-tea-ful teapot shown below was made in the 1600s. The bamboo detail, especially on the spout and the handle, was stunning.

Victoria & Albert Bamboo Teapot

Victoria & Albert Bamboo Teapot

On we go, from the history of Chinese tea ware to a 20th century movement.  Postmoderism according to Wikipedia is a reaction to the modernism movement.  It was a movement that was rebellious, a critique, and controversial.  The exhibition featured architecture, art, fashion, design and music from 1970-1990 and as a movement; the teapots were wacky, silly, colourful and brought a smile to my face.

Postmodern Teapots

Postmodern Teapots

The picture at right shows two of my favourite teapots. Aren’t the colours so vibrant and the design just zany?

Modernism is about design which should derive directly from its purpose, and this last teapot shown below captures the true essence of postmodernism, which argues that form doesn’t have to follow function; it can just be fun. Do you have a teapot in your collection that is both functional and fun?

A Disney inspired design shown below:

Fun and possibly functional Postmodern Teapot (click on image to see it larger)

Fun and possibly functional Postmodern Teapot

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ginkgo TeapotGet in tune with nature at teatime by serving from a teapot and mug with leaf and butterfly designs pressed in. If this sounds good to you, check out Poplar Ridge Pottery for their latest unique designs.

Inspired by the organic shapes, especially leaves of various trees, around her childhood home in rural Alabama, artist Tracy Wilson evolved from an avid photographer to a potter, using leaves from those trees to press patterns into the clay. She began producing a variety of items, from platters and bowls to teapots and mugs, with various leaf patterns. One of the first was the Original Princess Tree Leaf Platter, inspired by the huge leaves of the Princess Tree near her home. Inspiration spread out as Tracy began to notice that some leaves looked like fish and others like butterflies. The Original Fish Leaf Platter and the Original Kudzu Butterfly ™ designs were the result. (As she says, no butterflies are ever harmed in the production of her pottery!)

The leaves are pressed in the wet, soft, hand-formed clay, and, since no two leaves are alike, so each piece of her pottery is unique. Tracy makes her pottery even more distinctive with her glazing technique that doesn’t hide the leaf impressions but enhances them. With husband, Craig, working along side her, they produce an array of artistic yet useful items (some, such as the Oak Leaf Ring Teapot, are meant to be decorative).

Their designs are also award-winning:

When you see the designs, I think you will agree with those judges.

As one who lives the “tea life,” where tea is a true adventure, not just a hot beverage, I enjoy adding a bit of cute and a bit of the unique to my teatime. All of her products certainly fit that bill. You can pile scones, tarts, and other teatime treat up high on a leaf platter, load up a leaf bowl with fresh fruits to serve your teatime guests, fill up a leaf teapot with fragrant and hot Assam or Keemun, and pour that tea out into leaf mugs, each a work of art in itself that’s sure to impress your teatime guests.

If you live in Alabama, Georgia, or Mississippi, you can attend one of the craft shows where Tracy and Craig Wilson will be showing their wonderful pottery (see their Website for a schedule). If you can’t make it there, you can order from their Website or their Etsy shop.

Add a bit of nature and whimsy to your teatime. Enjoy!

Company Info:
Name: Poplar Ridge Pottery
Owners: Tracy & Craig Wilson
Website: http://poplarridgepottery.com/
Phone: 662-534-7154
E-mail: PoplarRdg@aol.com
Etsy Shop: http://etsy.com/shop/poplarridgepottery

Just like Poplar Ridge Pottery, A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, is on the cutting-edge of all things tea.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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