Tag Archives: tea bowl

Why are you so obsessed with that bowl?

That’s what my better half keeps asking. I don’t know the answer. There are a lot of bowls in my work.

Some are tea bowls. Some are oryoki bowls.  Some are broken, some are not. Sometimes a bowl is just a bowl.


Tea bowls on a tea bag

Tea bowls on teabag by floating ink
Tea bowls on teabag, a photo by floating ink on Flickr.

Remember the old riddle? You throw away the outside, cook the inside, then eat the outside and throw away the inside? At least, I think that’s how it went. The answer, of course–corn.

My newest art project has a similar bent. You throw away the outside (the tea bag wrapper), cook the inside (steeping the tea bag), put aside the inside (the now wet tea bag), and throw away the inside.

I’ve been having a wonderful time rescuing tea bags, hanging them to dry (on my art clothesline across the kitchen fireplace), then unfolding them, dumping out the shreds of tea inside (do dry first, and throwing out the old tea afterwards so that you get the most color out of the leaves and onto the fabric bag), then saving the tea bag paper for printing projects. And, yes, I can already hear some of you saying “Throw out the used tea leaves? Never!” I suppose they’d be good for dying and could also just be composted.

To gaze even further into my own navel, I’ve chosen to start with a print of–you guessed it–tea bowls.  A similar print ended up being incorporated into the encaustic painting I showed back in September. If you look at the larger version on my flickr page. at the top edge just to the left of the green ribbon, you can see (upside down) the tea bowl image printed on a tea bag. And again–faintly, almost directly below it, but right side up.

I’m also sort of digging this rabbit–he’s one of my favorite hand-carved stamps of all time and I’ve used him in many projects.

I’m going to continue to play with this tea bag paper–making a photocopy directly onto the tea bag is in the works, with a success rate (success being defined as not totally gumming up the copier) of about 35% so far.  I’m also piddling with some different kinds of tea, different tea bag fabrics and paper (I’ve got a little collection of silk tea bags I’m eager to try), and different lengths of time leaving the bags in contact with the paper.

Compare the tea bowl image at the top of this post, for instance, with the one below left (which stayed scrunched up with the wet tea leaves in it for almost a week), and take a look at the right-hand image, too–I’ve got some ideas for using the teabags cut up, too. If nothing else, it gives me lots of excuses to drink plenty of tea!

Take heed

This guy (why do we always assume that bare bones folks are all guys?) didn’t quite make it in time to be the Halloween greeting I was counting on, but he was fun to whip up.

The vintage skeleton image came from The Graphics Fairy‘s wonderful blog. You want treasures? She’s got you covered–free vintage and antique images (copyright free!) of everything you can imagine. So that’s that part.

The background is a page from a discarded book on which I’d done some brush paintings of a tea bowl. The painting didn’t really work out, so it went into the scrap pile. At the wonderful ATC party I attended a couple of weeks ago, the pieces all came together.

Seven bowls

Little pieces. The work of an hour or two on a beautiful afternoon under the trees in my yard.

Step away from the melted wax

. . . and nobody gets hurt.

Remember how I said I was starting the May challenge with something I’m good at and something at which I don’t exactly excel?


Many years ago I decided that as someone who enjoys and does reasonably well at a number of needle arts (sewing, knitting, spinning, embroidery, etc.), it might be fun to take up weaving.  I decided to take a weaving class, and this turned out to be a very good thing.

I. Don’t. Like. Weaving.

With all due respect to those of you who weave like Penelope (when she was in forward drive, that is) . . . oh, dear. The set up was much too arithmetic for my liking (not so good at things requiring precision in measurement) and the weaving itself, which I thought I’d find meditative, I . . . uh . . . didn’t.  I do love and respect beautiful weaving. Which is why I’m thrilled that there are other people who are good at it and love doing it. *

Anyway . . . for a long time I’ve been a big fan of, and have been deeply inspired by the encaustic work of Bridgette Guerzon Mills, who blogs over at Contemplating the Moon. Man, are her things beautiful. Every one.

Inspired by her and by my Better Half’s sudden infatuation with Fayum portraits like the one below, I decided to try a little encaustic painting myself.

The luminosity, the lifelike textures . . . incredibly inspiring.

Besides, I thought, I have all this beeswax just sitting around. After our honey harvests we gather up all the beeswax from the cappings the bees put over the little cells full of honey, melt them, strain the dirt and debris out of them (bees have remarkably grubby little  feet–you’d be astonished at how dirty the wax in a beehive gets), and save the wax in either little flakes or melt it and pour it into a milk carton to harden into a block. Two harvests ago we used the wax to make lip balms and some furniture polish. Last year the harvest was kind of small and we had just kept the loose flakes of wax hanging around on a paper towel covered baking sheet on the top shelf in my office. They look rather like wheat germ or oatmeal:

I doled out these flakes into little disposable foil pans (the kind you make individual loaves of bread in) and set them on a griddle on the stove over very low heat (wax is highly flammable, remember). Not having the right kind of coloring agents for wax, I grated in some bits of oil pastel.

And proceeded to work up three . . . um . . . paintings. They weren’t exactly gruesome, but it is clear that this is not my medium. I’m sure that if I’d had proper encaustic equipment (and training!) things might have gone better, but I still don’t think the method would speak to me the way other things have done (like the gelatin prints I couldn’t stop doing last month).

Still, it was exciting to spend a day trying a technique that’s completely new to me. And if the short window of opportunity for getting a brush-stroke down before the wax hardened again made me a little frantic, the scents of wax and honey (I’ll bet bee feet, albeit dirty, smell great) and the rich colors were a delight.

So here are the fruits of my labors. Not ready for prime time, but not terrible, either. The first one is little semi-abstract take inspired by a dawn beach walk last fall.

Take two–a vase of poppies:

And to finish (I only had three panels on which to work), this raku tea bowl (says my Better Half: “Another bowl?”).  This one I kind of like. I may even hang it in my office.

As an object lesson.


*It occurs to me that I must have made something in that weaving class. I have a vague memory that we each wove a scarf. I cannot for the life of me, though, remember anything about what I created, nor can I find evidence of there ever having been such an object. This may be one of those cases in which failure of memory serves a protective function.