Tag Archives: tea

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.


After many weekends away, or here with work, I finally got a two day stretch in which to play. No one was able to use the kitchen table for a whole weekend because I had it strewn with carving tools and materials, bits of paper, paper cutters . . . it was great. I turned out about 40 handmade note pads featuring my hand-carved stamps.

Here are a few:

On Monday when I stopped into the copy store to buy more sheets of cardboard for the notebook backs, I found in the shorts bin (from which the shop sells stacks of cut paper that would otherwise go to waste) a lot of appealing paper stacks and a dozen stacks already made into nice blank white paper notebooks.

Only then did it dawn on me that instead of printing my papers, assembling them in a cardboard backed stack and then binding them with padding compound (2 coats, with a rest to dry in between), I could probably simply have bought unstamped, already assembled note pads and just stamped on the pages. It would have cost a bit more, but would have been waaay quicker.

So I might do that next time.

Or I might not.

Would you want to meet them in a dark alley?

I’ve recently been away in the mountains again. It was lovely there–for the early part of the week it was crisp and cold and even snowed a bit; on the last day of my trip the temperatures climbed into the low 70s and we were all walking around in jeans and t-shirts.

We took care of a lot of business. We helped each other out following the recent death of our teacher.

We cuddled the inscrutable cat.

We watched a movie, did a little salsa dancing (and let me tell you, my people do not have this in our genes), worked on our art projects, read a lot, and were up every day by 4:30.*

We also did lots of work. One of my tasks that week was to get these fine fellows polished up. Aren’t they fierce? One of them alone is impressive, but the lot of them together look like a rather determined army. I certainly wouldn’t want to come face to face with them in a dark monastery hallway.

This is Bodhidharma, who is credited with many impressive feats: bringing Buddhism from western to eastern Asia, revitalizing it (upsetting plenty of people as he did), developing martial arts to fit lazy monks for long hours of sitting meditation, and cutting off his eyelids so he himself would not fall asleep on the cushion (and, in casting the offending lids into a pot of boiling water, inventing tea–think of that the next time you sit down with a comforting cuppa).

There is also a legend that after his death, Bodhidharma was often spotted  continuing his teaching, wandering through the desert wearing ragged robes and just one shoe. He was, in his own way, sort of a rock star, so these encounters were not unlike the Elvis sightings we hear about today (hey–I’m from Tennessee and I believe them all).  Finally, it is said, someone decided to prove this was nonsense, and dug up poor old Bodhidharma’s resting place. You know what they found there, right? Nothing but a single shoe, of course.

I’ll bet it was blue suede.


*It occurs to me that this description makes it sound like I spent the week in some kind of spa, or possibly a helpful hospital–I assure you I did not do either.

Food for thought–and dinner

My nephew was born on Thanksgiving day, so I always think of it as his birthday even when the 23rd falls a bit short of the actual day. As a college student at my alma mater, he’s having a ball this year living in an actual house instead of a dorm, and is taking advantage of having access to a real kitchen and learning to make some of his favorite foods.  He and I share a predilection for Indian food of all sorts, so for his birthday this year I put together a little package to help him along in his culinary education:

  • A copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking
  • A selection of the spices and herbs needed for Indian cooking
  • A neat little box (courtesy of the beading section of a craft store) to hold the latter
  • A small mortar and pestle
  • A baggie of nice Darjeeling tea and a tea infuser
  • A bag of basmati rice
  • A bag of fresh ginger

[For a more readable look at just what I included, take a peek at a larger version of this photo on my Flickr site.]

In return I’ve extracted a promise from him that he’ll cook me a meal when I visit him at school one of these days. Hey, a present’s not a present unless there are strings attached, right?

Tomatoes–hothouse, dirt, and ripe

No, not the kind that you put in your mouth, though we are finally approaching the time when we can renew our acquaintance with them here in the up-until-now rainy and cold northeast.  Last week, on a day when I thought summer might actually be coming because it hardly rained at all and I didn’t have to put on a sweater until after the sun went down, I visited my favorite truck farmer, Jake. When I took my corn and tomatoes to his till to settle up, he was at pains to tell me–apologetically–that those were his tomatoes, but they were hothouse tomatoes. “We won’t have real dirt tomatoes until August,” he sighed.

I can wait. And this will help to tide me over.

My Floating Ink blog has been honored with a Ripe Tomato for Blogging Excellence award.  I was surprised and tickled.  Fellow blogger and comrade in the (increasingly deep) trenches of freelance writing Ron Doyle gave this little honor to 15 blogs he admires and loves to visit, and–whee!–yours truly was in a prime spot on the list. Thanks, Ron!

First, go to Ron’s Blog Salad to check out the other blogs he loves–great ones about bicycling, humor, writing, parenting, food, travel, and all the rest of life.

Then check out the blogs below. Part of Ron’s plan is a sort of “pay it forward” approach–he’s asked each of us on his list to create our own lists of our 15 go-to blogs.

Here are mine:

whipup:  The hub of the crafting blogiverse, inspiring crafters and artists all over the world, showcasing clever and creative people of all stripes, and providing inspiration even on those days when you’re sure you’ve seen it all before and you could never make that yourself–you haven’t, and you can.

Sandi Kahn Shelton: A writing and life blog not just for writers;  this author of wonderful, wonderful, wonderful books (a 4th wonderful is in the pipeline) will make you laugh so hard that tea comes out your nose, and cry over characters that you wish were your best friends.

The Panopticon:  The incomparable Franklin Habit.  Funny, wise, snarky, erudite, and adorable. Ostensibly a knitting blog, but even if you’ve never knitted a stitch, reading Franklin’s posts will make you wish that you, too, were a cute, multi-talented, artistic, Buddhist, creative gay man whose alter-ego is a boozing, politicking, philandering, rabble-rousing sheep named Dolores.

Spirit Cloth: To call Jude a textile artist is like saying e. e. cummings dabbled in poetry. Astonishng, soul-feeding work. I visit there regularly but don’t comment as often as I should because there are only so many ways of saying “oh, my god.”

Whiskey River:  Disseminator of wisdom via an electronic chapbook.  Poets, zen masters, lovers, and fools.

Green Chair Press:  For lovers of books, makers of books, font fans, letterpress and type geeks, and appreciators of all sorts of typographic and literary beauty.

Woolgathering: Artist Elizabeth Perry’s daily sketch journal. She inspires me to see the beauty in the everyday–under her skillful eye a tossed-0ff sketch of a candy wrapper, a lighted lamp, a few cherries, even a pair of flip flops shows us the essence of the thing. And makes me think it’s not silly to subject you fine readers to sketches of staplers and jars of peppercorns.

Nichobella:  Healing through art. Acey’s journals, textile arts, and explorations of what makes us who we are take us beyond the level of “crafting.”

Contemplating the Moon:  Ah, if only. This blog introduced me to encaustics. Which I will never, never master. But I will always, always try.

Joe Pastry:  Want to know how to make your own pasta on your kitchen table?  Why you should make jelly rolls?  What kind of flour makes the best pizza in your back yard bread oven (because we know you have one of those)?  How to make Cornish pasties, an Alsatian onion tart, two kinds of fruitcake and your own homemade caramel? Course you do.

Tea Spot:  My friends and family know me as someone whose blood type is Earl Grey, so I was delighted to find Ana’s tea blog. Besides taking the best food photographs around, Ana gives you the scoop (get it? little matcha joke there) on all kinds of teas and how to brew them. Best of all, she shares info on where to find (and, often, how to make) yummy comestibles to go with them.   Japanese Hiking Donuts, anyone? Or tea-poached pears?  Put the kettle on–I’m on my way!

elsewhere: He takes you there.

3191: That’s the number of miles that separate photo-bloggers Stephanie and Mav in their respective Portlands. Their cameras are our windows on the quotidian beauty in their worlds that let us see the same in ours.

maya*made:  I read many, many, many art and craft blogs and would love to be able to list them all here. But since Ron says that 15 is the magic number, I have to pick one, and this is my pick.  Beautiful, simple, creative things made with love and shared with us.

the worst horse:  Had enough of those boots of Chinese plastic?

Now, each of these bloggers has to think of their list of 15–tag, you’re it.

And thanks again, Ron–hope it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride where you are.