Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tea Bag Art

Hello, everyone. 

Some of you may know that I am actively participating in regular and occasional art swaps on the marvellous website There I was made aware of a new swap that I could not believe at first: Tea Bag Art. That means doing stuff with/to used tea bags! 

My first reaction was disbelief "surely, nobody would..." but alas! As I was searching another of my favourite webpages (Pinterest) for this subject I found out that "somebody would" actually quite a lot of people seem to do it. And as I love new and unusual arty things to try I signed up.

This post is all about my process of handling the very delicate tea bag material and also the FAILS! I was so happy today that I had gotten one tea bag painted successfully, but I will let you find the flaw for yourself later.

There are two basic types of teabags, the flat ones and the folded ones. They seem to be made of slightly different material and in my house they are holding very different sorts of tea. Let's start with the flat kind. The only type of tea I have in those is the regular kind, and a very strong variety that gives the bag a pretty intense stain. I do not leave the bags in for more than 30seconds, otherwise the brew just gets too strong for me.

As you can see I already did some experiments on these. The two on the left are used so you can see the colour is pretty intense. The bag on the top left was drawn on with a fine marker, that worked well but the material is quite rough and even a light usage of the marker can widen gaps in the paper into gaping holes. The big orange stain on its corner is watercolour and it just kept on spreading and spreading. On the bag bottom left I did a kind of reverse technique, I used watercolour first and very sparingly, and later drew around it with the marker, results are not really any better than trial no. 1.

Next up is the folded kind of teabag. In those I have what is called "Yogi Tea" here, a herbal sort of a chai variety.

As you can sea it stains a LOT less, even though the contents was dried inside the bag. When I opened it, the tea inside was stuck to the paper and I could not remove it. So for the next ones I removed the contents while the bag was still very wet and inside a container with water to wash the tea off. The material now has very little to nearly no stain, but the bag is free from residue and intact. 
On the other hand the fabric(?) holds up really well to watercolours and markers, with very little to no spread of colour.

I used the teabag shaped piece of card to predraw the design, then placed it under the bag and drew the outlines. 
I found that while painting in the coloured areas I had to make sure the material was not touching the surface underneath it or the paint would start to go everywhere!
As the bag itself was hardly teastained at all I gave it a nice background with very light watercolours, I might prestain the material with some of the tea from the flat bags.

So now here is the final trial piece, I was a bit disheartened when I spotted my mistake.

So keep in mind when you are using this folded kind: there is a definite FRONT and a definite BACK! 
I am not dissapointed to have to redo this one, I learned some valuable lessons for the tea bags I am sending in to the swap. And maybe this post will help others in avoiding the "pitfalls" I had.



A Mynah Production said...

These turned out great! Thanks for the info. It'll come in handy when I do mine. I have them dried...haven't emptied them yet. Funny, you think that you made a boo boo on the last one...I was thinking that was the front for me...'cause I think that's the the most interesting part. I want to some how keep the teeny tiny staple in tact on that spot. :)

Miss Iowa said...

Great post, Gem! I'm not in the swap but I have saved my first teabag to art on. The brand I have is Bigelow and it's the folded kind. I waited until the tea was dry to dismantle the bag, and it had some nice staining on it but it was very concentrated along the creases which I didn't like. So I spritzed the bag with water and gave it a little rinse which muted the staining and also removed the creases. Now to decide what to do with it!