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Due to the Corona virus, the Surface Design workshop has been postponed until this summer. The new date for it will be announced when the Art House re-opens.


I'll be teaching this one-day workshop on March 14, 2020 at the Art House! Learn to design your own unique papers and other materials for collage, card making, scrap booking, journal making etc. I supply all the materials. All you need to bring is a sack lunch and a beverage. Hours are 10-4; fee is $90 per person. Register online at or call 678-543-5777. Act now! Seating is limited!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Drink Up! Using Tea Bags in Mixed Media Art

Last fall I became acquainted with tea bag art when I saw Ann Laser's amazing work at a gallery in Santa Fe. She turns lowly used tea bags into fascinating mixed media pieces that are so compelling they stop you in your tracks. Tea bags had never crossed my mind as a potential art material, so when I saw what this artist does with them I decided to learn more about it.

My first ever attempt at making tea bag art. The design was created with Sharpie markers.    ©2018 Lynn Edwards
First, why use tea bags at all? The answer, for me, is the variety of colors that used tea bags offer. Strawberry hibiscus tea yields a delicate rosy-hued paper, while blueberry tea produces a pale bluish-lavender color. The tea bag pictured above was obtained at a restaurant where, unfortunately, I forgot to ask my companion what kind of tea she had ordered. Whatever it was, it imparted the faintest hint of sepia to the paper, whereas the ever-popular black teas yield a darker, more robust sepia tone.

Interesting Looks

I like how the color tends to collect in the creases, and the interesting stains of color that appear randomly here and there. The tea bag paper above isn't especially colorful; I deliberately chose it for my Sharpie drawing to avoid having the marker colors skewed by an underlying hue. Contrast that paper to the one below, made by steeping two Wild Raspberry Hibiscus tea bags from Stash Tea together in a single cup:

Steeping two Wild Raspberry Hibiscus tea bags together resulted in this vivid color. Note how the creases in the tea bag are now clearly visible due to the concentration of color along the folds.           ©2018 Lynn Edwards

Tea Bags' Many Uses

Okay, you're saying, but exactly how do you go about using these tea bags in artwork? Answer: they can be used on their own to make miniature paintings (Etsy has a number of tea bag artists working in miniature scale.). Or, they can be incorporated into larger works by adhering them with an appropriate glue or medium. I've also seen installation art created entirely from tea bags. They can also be used to decorate lampshades and made into purses, among many other things.

There are any number of ways to embellish these tiny beauties: for example you can draw on them with markers, as I've done here. You can also paint on them with acrylics or watercolors. You can stitch on them; stamp or stencil them; glue on embellishments such as ribbons, buttons or charms; collage other papers over them, or use them to "veil" a photo or area in a larger work...basically, whatever your imagination dreams up. Tea bags are surprisingly sturdy, but they aren't indestructible. To avoid tearing them I don't recommend using anything sharp or heavy on them, but if you do want to tear them, the ragged edges can add a intriguing look to a project.

How to Prepare Them

Preparing tea bags for use in art is easy:
1. Brew a cup of tea, using one or two tea bags depending on how strong you want it. Steep for five minutes with the cup covered.
2. Remove the tea bag(s) and place them on a saucer to cool.
3. Park yourself in a comfy chair and enjoy your cup of tea.
4. When the tea bags are cool enough to handle, gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can from them.
5. Allow the bag and its contents to dry thoroughly. (I very gently separate the two sections of the bag to allow for better air flow, and place the tea bag on its side on a clean, dry paper towel.) Depending on temperature and humidity levels, the drying process can take from one to three days.
6. When the bag's contents are completely dry, remove the tiny staple at the top edge of the bag. To do this I VERY CAREFULLY use the tip of an old steak knife to pry open the staple, if there is one. Discard the staple, string and tag.
7. Empty out the dry tea leaves. Add them to your garden, where they will help enrich and condition the soil.
8. Very gently part the "seam" where the edges of the paper meet and slide your finger along the seam to open the bag all the way.
9. Remove any remaining leaf residue by rubbing the paper with your finger.
10. Flatten the paper, if desired, by ironing it between two pieces of parchment paper. Use low heat and turn the steam setting to OFF. Your tea bag is now ready to become art! 😊

I recommend designating one tea bag as a sacrificial "test" tea bag on which you can try out whatever medium you wish to use. For example, I discovered certain Sharpie colors tend to bleed profusely on the porous tea bag paper so I avoid using those colors.

To see more tea bag art, take a look at Pinterest's "tea bag art" section, or do a Google search using that search term or similar terms.

Text and images ©2018 Lynn Edwards

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