Friday, September 25, 2020

Creating Decor for Your Own Spooky Victorian Tea Party



It’s that time of year: time to get spooky! With this in mind, I’ve crafted décor for a Victorian Halloween Tea Party.  These projects give a nod to some spooky Victorian pastimes such as palm reading, crystal ball gazing, and divination with tea leaves (also known as tasseography).  At the tea table, we will display our curious collections under bell jars.  And we will drink a full-bodied black tea accompanied by tea sandwiches, scones and sweets. So read on to learn how you might craft décor for your own creepy Victorian tea time.

 





The first crafted items that I will discuss are the decorated pumpkins.  After all, what is Halloween without pumpkins? I purchased all of these pumpkins at a thrift shop. 

 Instructions:

1)      -Paint two layers of white chalk paint, allowing drying time between layers.

2)      -Sponge on off-white chalk paint.  Allow to dry.

3)     - Rub a very light coat of “tea stained” wax on the stems of the pumpkins.

4)      -Trace the silhouette of a teapot onto the largest pumpkin. Paint it black. Once dry, attach a cameo brooch to the silhouette.

 

 





The next crafted item for our spooky Victorian tea is a small crystal gazing ball. Crystal gazing, or scrying, was a form of popular entertainment in Victorian circles.

Instructions:

1)     - Find a black and white clip art image of an ornate tea pot.  (You can find a number of these at http://thegraphicsfairy.com)

2)      -Size and print the image onto clear transparency film.  Transparency film is available for laser printers, copiers and inkjet printers.

3)      -Trace a circle around the image using a thin tip sharpie marker. Cut out the image just  inside the lines of the circle.

4)      -Roll up the cut out image and slip it into a clear Christmas ball.  You can find these clear balls at any big box craft store.

5)     - Attach the clear ball to the top of a candlestick using the adhesive of your choice.  I used Lexel by Sashco.  It is a clear, paintable caulk that is available at hardware stores.

 



Victorians were avid collectors.  For this spooky tea party we will display our collection of shrunken skulls under a bell jar.

 Instructions:

1)      -Choose a silverplate plate that fits under your bell jar.

2)      -Cut the end off of a Styrofoam ball and glue it to the silverplate plate with the adhesive of your choice.  I used Weldbond.

3)     - Glue moss over the Styrofoam ball. I used Weldbond. Let dry.

4)      -Stack your mini skulls and glue them to the moss coated ball.  Also glue them together.  I used Lexel as the adhesive for this part of the process.

5)      -Stick floral pins and butterfly or dragonfly charms into the moss coated Styrofoam.

6)      -Once dry, place your bell jar over the arrangement of curious items.

 

The illustrations in these vignettes are from the digital collections of the Library of Congress and from the New York Public Library. To search the digital collections of these two institutions, go to the following two web addresses and enter “tea” as your keyword search term.

http://loc.gov/pictures

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org


 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Tea History at the British Museum


Creative Commons use. ©The Trustees of the British Museum.


Fun fact:  The British Museum hosts both a podcast and a blog! That is news to me.  I was thrilled to learn this recently and, of course, immediately searched both media for episodes featuring tea. Given the British peoples’ long history with tea, I was not surprised to find that at least one episode of both the British Museum podcast and the British Museum blog focuses on the history of afternoon tea.  For an entertaining peek into the workings of the British Museum, including a brief talk on the history of afternoon tea, go HERE.  To read a short blog summary of this history written by British food historian, Tasha Marks, go HERE.  Both are primers on the history of afternoon tea and include nothing that you tea lovers have not heard before.  But I find it such fun to find new descriptions of this oft-tread history. These resources are worth the look and the listen!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Tea Find at LIDL

 


This tea find will be of particular interest to my readers on the East Coast in the U.S. Yesterday, my husband and I took a productive trip to the discount grocer, LIDL.  While there, I was surprised to find this loose leaf tea blend from 1001 Delights called "Chai Tea." The package lists the following ingredients for this blend: black tea (rainforest alliance certified tm), ginger pieces, cinnamon, chili flakes, cardamom, black pepper, orange peel, and cloves.

Earlier this morning, I brewed a pot of this tea and found it to be lovely.  I enjoy my black teas plain, even chai blends, and enjoyed this one plain as well following a 5 minute steep.  

I am sharing this find because the taste is good and the price is quite a bargain. This 5.2 ounce bag (FSC certified paper packaging) of the loose leaf chai tea blend cost $2.99 plus tax. That speaks for itself.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Love Your Skin With TEA.L

 “We love tea.” That is how TEA.L, a producer of all natural body care products, begins its discussion of its company philosophy.  When I learned about TEA.L back in 2019, I was immediately intrigued by their embrace of tea for self-care.  And I thought:  all-natural body care products that are made with real tea?  Yes!  Count me in!

 


I wanted to try all 3 TEA.L products, so I ordered the TEA.L Ceremony Set which includes the green tea & guayusa face lotion, the green tea & rooibos body lotion, and the green tea & yerba mate eye cream. I used these three products until gone and was hooked. The delicate scent of these all-natural products (no artificial fragrance) suited my very sensitive nose and appealed to me - especially in the lotion and cream that I use on my face.  The scent of the body lotion is delicate and appealing as well. After using these products for a while, my skin felt soft and well hydrated. So that’s my testimonial regarding the products. 

 


My initial exploration of the TEA.L website convinced me that not only did I want to try the TEA.L products, but that I wanted to learn more about the men behind them.  So I have interviewed TEA.L founders, Zhao Lu and Ronald Taylor.

 

I love your philosophy that everyone deserves to practice self-care.  Tell us a bit about your self-care routines - both those that involve tea and those that don't.

 

Covid has completely changed our self care routines in a very positive way, as we are able to dedicate more time to self care with less social distractions. Tea plays a central role in our renewed routines, as now we actually have time to follow a routine daily and steep loose leaf almost every single time. I (Zhao) usually have 4 cups of dragonwell a day and I changed it up once in a while with Guayusa (if I need more caffeine) or some sort of Chinese black tea. Ron, on the other hand, prefers Gyokuro or Yerba Mate in daytime. We do enjoy Rooibos together after dinner to aid digestion or mellow down before bed.

 

Outside of tea, we lift weights 5x a week in our home gym, which really helps relieve stress and build up stamina. Another area we are focused on is sleep hygiene, i.e. being mindful of winding down an hour or so before bedtime, no phones, no TV, and incorporate aromatherapy into the unwind process. We actually drew inspiration from aromatherapy to develop the scent for TEA.L products: we want to make them smell like something we are happy to fall asleep to.

 

In the "About TEA.L" page of your website you encourage people to live authentic lives that reflect who they are beneath any label they might carry. This is a beautiful idea and I would love to hear more about how authenticity comes through in your own lives, in your company, and in your products.

 

Living authentic lives came from a place really close to our hearts. Both me and Ronald learned the importance of self-care, both physically and mentally, while growing up gay in small towns. And I personally immigrated to the US 10 years ago from China with limited language skills and zero acquaintance. As we stumble and tumble to establish an authentic self in our adulthood, we have to fight the stigma and prejudice associated with the labels put on us. I think a lot of people nowadays can relate to that experience to a certain extent, and that experience continues for all of us. Through TEA.L, we want to empower everyone with labels on their backs by giving them an authentic way to heal after they work so hard to establish their true self. Tea, for the longest time, instead of being known by their names, origins and unique profiles, carries a color category and lives in a pre-packaged teabag or some sort of chemical extract for beauty purposes. So I can’t think of a better vehicle to carry that message.

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to “talk” with me Zhao and Ronald!  



And now for a special offer from TEA.L: You will receive 30% off of your full TEA.L order between now and September 30, 2020 with the exclusive code TEADIARY30. You can only use the code once, so fill up your cart the first time around.  Visit TEA.L at https://tealotion.com/ to get your discount by entering TEADIARY30 at checkout!




Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Interview: Tea in Art with Madame Magar





I have followed artist Leigh Magar, a.k.a. Madame Magar, for a couple of years now on social media. She is a Charleston, South Carolina, based artist who explores fashion, fine art, performance, and history. I am interested in her use of tea as a dye medium for her textile art.  So, I reached out to her for an interview.

LYNN:  You are known for your “seed to stitch” indigo dyed textiles which are turned into fashionable frocks, home accessories, and textile art, but I also know that you use other natural dyes. Tell us a bit about your use of tea as a dye.

LEIGH: The Madame Magar “Seed to Stitch” philosophy is inspired by nature and utilizing local resources to create one of a kind Seasonal/Limited/Local dresses, and using dress scrap cloth to create accessories and textile art. The Charleston Tea Plantation is a nearby/local tea farm that I use to dye cloth; usually mixed with other natural dye plants.


LYNN:  Can you tell us a bit about tea in your life. I understand that you, like I did, grew up in the South Carolina Upstate, so I imagine that you grew up drinking sweet iced tea.  Is that right?

LEIGH: Tea is a memorable part of my life. I grew up drinking very sweet iced tea; especially at my grandmas Sunday table! I feel that Iced Tea is a vital part of the south and home; long ago; when I went to design school for hat making in Manhattan, iced tea was one the most missed things for me! I grew up drinking very sweet iced tea; especially at family gatherings, so the beverage brings back those memorable occasions.

LYNN: Do you drink hot tea? If so, when and how were you introduced to that?

LEIGH: After high school and leaving sparkle city (Spartanburg, SC) for Charleston SC; for a spell I brewed herbal teas but I just liked the ceremonial aspects of it; the delicate vintage cups and saucers; the plants and herbs; a premonition of my dye life!


LYNN: I know that some years you offer a tea dye workshop and luncheon for Mother’s Day. I imagine that the circumstances surrounding this year’s Covid 19 pandemic have led to the cancellation of a 2020 event of this type.  Can we look forward to your hosting of a similar event on other occasions once things open back up? 

LEIGH: Yes all of my natural dye courses have been postponed until we are all able to gather safely again. The Mothers Day Tea was inspired by the Teas given years ago; during Spoleto festival at The Confederate Home and College in Charleston; held in a beautiful outdoor courtyard garden; handmade triangle sandwiches, okra pickles, benne wafers, and of course tea!

As far as workshops; I have started a Blue School; as part of my “seed to stitch “vision, teaching growing, harvesting, processing indigo; so most of my workshops are Private, Custom courses available upon inquiry; but I do look forward to the future being able to host natural dye courses interwoven with local/Seasonal Flora and Fauna, Food, and culture. 

My Courses are very small and limited so as to insure a true hands on/in depth experience. 

I offer 3 day dye sessions-indigo season(May-August)”seed to dye pot” indigo season course; learning every step of the indigo process from seed to dye. 

I have also started a CSTA: (Community Supported Textile Agriculture) program.
Members receive Madame Magar natural dyed and handmade local home goods and textiles and collaborative offerings from local Johns Island farms.
First delivery is Summer Solstice; June 20
Please inquire if interested in details.

All Inquiries: madamemagar@gmail.com



To purchase or view my work:
Instagram @madamemagar
Dresses available at Worthwhile: @shopworthwhile 


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Tea in Art with Michele Brody


This portrait is from a CommuniTea event at the Bronx Museum, 2018.
Michele's necklace represents the chemical diagram for camellia sinensis.  
LYNN: Hi Michele.  I am so glad to have the opportunity to communicate with you about tea and your art.  I know you are currently living in New York which has been hard hit by COVID-19.

MICHELE: During this time of isolation and confinement due to stopping the spread of COVID-19, I greatly appreciate your reaching out to me Lynn, and wanting to share my story with others on your blog.

Whole lives have been turned upside down by the shutting down of New York City.  But drinking my tea has helped to keep me sane with starting each day the same as I always do. Boiling a pot of water in my electric kettle, heating up my tea pot under hot water, choosing my tea for the morning, steeping, then pouring. These days I tend to add a little bit of lemon to rejuvenate the body, and lots of local honey to combat allergies. 

LYNN: I know that for over ten years now you have been working on a project called “Reflections in Tea.” A brief summary from your Reflections in Tea website describes the project in this way.

Reflections in Tea is a multi-disciplinary, social-action project that focuses on the building of community relationships by bridging cultural boundaries through the contemplative art of sharing Tea…[Project] participants preserve their memories and stories by creatively transcribing them onto 4×7” sheets of tea stained notepapers produced from drying out and flattening the previously used tea filters. The sheets are then clipped to a net and hung together, culminating in the creation of an ever-growing installation of fluttering paper quilts.

This photo is from Michele's one person show at the Bronx Museum in 2016.
LYNN:  Michele, tell me about the origins of your love of tea and how it led to your use of tea as both medium and metaphor in your art. 

MICHELE: I have always loved the color of tea. I grew up with a grandmother who always drank tea in the morning with lots and lots of lemon. I never picked up drinking coffee from my parents. It is tea that sustained me through graduate school as I sought to develop a career as an artist, so much so that I started to work with ways to incorporate tea into my portfolio.

It all started with a footprint that was left on the clean white floor of my studio one day by an inconsiderate person who tramped into my space. I was very upset by the disruption, but a professor suggested I work with this “stain” and find a way to use it as part of my process. She prompted me to think about how we leave our memories behind for other’s to witness. I first started to use the stains left by the growing process in fabric as a way to mark time, but since tea was such a big part of my daily life I also started to try different ways to use the multi-colored stains left by various types of tea as a metaphor for how a memory and experience can be preserved. It is through the mark left by a stain that a story can be told and shared. This is the basic metaphorical element of my art with tea: to share and preserve our memories. 


LYNN: How has your "Reflections in Tea" project enriched your life?

MICHELE: When I came up with the idea for Reflections in Tea, which was originally titled Tea House Productions, I had been working on an earlier long-term project with manhole covers and the City Streets. I had designed a set of historic plaques in the form of functional manhole covers that were to be installed throughout Lower Manhattan to reference sites of lost history, such as demolished buildings, re-arranged street-scapes and even a buried fresh water pond.  This had been started before 9/11, which was another catastrophe that upended life in New York City.  I wished to continue working with installing a project on the City Streets that would make passersby see the day-to-day world around them a little differently. I have always been interested in liminal spaces, the places that exist in between the sites where we have been and where we are going to. Examples of these liminal spaces are hallways, stairwells, streets and sidewalks. Throughout my practice as a site-specific installation artist these are the sites that I have been most attracted to engaging. I wanted to bring my love of tea and its practice as part of my daily life to the public in a new way. The project started in a coffee cart initially envisioned as a mobile teahouse, the main component of Reflections in Tea is the invitation of the public to enter and sit within a semi-private space to share a pot of tea and their stories.  

~I have always been interested in liminal spaces, the

 places that exist in between the sites where we have

 been and where we are going to.~

By taking the time to cross the threshold of the teahouse, each participant is introduced to how the drinking of tea is practiced throughout the world as a transformative custom. I wanted to create a private space within the public sphere of the streets of New York where a transformative process could take place that presented the question of what does it mean to be fully present when meeting someone for the first time.  And by being set in a street vendor cart, the project was meant to comment on our American urban “to go” culture by directly counterbalancing it with a personal experience that asks one to cross over a threshold into a space set aside to slow down time. The goal of Reflections in Tea has always been to cross over boundaries between what is private within the public realm, and how a chance meeting between destinations can transform one’s perspective. This is similar to the practice of tea throughout the world as a transformative custom from the public life out of doors to the interior private life. This practice can be seen through the English Tea time at the end of the work day, to the welcoming of a guest into ones home in the Middle East and by marking the changing seasons through the Chinese practice in choosing teas that reflect each season.

~The study and practice of these world-wide rituals 

have greatly enriched my life…~

The study and practice of these world-wide rituals have greatly enriched my life in ways I never would have imagined, especially when I moved to The Bronx and started to serve tea daily to seniors in a range of centers throughout the Borough and at the Bronx Museum. I have become known as the Tea Lady, and have helped enrich a great many lives around me through the combination of Tea and the Arts.
And even during these days of confinement I continue to reach out through the internet to invite others to join in the CommuniTea of sharing reflections on the times. In the past I have brought seniors together to dance, write poetry, make hats and now sing while with singer/songwriter Olivier Marcaud, who arrived in the NY the day before the travel ban. Together we have been revising our original project to work with seniors at a nearby center through the NYC SU-CASA program to bring them together as a choir singing their own lyrics by moving the project online through a series of videos titled the Singing Rendezvous in The Bronx. The videos can be found on YouTube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIDGqYJvu3nHNAMtpcPgEnQ/videos. Each day we work on new ways to bring our CommuniTea together with the goal of transforming this time of isolation into a process of sharing.

LYNN: What tea-related projects can we look forward to you taking on in the future?

MICHELE: I guess I already answered this question above, but there is still more to come. I was supposed to go to Scotland for an artist residency in an old castle so I could focus on the next projects for Reflections in Tea. There seems to always be new ways to keep on reviving this age-old tradition of bringing people together to share a cuppa. Even if I end up not being able to travel abroad this summer, I will keep on coming up with the ways to share tea with others, and to inspire communities to spread the word themselves. 
~~~


I (Lynn here) have always wondered what it is about tea that so thoroughly enchants me.  These two books (pictured above) by artist Michele Brody contain, if not a definitive answer to my wondering, then plenty of food for thought.  These books document the “Reflections in Tea” project that Michele has been working on for over ten years now.

Michele’s books have given me an abundance “tea thoughts” to mull over. The books include the responses, reflections, and stories of hundreds of people who have taken tea with Michele over these past ten years. Since learning about Michele and this project, I felt that my series of blog posts about tea in art would not be complete without an interview and exploration of her work.

For further information about Michele and her “Reflections in Tea” project, see:
http://reflectionsintea.com/.

Michele's "Reflections in Tea" project is sponsored by SerendipiTea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tea in Art with Jennifer Coyne Qudeen

Jennifer Coyne Qudeen, Water Dreams 1 & Water Dreams 2

JenniferCoyne Qudeen is an artist who explores the metaphorical aspects of tea bag papers as keepers of marks and memories. She was one of the artists included in the Alchemy of Tea exhibit organized by Jen Crickenberger. In her current work, Jennifer combines memory-laden tea bags with iconic silhouettes of houses to create images almost archetypal in their impact.


   
I have reached out to Jennifer to learn more about the role of tea in her work and in her life.


 LYNN: First, I would love to hear about your journey with drinking tea - from those early days in your grandmother's kitchen to your trip to Scotland - to your current enjoyment of tea as a beverage.

JENNIFER: My journey with tea – it’s funny to think of it as a journey. I grew up drinking tea, mostly Lipton. We lived near my dad’s parents and my grandmother was the tea brewer. She’d put water on to boil and get out a big metal mixing bowl that she’d add Lipton tea bags to along with sliced lemons or oranges and mint fresh from the garden. And sugar. It’s got to be sweet tea. Once the water boiled and was poured over everything, the mingled scents filled their small house. It was heavenly.
For most of my life, I drank only black teas – black pekoe, Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast. I discovered Lady Grey in Scotland where I’d traveled to to take a workshop with Canadian artist Sandra Brownlee at Big Cat Textiles in Newburgh. Lady Grey is a smoother, more floral (to me) version of Earl Grey. Its lighter notes fit the mood of the week and, happily, is available at our local grocery.

These days my favorites are Stash Jasmine Green, Yogi Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy (black), Harney & Sons Rose Scented and Paris (both black) as well as their Organic Bangkok, which is a green tea with hints of coconut and lemongrass.


 LYNN: I understand that you, as an artist, have been working with stained teabags for a number of years now.  How did this idea of working with teabags as an art material come to you originally?  In what ways have you used teabags in your art and how has your use of teabags as an art material transformed over the years?

JENNIFER: My exploration of recycled tea bags as an art material came about quite by accident. After brewing a cup of tea one day, I set the tea bag aside and forgot about it. When I noticed it the next day, the tea had settled into the folds and dried which resulted in the paper being darker there. My curiosity was peaked so I went through the process of emptying and unfolding the tea bag. The tea marks were beautiful. And that was the beginning of my tea bag collection.

It was a year or so later before I began incorporating the tea bags themselves in my art. Before that, I had been using tea to aid in rusting cloth and paper. After researching just what type of paper tea bags are and discovering that most are abaca paper, I decided that if it was strong enough to survive being submerged in boiling water, the bags could survive being marked on or stitched on…or being run through an inkjet printer. And they have.

They are also wonderful in printmaking. I have printed on them using a gel plate as well as running them through a press. The bags are thin enough that the ink/paint soaks in rather than simply setting on the surface. Their translucency is an added bonus and is perfect for layering.
I definitely enjoy the versatility of the tea bags – they’re paper so you can do just about anything that you would do with paper, yet they also remind me of organza with their thinness and translucent qualities.


 LYNN: Imagine that we are in your home. The water is getting hot and you are about to prepare your favorite tea. What tea will we be drinking?

JENNIFER: Today we would be drinking Harney and Sons Rose Scented black tea. The rose scent transports me to a summer garden filled with rose bushes in bloom. And the rose taste mixed with the black tea is wonderful.

As I write this, it is grey and threatening to rain…again. I’m ready to bypass spring (and COVID 19) and go straight into summer when it’s nice to sit outside and visit with friends.
~~~

To learn more about artist Jennifer Coyne Qudeen and her work, visit her website at jennifercoynequdeen.blogspot.com.

You can also find up to date information from Jennifer on Instagram @jennifercoynequdeen.



© my tea diary
Maira Gall