Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Carmen Cay Art and Teabags as an Art Material

Artist Carmen Joyce in Action

I recently had the opportunity to ask artist Carmen Joyce of Carmen Cay Art about her work with tea bags as an art medium.  

Lynn: I would love to hear whatever you can tell me about how you started using tea bags as an art material.

Carmen: When I was in high school I would save my tea bags and use them for dyeing paper. I'd use a lighter to burn the edges of the paper, write poems on them and give them to friends. I've collected tea bags for the past 6 years or so. I didn't know what I wanted to do with them but I knew something would come to me!  About a year ago I started exploring the texture of the teabags wondering how I could use them in my artwork. That's when I started drawing on them. As I learned more about the teabags through handling them I realized they are fairly durable. I then started using glue to make bowls from the bags and I recently started to burn them to add a darker color. 

Lynn: Do you drink tea?  If so, does tea have any special meaning for you?

Carmen: I grew up in the South so I definitely drink tea! I used to drink sweet iced tea but now I stick with unsweetened. My morning ritual also involves a cup of hot tea. I like black teas, Earl Grey and jasmine teas. I love sitting on a porch with tea in hand as a welcome to the morning. 

Lynn: Do teabags represent anything in particular to you?
Carmen: Tea makes me think of community. Tea is peaceful, promotes calm and well-being and it brings people together. I love the traditions in other cultures regarding tea ceremonies. The color of tea and teabags have a sense of nostalgia for me. It makes me think of the past and reminds me of my ancestors from the United Kingdom. I wonder what tea they drank and what the meaning was for them. 

Lynn: Tell me whatever comes to mind about using teabags as an art material.

Carmen: Teabags are tough and pretty versatile. I really love burning them with a heat gun and finding ways to incorporate them into everything I create. They smell like burnt popcorn when they are burned. I've grown to consider teabags as just "paper" when it comes to an art media. When I think of them as paper it opens the door to further ideas, rather than limiting myself to it only being a "teabag". 

For more information about Carmen and her art making, see her website at


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Maira Gall