Monday, December 30, 2019

Re-Visiting My 2019 Tea Activities

2019 will soon draw to a close, so I am going to re-visit some of my tea activities that I neglected to  write about on this blog.

1) In March 2019 I gave a lecture about tea and its' spread around the world for World Awareness Day at my son's high school.  The students sampled teas while I spoke.

 2) I helped to create an exhibit for Asheville's Smith McDowell House Museum called Infused in History: A Tea Exhibit.  This exhibit ran from April through September 2019 at the museum.

3) I donated a tea-themed gift basket to the 2019 Jane Austen Summer Program silent auction at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The silent auction raises money for scholarships to attend the annual four-day symposium. The gift basket included one pound of Congou black tea from Elmwood Inn Fine teas.  

These activities kept me busy in 2019.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Infused by Henrietta Lovell

Infused: Adventures in Tea
By Henrietta Lovell
Faber & Faber, 2019

I adore this book.  Henrietta Lovell's Infused: Adventures in Tea, which came out earlier this year, is supremely entertaining - and all the more so for a tea lover like myself.  I have not enjoyed a tea book this much since I read Helen Gustafson's The Agony of the Leaves: The Ecstasy of My Life with Tea around twenty years ago.  Lovell's book is part memoir, part travel story, and part primer on the world of tea.  For me, this book was a page turner that I devoured from cover to cover.

If you love this book as much as I do, you may want to listen to some recent podcast interviews with Henrietta Lovell.  I found the podcasts listed here to be engaging, each giving more insight into the life and personality of this author.

My next step is to order some of the teas mentioned in Lovell's book.  I believe my first purchase will be the Infused gift set  which includes six of the tea discussed in the book along with a copy of the book itself.  I want to support Lovell's company, The Rare Tea Company, with my purchase not only because I trust in  the quality of the teas she makes available, but also because her choice of teas supports farmers who use sustainable growing methods.  In my mind, this is a win-win.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Tea Themed Tabletop Christmas Tree

I always enjoy decorating for the Christmas holidays!  Here above is a new addition to my usual Christmas decor: a tea-themed tabletop Christmas tree. I have collected the ornaments over the years.  And a few I have made myself, as I love crafting.  In addition to teapots and cups, the tree features faux macaroon ornaments! For instructions on how to make the macaroon ornaments, see my post HERE from two years ago.  I purchased the tree at a hardware store and then found the mini tree skirt at my local Target.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tea-Themed Mosaic Plaques

Well it has been a while since I have posted to this blog regularly.  But I'm learning a new art skill that I want to share with you:  mosaics! I am taking classes from Asheville (formerly Atlanta) mosaicist, Debra Mager. The technique I used in making these small mosaic plaques is one I learned in Debra's class called Jeweled Mosaics.  She offers this class around the country and also online. Of course I wanted to combine my love of tea with this new art form. So I created small tea-themed plaques using the jeweled mosaics technique. It is so satisfying to me to create tea-themed art.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

An Evening of Poetry and Tea

Asheville grown tea plant with resident bear.

I recently enjoyed a lovely evening of poetry and tea at Asheville's Dobra Tea.

We sipped tea, listened to tea poetry, and wrote poems.  Here's my poem:

Earth sends her gifts
through these leaves - 
filling me with life energy
as I sip the brew.

From taste to taste
with each new infusion
I follow the tea journey: 
an ancient Earthly offering.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tea Craft Tuesday: Polymer Clay Tea Leaf Pendants

Not long ago, I saw a fellow tea blogger wearing a tea leaf necklace that I adore. So I decided to try and make one myself.  Here below are simple instructions on how to create your own tea leaf pendants. You can wear them on the chain or cord of your choice.

Materials Needed:
-Sculpey III polymer clay in leaf green color
-rolling pin
-leaf-shaped cookie cutter
-fresh camellia leaves
-cocktail straw
-cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
-copper-colored metallic acrylic paint
-one jump ring for each leaf

1) Soften the polymer clay by kneading it in your hands.
2) Roll out a thin sheet of the polymer clay using the rolling pin
3) Cut out leaf shapes with the cookie cutter.
4) Press each leaf shape between two fresh camellia leaves. Remove fresh leaves.
5) Trim edges using the knife.
6) Punch a hole at the top of each leaf using a cocktail straw.
7) Place polymer clay leaves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
8) Bake them according to package directions.
9) Remove from oven.
10) When cool, dab a bit of acrylic paint onto each leaf.  Rub off excess paint.
11) Once the paint is dry, attach a jump ring to the top of each leaf.

Enjoy this activity and share pictures once you have created your own tea leaf pendants!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Cozy Tea: A Day to "Shop my Shelf"

Yesterday was a cold and rainy day in Asheville, North Carolina. So, rather than going out I decided to stay in and “shop my shelf,” meaning my bookshelf of course! I pulled out some old favorites that feature quiet and cozy aspects of taking tea. 

First are two books by Diana Rosen: Taking Time for Tea: 15 Seasonal Tea Parties to Soothe the Soul and Celebrate the Spirit and Meditations with Tea: Paths to Inner Peace. These are lovely books full of ideas about slowing down and enjoying meditative time with tea.  Diana Rosen’s author page at Workman Publishing states that she has a special interest in “practices that enhance spirituality in everyday life.”  Apparently taking tea is one of these practices, which is no doubt a part of the reason I enjoy her writing so much. 

The third book that I pulled off my bookshelf today is a collaborative effort between Shelley and Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas fame. This book, called Looking Deeply Into Tea: Thoughts and Prayers, is dedicated to "the families living in tea gardens in India and Sri Lanka." From Shelley’s heartfelt “Introduction” at the beginning of the book, to Bruce’s “Photography Notes” that close the pages, it is apparent that this project was a labor of love. Each page spread features a beautiful photograph by Bruce accompanied by prayerful thoughts written by Shelley.

If you are a book collector, like I am, you will find that cold winter days are a great time to “shop your shelf.” To accompany these books, I drank a tea that had been given to me as a Christmas gift, “Black Orchid” by Mariage Frères. As the package states, “Black Orchid” is a “smooth black tea…dotted with notes of vanilla and spice.” As I steeped the tea, its fragrant scent filled my kitchen and invited me to some quiet time with tea and books.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Old Tea Pot by Ella Hergesheimer

Ella Hergesheimer. The Old Tea Pot. The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Digital image courtesy of The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

On my trips to Spartanburg, South Carolina, I often enjoy stopping into the gallery of The Johnson Collection. This private collection, which generously shares its holdings with the public through rotating exhibits in numerous locales, features artwork chronicling the “evolution of the American South.”

On a recent visit to The Johnson Collection, I was thrilled to find Ella Hergesheimer’s painting, The Old Tea Pot, on display as part of the current exhibit entitled The Kindred Spirit: William Merritt Chase and HisSouthern Students. Because of my educational background in art history and my interest in tea, I am drawn to artworks which have ties to tea culture.

Hergesheimer (1873-1943) lived during a time which saw the development of the tea bag and the popularization of iced tea. But these icons of modern tea drinking in the South are nowhere to be seen in her formalist still life, The Old Tea Pot. In this painting, Hergesheimer presents a solid rendering of a scene which falls squarely within the traditional still life genre.  Her arrangement of objects which, along with a tea pot, includes apples and a peaked white cloth, brings to my mind the still life paintings of French artist, Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), though I have no references noting that Hergesheimer had ever seen his work.

Paul Cezanne. Dish of Apples. c. 1876-77. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Digital image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art open access initiative.

Paul Cezanne. Still Life with Jar, Cup, and Apples. c. 1877. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Digital image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art open access initiative.

I am charmed by Hergesheimer’s painting, The Old Tea Pot, simply because the tea pot symbolizes what, in my mind, is an icon of culture, refinement, and relaxation.  The painting brings to mind quiet times spent conversing with friends over a pot of tea. In that regard I find it pleasing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tea Craft Tuesday: Paper Camellia Sinensis

I made this floral arrangement a while back. The flowers and leaves are supposed to resemble those of the camellia sinensis plant. The contemporary container makes a nod to the blue and white china  that has long been popular in Europe and North America, as well as a nod to the clipper ships that played an important role in the 19th century tea trade.

To make the flowers and leaves of this arrangement, I used paper punches. I assembled the punched pieces on floral wire using the instructions in the book, Fanciful Paper Flowers by Sandra Evertson.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Tea at the Museum

Jean-Etienne Liotard. Still Life: Tea Set. c. 1781-1783. Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum.
Digital image courtesy of the Getty's open content program.

We are so lucky these days that many museums and other public collections have digitized the images of their holdings. If you wonder, "How do I find fine art or decorative arts images to use with my writings on tea?" Or, if you want to look at tea-themed images to simply enjoy them - take a look here below where I highlight the tea-themed holding of six major cultural institutions here in the United States.

Some of these digital images are available for both commercial and non-commercial use, others for non-commercial use only.  You will have to explore each institution's website to find which is the case for each image that interests you.

The search interface differs at each website.  But they are all quite user-friendly.

I entered the general keyword search term "tea" into the search box at each of these websites. I have noted the number of "hits" or records that came up with each search on the keyword "tea."  Most of the search interfaces allow for more specific searching.  For example, you might want to search for paintings only or for a work by a specific silversmith.  But I have begun here with just the very general keyword search term, "tea."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1,424 records; 1,104 records with images

The J. Paul Getty Museum
226 records; 155 records with images

The New York Public Library Digital Collections
542 records

The Art Institute of Chicago
919 records

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston
2,373 records; 2,038 records with images

The National Gallery of Art
131 records; 121 records with images

I really love doing this type of online searching.  It calls upon my education in art history and library science - in service to my love of tea. I plan to continue this approach to research by looking into the digitized image collections of other museums.  Stay tuned!

Griffen, Smith and Hill. Teapot. c. 1880-1889. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access initiative.

Happy New Year 2019

© my tea diary
Maira Gall