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

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

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© my tea diary
Maira Gall