For most of us, tea is simply that warm, comforting drink that props us up for a long day or soothes us at the end of one. But to artist Ritu Dua, tea bags are also the medium she uses to create little browned dappled canvases for her to paint and sketch on. Her work is definitely visually striking, but more than that, it’s also a simple testament to how even discarded waste material can be made into something beautiful.
In this interview, Ritu tells us how she first started using tea in her work, her tea projects and what’s next for her.
1) What made you think of using tea bags in your art? Were you perhaps an artist on a budget?
(Laughs) No, not at all. It was just one of those ‘Aha!’ moments. I had been busy at work painting while enjoying each sip of my ‘chai’, when the beautiful stains of tea on the teabag grabbed my attention. And that’s where the idea of using tea bags in my art came from.
I love the strange shapes, textures, and colours of the materials we throw away as trash. I feel such things always have a story to tell, despite – and because – of their abandoned worthlessness.
After removing the tea from the bag, I clean, dry and treat it, and then begin drawing or painting with it. I have even tried embroidery on a few pieces.
2) How do you use the teabags? Tell us about your creative process.
It is definitely a time-consuming process and requires a lot of concentration and focus, but being able to create these miniature artworks is really fulfilling. I absolutely love the feel of teabags, their feather-like lightness, and soft textures.
3) Do you have a favourite brand of teabag that you prefer?
No, not really. I am actually very fond of trying out different teas, as each type or brand may leave an altogether different colour.
4) Tell us a little about your ‘My Chai Tamasha’ art installation last year
The installation was created around the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2016 theme, ‘Without Borders’, and looked like a cutting chai glass.
The recycled teabags I used to make the installation symbolized a thousand and a half cups of tea that have over centuries played a role in bringing people together, making connections, happy moments and new beginnings.
5) What was the‘Feelings 77’ series about?
This collection comprises 77 tea bags, each of which has been creatively altered to represent the artist’s mood for that particular day, and as such was a chronicle of self-discovery, self-awareness and transformation over 77 days.
Each piece, accompanied by a poem, was my attempt at sharing a small bit of myself with the world.
6) What’s next for you?
I’m inspired to experiment with materials we throw away as trash, and am collecting a variety of seeds and twigs and other such objects. I’m sure a new work of art made from this collection will surface soon.
Featured image source: Ritu Dua