363 Days of Tea
A Visual Journal on Used Tea Bags
Mascot Books, Sep 2016
190 pages, Hardcover
Purchased from Amazon
The cover is a smooth finished square that looks like some tea mugs that you see with a casual kiln-fired finish and four tiny masterpieces laid out for your perusal. They are almost twice the size they would be in actuality and it seems difficult to imagine doing over 363 of these tiny drawings, paintings, and collages with all their fine detail. It’s a cover that attracts your attention and pulls you in with the crazy idea of doing a journal on ???? used tea bags? Are you crazy?
No, the artist, Ruby Silvious, who was already a recognized and award-winning artist set a challenge for herself. She was going to keep a year-long journal related to tea. She started out with photos of her cups of tea in various settings, but how exciting can that be after a while? Then she got the idea of using the tea bags themselves in the art and the project took off. She emptied the tea out of the tea bags and dried them. Some still had the tea tags, some did not. Depending on the type of tea, the stain could be dark or light or not at all. Some tea bags would unfold and open square and flat, some would tear when you opened them, and some were different shapes, like the round ones. Some had pressed in tags, stitched in tags, and some stapled in tags. Some bags were made of paper, some of cotton fiber, some linen fiber, and some made of nylon. Her family and friends assisted her in collecting tea bags to keep her stocked up. As you go through the book you see the wide variety of tea tags and shapes and types of bags the artist has used throughout the collection. I wonder if she has a favorite tea bag to work with after all that?
The day I got my copy of the book, I went through it several times. I spent four days going through it over and over, indulging myself with this little gem. At the time, I could not have said which was my favorite work. And I still cannot choose one favored piece. I do like the floral works and the birds. But I think I really like the portraits and fashionista pieces best of all. Perhaps her Ballerina (Day 70) piece with its delicacy. Jessica (Day 290) or Rowena (Day 286) with the wonderful directness of the portrait. Life’s too short, buy the Choos (Day 209) with its fashionable play on words and delicate touch to catch each pearl. But then there are those fabulously vibrant pieces covered with little white dotted lines that have so much energy. And her multi-media pieces. And the Christmas section at the end of the year as she used so much more color. See? I said it was hard to choose just one piece. I can’t even choose one section!
When I realized that I had never reviewed this book, I immediately sat down and browsed through it again. Now, it’s only 190 pages of mostly pictures, right? So it shouldn’t have taken very long to look through. I spent a little over an hour revisiting these tiny masterpieces and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over rediscovered works of art. I don’t believe there is a single piece in here that is a simple sketch. Each tiny piece is a completed work of art that has been given thought and approached with as much care and planning as a full-scale piece. Given the scale, some things have to be simplified, but such things also have to be planned for and taken into consideration when doing a piece so that it looks right when done. It’s amazing what Ms. Silvious has accomplished in her journal on tea. It’s like having a tiny museum in your hand. I highly recommend getting this small-scale coffee table gem. It will afford you many hours of enjoyment and wonder. It’s sure to spark many a conversation sitting on your coffee table as well.