Toast to Tea

Toast to Tea

Nothing like a hot cuppa of tea to refresh you, right? Tea lovers will agree as they sip on their favourite brew. Ritu Dua also loves it, but what she does with the ‘waste’ tea leaves, is unbelievable. And pretty. The artist works on used tea bags to create little browned dappled canvases for her to paint and sketch on. 

These artworks are being exhibited at Art2Day from March 13 to 20. The solo exhibition titled ‘Between Brew and Bin’, will also have poems written by the artist. Some of the paintings are inspired by birds and animals she has seen in Africa, some related to nature and a few are abstract pieces. 

“The exhibition tells the story of the tea bag which has been brewed and relished by the drinker. But instead of being thrown into the dustbin, it has been reused and converted into a work of art,” says Dua. 

With this exhibition, the banker-turned-artist also wants to show her gratitude to the chai growers. “We all love drinking chai but none of us spares a thought for those people who work at the tea plantations and factories. They earn some Rs 150 per day and live in poverty when they are the ones who provide us our lifeline,” she adds.

How the artist turned to this medium makes for an interesting story. “In 2013, when I was in UAE, the government had announced that they will  go green for the UAE festival. That set everyone thinking. The gallery I was working with wanted to work on going green and organic. The idea struck me when I was having tea. I happened to look at the tea bag and thought, ‘Why can’t I make something out of it’. It took a few days to master the medium,” she informs. 

When asked about working on the tea waste as a medium, Dua says, “Trash is not created by nature but it is man made. I have taken the soggy, damp tea bag and transformed it into a piece of beauty. We have to change our perspective towards things. It’s not necessary that whatever we throw away is trash. We have to find ways to recycle it. That’s the reason I have invited college students to the exhibition.” 

However, sketching and painting on used tea bags isn’t an easy job and can take hours and sometimes days. “The material is very thin so it’s difficult when you draw or paint on it. I first dry the bag, then open it, throw the tea leaves away, clean it and then process it so that it doesn’t catch fungus,” says the artist. Next, she stitches a couple of bags together with needle and thread to keep them together. “I have to be careful otherwise it might get torn. Sometimes I glue it together,” she adds.  

She ensures that the tea stains one gets to see on these bags after they have been brewed are maintained. “I love that colour and the patches because they are very attractive and unique. The background will be unique in every case, because it depends on the kind of tea you have used and for how long it has been brewed. All these matter,” she explains the process.       

But from where does she generate such large number of tea bags? She laughs and says, “I have asked my family and friends to keep used tea bags for me and I have also requested neighbourhood cafes. I have used tea bags from different regions.”  

Catch the exhibition at Art2Day Gallery, Bhandarkar Road from March 13 to 20 between 11.30 am - 7 pm

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