The Art of Tea (Bags)

I love tea and have drunk a sea of it over more years than I’m willing to admit in print. Foolish me, all those years I composted my tea bags, but Jill Heyes had a much smarter idea.

She traveled to South Africa in 1998 and, seeing the poverty in the informal settlement of Imazamo Yethu, near Cape Town, she began teaching crafts to local women. After unsuccessful forays into paper mache and potato printing products, in 2000, Original T-Bag Designs was formed.  Used, brewed tea bags, with the tea leaves removed, are dried under the African sun and become canvases for  indigenous colorful markings.

These artists homes are bits of tin and wood nailed together and they have had no formal schooling, but what they do have is grit and imagination and a desire to make their families’ lives better.

The original group of artists has become skilled and talented at their craft, and Original T-Bags Designs now employs 15 permanent staff and a number of additional part-time employees. In addition, 10 people with disabilities from within the community are employed to assist. Their workshop has become a tourist destination.

Jodee Hetzer of Ewing will be exhibiting some of the T-Bag Designs, including quilts made from the painstaking painted tea bags, at Small World Coffee in Princeton Oct. 10 to Nov. 4.

This entry was posted in African art, Craft cooperatives, Crafts, Emerging artists, Folk Art, Social Concerns and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Art of Tea (Bags)

  1. Hi, this is really interesting! I will stop by Small World Coffee to check out the exhibition.

    Pl stop by our website when you have a moment. We are a local business – we sell teas through the web ( and through local stores like the Whole Earth Center and Holsome Herbs which is across the street from Small World!

    Hopefully I will bump into you at Small World!!


  2. What a fabulous idea. Will be sure to stop by Small World to admire the art.
    Thanks, Ilene, for bringing us these inspiring stories and places to visit.

  3. Ilene, the pictured design is just beautiful! I don’t think I’ll ever look at a teabag the same way again, so thank you for the “awakening”!


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