No matter how long or short one’s visit to Japan is, all can agree: Japan inspires everyone in all shapes and forms, from art to food, and even food art. New York artist Ruby Silvious is one of those “inspirees” who has woven her experience in the country into a watercolor series that was just published this autumn.
Towards the beginning of 2015, Silvious was searching for new materials on which to paint; the green and conservation movements led her to recycle items she would normally throw away. She eventually chose and settled on tea bags and tea bag wrappers as her canvas. Albeit a bit soggy at times, she found them delightfully “unconventional” and ideal for absorbing the paint. “I want [people] to look at tea bags in a different way.” (She has previously painted on pistachio shells, aluminum cans, and eggshells.)
In a push to create art every day, without an excuse, Silvious started a project with the goal of publishing a book detailing her daily work. The project turned into a coffee table book, titled “363 Days of Tea,” where all of the tea bag paintings depicted a visual diary of sorts, capturing moments of each of her days in an intimate and “whimsical” manner. The miniature paintings, sometimes made up of several wrappings glued together, sometimes depicting teabags “dressed up,” reveal her feelings and impressions of her travels, holidays, family, and day-to-day musings. True to most fashion in diaries, she doesn’t “plan ahead [what to paint],” as she described to The Guardian, relying instead on whatever the day brings her.
She describes her work as having “no single theme”, except, perhaps, the tea bag motif. Previous series and projects have been showcased internationally and in special exhibits. Silvious hopes to showcase her tea bag works in Tokyo galleries sometime, along with Fukuoka, where she did residency at Studio Kura.
Her Japanese-focused tea bag paintings depict all of the staples Japan residents and visitors are all-too familiar with: a steaming hot bowl of ramen, traditional paintings from art history, cranes stretching their necks, kimono prints and patterns, delicate ceramics, blossoming hydrangeas, and – naturally – tea kettles.
“365 Days of Tea” is available online via Amazon. Other works can be viewed on her website at rubysilvious.com/the-book. See her Japan-specific art at rubysilvious.com/tea-/26-days-of-tea-in-japan-2016-