This was a rough one. I started out with a project to which I’d dedicated a lot of time. I chose one of my favorite loose-leaf teas–hot cinnamon spice–and brewed it extra long, allowing it to get dark and saturated with color. Next, I took a “decapitated stool” (just the seat; who knows where the legs are) and set it down on a piece of expensive watercolor paper. I poured the tea around the seat, and left it for a full weekend to stain the paper in a dark, cinnamon-scented ring. I would check in on it often, hoping it would be dried in time for me to move it out of the studio.
Then, once the tea had dried (it DID take the entire weekend, incidentally), I set to work on the inside of the ring using my sepia-toned micron pens. First, I did a blind contour drawing, based on a photo my mother had sent me of my favorite one of her antique teacups. Afterwards, I shaded in the piece, gave it depth, and added at the bottom a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Then, in class, I had a talk with my professor, and she said that rather than see me do a piece like this–which she knows I’m capable of doing–she’d rather have me make eight of the same type of “tea ring,” and leave them empty; let them stand alone.
So, that night, I got eight pieces of paper. Cheaper quality, smaller size, and used several bags of tea–the kind my Grandpa and I love–to brew a big pot of dark tea. Then, I used several objects–overturned soup bowls, regular coffee mugs, the same “decapitated stool,” and a few freehand circles, to make eight (some of them partial) tea rings.
While I really appreciate my professor, and her advice to me (not to mention her faith in my ability!), I didn’t feel much of a connection to the piece, and was overall dissatisfied. It didn’t feel like something I would make, and I didn’t have much connection to it emotionally, or tactilely. It looked like something anyone could’ve made, something that could be hanging in any number of generic coffee shops.
However, during critique the next day, people seemed to feel differently about the project than I did. They connected it to their own relationships with mentors, art teachers, grandparents, friends, etc. Hearing their stories and their connection to the work made me feel a heck of a lot better about it, even if it’s still not something with which I’m totally satisfied.