I draw a lot of inspiration from car-ride-conversations with my dad. This one's stuck with me a long time. The idea was "Stripped Teas" a tea brand that showcased all natural teas, but in strip tease form. The pun was amusing, but I began to consider the project more seriously last year. I imagined vividly a tiny burlesque in a cup; figures elaborately dressed in tea leaves would hit the water and transform, the leaves dispersing and floating away to reveal bold illustrations beneath. Since I've begun work there have been many challenges, not least of which the scale. I needed a large enough surface to illustrate on, but small enough to fit in a teacup. My first idea was to embroider teabags.
In between saving up for an embroidery machine and the software I'd need to design my tea-ladies, I was itching to get started. Post graduation I struggled to establish a regular art practice between working full-time and securing a studio space. I needed something to do with my hands, something small to take between work and home - a mini studio, if you will. So I developed the "stitchbook" - a sketchbook for teabag-sized embroideries. I used off-cuts of micro-suede and various sheers to to make a flexible book with pockets for needle, floss, snips, and a 3" hoop. I also included newsprint paper, for making notes and sketches.
The stitchbook turned into my tea tasting notebook as well. It was another small way to mesh my project with my everyday life. I wrote about the teas I'd tried, the good and the bad - building a vocabulary and library of flavors to inform my practice. This small process gave me the confidence to seek out new tea places, to connect with the tea drinking community, to share my notes and to make my own blends. Hell - to make this blog!
I'm an artist, but for as long as I've been making, I've also had my doubts. Am I active enough? creative enough? good enough to call myself that? I still don't know. Even after getting my BFA, especially in those first years after graduating, I felt unworthy of the title. What I do know is that making is a part of me, and however much I fret over being an artist, the proof of my conviction is in my creations. The stitchbook is a personal reminder that making is important to me, and no matter the challenges, I can count on my resourceful nature to find a way to keep feeding that creativity.
So here is my labor of love, the stitchbook, scanned page by page for your viewing pleasure. Thanks to Jabari Weathers for letting me try out his new large-format scanner. I still need some practice lining up the scans, but overall I'm pretty happy with this little experiment. Below you can flip through the first 40 pages by clicking right. I'm about halfway through the book now. It gets a lot of use, so don't mind the frayed edges or the tea stains! I included the front and back of each page so you can see just how impatient an embroiderer I am - with my messy stitches and my half finished pages. For all the instagram worthy stitches I make there's one or two that were abandoned, it's part of the process. I tried not to edit myself here for your benifit.