For non-artistic folks, a used tea bag is something to be discarded and thrown in the trash.
But not Ruby Silvious. This visual artist and graphic designer has found a creative way to repurpose used tea bags into charming, intricate works of art.
She uses these tiny packets as a canvas for her watercolor paintings, inspired by destinations around the world and her everyday life.
Amazingly, each tea bag painting is incredibly detailed despite being miniature.
“As an artist you’re always trying to find unique ways of expressing your art, and I think this is where all these discarded materials as canvasses came to light,” the graphic designer told CNN Travel.
She came up with the idea for this while discussing art projects with her sister over tea. And when it struck, she soon began exploring the medium.
Using her hands—not scissors—she opens the tea bag to throw out its contents. The bag is then ironed before she puts ink or watercolor on it.
Ruby has used tea bags of all shapes, sizes, and textures. She also uses those with color to depict a specific scene. For example, a turmeric tea bag would have a yellow tinge to it, so she will use that to illustrate landscapes like sunsets.
Perfecting the art of painting on tea bags wasn’t easy. Ruby had to go through a lot of trial and error before she got used to it. She said she has “piles of failed experiments.” But she never throws these out so she can recycle them.
Once Ruby mastered painting watercolor on the used tea bags, she never looked back.
“I love that they’re small and they’re manageable and they’re portable,” she says.
She enjoyed the experiment so much that it led to the culmination of her book, “363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journey on Used Tea Bags.”
Her tea bag artwork has also been featured internationally, both in private and public collections.
“I had no idea that this innocent experiment would change my life — and it has changed my life,” Ruby said.
Ruby—with the help of social media and her kids—also began cultivating her online presence. Soon, her pieces went viral.
The graphic designer didn’t expect such a big response to her artwork. When she started, she didn’t even know if it would make her money or if it would ever be exhibited.
She said that it was “just an outlet,” something that “makes me happy at the end of the day.”
The artist also released another book in 2019, “Reclaimed Canvas: Reimagining the Familiar,” which features her artworks made with repurposed everyday materials such as paint chips, egg shards, pistachio shells, paper bags, dried leaves, and, of course, used tea bags.
Ruby is currently preparing for upcoming exhibits and events featuring her work this year.
Check out the gallery below to see some of Ruby’s dainty tea bag paintings.