On Sunday March 1, Tealee, with local artist RAD and The Way, a collective musical ensemble, hosted an evening of music, tea and creativity at U Ottawa's Alt Cafe. Held in the basement of the Simard building, Wabi Sabi welcomed together a variety of artists, musicians, and art lovers in the spirit of free expression and creative exploration. Tealee generously provided the tea “paint,” tea samples, and cookies to keep the artists hydrated and fed throughout the night. Various works by RAD and some of the other artists in the Radchild Collective were on display throughout the room, including painted white sheets that hung from the ceilings, a collection of photo prints for sale and some of RAD's recent works on cardboard. From what I can tell, that evening The Way consisted of mainly a keyboardist, drummer, and guitarist who were joined periodically by a slew of others who wanted to make music. Attendees were welcome to jump in at any time and, while some incorporated musical instruments – a tambourine, some shakers, or a bucket to bang on – others simply snapped their fingers, clapped their hands or sang in conversation with the sounds. When I first walked in, a gentleman was on the mic, reciting what I assumed were words of a poem while the band maintained a steady rhythm. Apparently, by the end of the night, the band had jammed in this way for a solid six hours straight.
Throughout, artists played the line game, weaved colourful yarn through the spokes of bicycle wheels, built magnetic sculptures, painted with tea or simply basked in the creation of it all. There was an exuberant yet peaceful energy in the room that made even artistically inept me want to explore my inner painter. The tea paint, which Lisa had steeped overnight to ensure as deep a colour as possible, filled the back of the room with the scents of matcha, berries and lavender. I walked over to the tea painting table and, with a little encouragement from a friend, picked up a brush. Although I didn't create an entire painting of my own, I did add a few strokes here and there to the one RAD was working on. Don't worry, she encouraged me to do so, reassured that I was “adding to the piece.”
Although it was difficult to catch her for longer than 30 seconds as she buzzed around the room, welcoming newcomers, braiding string and beads into their hair and contributing her part to a picture of multicoloured swirling lines, I was able to have a quick conversation with RAD about tea art and her current work.
Carolyn: What is the inspiration behind Wabi Sabi and tea art?
RAD: Well, Tealee and Radchild came together and we just painted with tea and it was really awesome and we were like yo let's have an event together. I had already been on the brain talking to The Way about having a show together, and then I was like tea in it, and doing tea art? Perfect, let's do it!
Carolyn: Have you painted with tea before or is this something new to your practice?
RAD: Actually Lisa is the one who approached me, she said she wanted to make tea art and wanted to paint with tea. I had painted with tea before but not in this way ... this is more ... very primary.
Carolyn: What is the difference between painting with tea and with some of the other materials you regularly use in your work?
RAD: Painting with tea creates more organic colours that are easier to blend and manipulate. I find they are not as pigmented, which is okay. Lisa and I are trying out different strategies with Tealee, blending different teas together for longer periods of time. These teas were steeped overnight because we are trying to get better, stronger colours.
Carolyn: Is tea a material that you can see yourself continuing to use as an artist, and how does it fit into your practice?
RAD: Right now, it makes sense for me to be painting with tea. I am even thinking about progressing towards doing it on my own hand made paper eventually. As you can see I have cardboard and all the sheets here, I am using different materials. Its not exactly that I don't like to buy things but I don't want to add to the consumer wheel .. so I am making stuff instead, reusing what I can. You can make art out of so many things, just change your perspective on how you look at it, there is no need to constantly be creating from new things. This is just me scratching the very surface ... it is giving me more of a consciousness towards what I am doing.
Carolyn: What do you hope to accomplish here tonight with Wabi Sabi?
RAD: This event is just about the joy of creating and sharing the good vibes. It was a great success and I feel like it was the perfect atmosphere to allow everyone to interact and express their creativity. I hope that there will be many more RAD/WAY and Tealee collaborations in the future.