Zimbabwean-born artist Jeanne-Marie Webb, who now lives in Cape Town with her husband and two teenage daughters, has put rooibos on the global art world’s centre stage with her delicate paintings on none other than rooibos teabags.
The concept behind her year-long “One Face a Day” project, which was recently exhibited in the Mother City, started a few years ago when she searched tirelessly for the perfect miniature substrate for her paintings.
“I happened to stumble upon a tattered old rooibos teabag one night while rummaging through one of my old paper boxes, and I thought, why not? It proved to be the perfect canvas for what I had in mind and I absolutely love the concept of creating unique pieces of art on a teabag,” says Webb.
Through the years, she’s tested various teabags, but it’s the red residue on rooibos teabags, when mixed with a primer, that results in the perfect skin-tone for her portraits.
“I had no idea that the medium would become such a hit. During my ‘One Face a Day’ project, scores of Facebook friends asked if they could join me, which later evolved into an online workshop as I shared the process of how to paint creative portraits on tiny rooibos tea bags with art enthusiasts from around the world. The growing interest led to hundreds of artists flocking to buy rooibos tea on Amazon, and there’s no sign of this trend letting up just yet,” says Webb.
This past week’s online auction, which was open to international buyers, saw her selling in excess of 150 paintings to overseas buyers. About 130 were sold to local art collectors at her recent exhibition. She is also booked to do another online auction later this year that will include some of her other works and remaining rooibos teabag paintings. Interested buyers can go to www.jeannemarieart.com for more info.
Webb has also been invited to visit the US later this year to share her process of painting on rooibos teabags with various studios.
Ernest du Toit, director of the SA Rooibos Council, says the trend is on the up as more artists use rooibos tea bags and even dried tea leaves in their art.
“Artists are on a constant watch to find new mediums to perform their art in. Taking inspiration from sand-painting, in which grains of sand are corralled to create an image, many artists are realising the same can be done with tea.
“It’s also a great way to upcycle and gives rooibos teabags a second life. Artists can enjoy a cup of tea first and then save the bag for when they want to work on it. Rooibos tea can also be used as a subtle dye or be pasted as pieces of empty bags into a two-dimensional painting. Take Colorado artist, Wewer Keohane, for example. Her most striking creations are teabag kimonos (robes). Each garment combines at least 600 steeped, dried and glued bags into a work of art that, while fragile, is actually wearable too.
“Ruth Tabancay of Berkeley, California, has even made quilts out of tea bags. Her quilts are full-sized and some take as many as 1 400 tea bags to complete. The concept of painting on or using tea bags in art is truly unique, and forces artists to work on a canvas that isn’t blank, but is instead imprinted with odd colours and textures. The creative possibilities are endless,” says du Toit.
For more info about rooibos and its many uses, visit www.sarooibos.co.za