When we steep a cup of tea, we typically toss out the bag once it has served up its brew, but for Ruby Silvious, this humble sachet provides the basis for a distinctive artistic practice. Known for her miniature paintings that use tea bags as canvases, she has expanded her use of the material by employing it as a fabric for larger-scale works that are inspired by her family history and an interest in fashion. “It gives me a chance to do large scale work, the antithesis to my miniature paintings,” she tells Colossal. “It’s only natural that my art has always been inspired by fashion. My maternal grandmother was a brilliant seamstress. I was only 20 years old when I migrated to the U.S. from the Philippines, and my very first job was at Bergdorff Goodman in New York City.”
Silvious began making garments in 2015, spurred by an ongoing fascination with the various methods of printing, staining, and assembling the deconstructed segments together. “I have accumulated bins of used tea bags,” she says, “not just from my own consumption but also from friends and family who have generously contributed to my growing collection.” She has made more than ten full-size kimonos, each requiring up to 800 used bags to complete. Pieces in her most recent series, Dressed to a Tea, average approximately 75 to 125 sachets, each one emptied out, flattened, and ironed before being glued together into shirts, slips, or child-size dresses. “Some tea bag pieces have monoprints on them, and the simpler designs are assembled with plain or slightly stained, used tea bags, giving them a more delicate and fragile look,” she explains.
A number of pieces from Dressed to a Tea will be on view in a weeklong exhibition at Ceres Gallery in New York from December 5 to 10. Her work will also be featured in a solo exhibit at the Ostfriedsisches Teemuseum in Norden, Germany, from March 4 to April 29, 2023. You can find more of Silvious’s work on her website and Instagram.
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