What use could anyone have for discarded tea bags? Most of us wouldn’t know what to do with them, except maybe throw them in a compost pile. 

But Filipino-American artist Ruby Silvious has discovered a unique way of giving tea bags new life, by turning them into exquisite pieces of art.

Her watercolor paintings on used tea bags draw inspiration from her travels to various destinations across the world as well as scenes and sounds captured from daily life.

An extraordinary oil painting

The picture on the tea bag below was inspired by the town of Hyeres, located on the south coast of France looking over the Mediterranean Sea. 

Despite their tiny size, her paintings offer detailed views from moments of travel, be it the cobblestone streets of Provence, the land of lavender, or sampling the much-loved Italian drink limoncello. 

Silvious shared her vision with CNN Travel: “As an artist, you’re always trying to find unique ways of expressing your art,” she said, “and I think this is where all these discarded materials and canvasses came to mind.”

The idea of making paintings on tea bags came about spontaneously when Silvious was having tea and discussing her upcoming art projects with her sister. Soon after thinking of the idea, she started to make it become a reality.

Trial and error is an indispensable part of the process of perfecting her painting skills. And of course, it requires tremendous patience. 

“You have to see all the piles of my failed experiments,” Silvious joked. “I never throw anything out, I try to recycle them, as well.”

It took a long time for Silvious to figure out how to use watercolor on used tea bags. “I love those tiny tea bags,” the artist added. “They are so easy to use and carry with you.”

After she started to share complicated designs on her Instagram page, Silvious’s creations quickly attracted numerous followers, especially from tea lovers across the globe.

Japan, an endless source of inspiration

Her love for art has carried Silvious to every corner of the globe.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted into art residencies, which gave me the chance to travel,” Silvious said. “I’ve done workshops as well, which have become the reason for me to go visit different countries.”

But a trip to Japan had a special meaning for the artist for several reasons. Firstly, it provided a chance to visit the home country of her great-grandmother. And secondly, the country gave her an immense source of inspiration with its stunning hills, mountains, and tea fields.

Silvious’s series of tea bags was born out of the inspiration offered by those picturesque scenes.

Besides beautiful rural landscapes, Japanese city life was also appealing to Silvious. She had the idea of painting a series of subway scenes, which would also give her the excuse to return to Japan in the future. 

Favorite teas

Besides her traveling hobby, passionate love of tea also plays a significant role in Silvious’s creative process.

Speaking of her favorite tea, she explained: “I love Earl Grey, and it does not have to be any particular brand, but it’s usually what I like. I like green tea as well,” she added.

Along the way, Silvious can pick out the kinds of tea bags that will be relatively easy to paint on.

“Over time I have discovered all the different types of tea bag construction,” she explained. “This was not something that I had planned, but I did notice that certain tea bags were just much thinner than others, and some tea bags also stain better than others.”

The artist has dedicated her heart and soul to turning discarded tea bags into unique, wonderful works of art. Silvious then uses her art to convey the cultural diversity of different places, giving inspiration to art lovers (and tea lovers!) around the world.

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