Steep: A Free Tea Mini-Market

“When we have fed the gift with our labor and generosity, it grows and feeds us in return." -Lewis Hyde

Much of my recent work is driven by a desire to connect with individuals and communities. While historically some of work has been antagonistic or critically humorous, I have tended to take a more generous approach as of late.

Working with communities takes time to learn and build trust, so it is often more practical and less demanding of all parties involved to initiate a gift economy. In this type of economy, the artist provides a gift that is hopefully kept in motion by the recipients. No capital exchange should transpire, and the gift can be passed on in any way.

Steep: A Free Tea Mini-Market  is a continuation of my interest in the gift gesture as a means of initiating engagement with others. A slip was given to me to create a work of art. I accepted this gift, multiplied it tenfold, and crafted the slips into tea bags. Should the theory of gift-giving hold true, each recipient would share conversation with a friend over a glass of tea.

Steep is also very tied up the history of tea. The very first tea bag was accidentally crafted when a New York merchant used sewn silk as packaging to send tea to his customers. Although the merchant assumed the recipients would remove the loose tea from the silk, they actually found that the fabric made for a convenient brewing method. The materials and craftswomanship of my tea bags very much reference this history.

Teatime has also long been a part of women’s gatherings internationally, particularly popularized in England by Catherine of Braganza. Women have since used teatimes to socialize and often discuss women’s issues. The women of the Edenton Tea Party, in fact,  historically organized a boycott of tea at a time when women were absent from politics.

The tradition of tea continues to this day, and is one that I partake in frequently.

Tara Morton