Tea Stories: Community, History Steeped in Art by Michele Brody
Brooklyn-born, award winning artist Michele Brody serves tea on Saturdays in The Bronx as an Artist-in-Residence at the Andrew Freedman Home, a community-based art center located in a landmark building on the Grand Concourse. Her exhibit, “Reflections in Tea” at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is an installation of Tea House quilts with over 800 tea bags inscribed with stories and memories that she has collected since 2007 for a project that began as an interactive community-based sharing of tea and stories in a mobile copper tea house. Community participants inscribe their stories, drawings and poetry onto repurposed tea stained paper filters strung together to create a room-sized quilt of over 800 tea bags. These quilts have served as a backdrop for collaborative projects with choreographers, dancers and other performers.
Her artwork incorporates a careful investigative method involving the gathering of regional materials, native plants, local stories, architectural landmarks and historic research. The success of her work thrives on interaction with new communities and environments. Michele has traveled extensively for her art and writes of her experiences on her art-travel blog. Her extensive portfolio includes one-person shows all over the globe including esteemed galleries in France, Costa Rica, and Germany as well as the United States. Every year since 1995, she has been the recipient of a grant or residency, among them are the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, and Ox-Bow.
Even though she is on the road, exploring new environments and people who inspire who art, Michele still works and makes her home in Brooklyn.
We are delighted to introduce you to Michele’s art, especially Reflections in Tea. Pour yourself a cup of Creativitea and settle into a cozy chair, because you’re in for a lovely treat as you get to know Michele and learn about her creative process—don’t miss the Street Vendor Tea Ceremony video at the end of the interview!
How did you come up with the idea for tea-themed art project that repurposes tea-soaked bags as writing paper used to convey stories and display them as a quilt?
I have been experimenting with Tea as a possible art material since graduate school. It is a beverage I have been drinking everyday since high school. It was when I decided to serve tea in a coffee cart and collect stories about tea on the repurposed tea-bags that I felt I had finally found a medium to fully express the beauty and complexity of Tea.
What unexpected directions has this tea project taken you?
I did not expect to get so involved with the international Tea Community as I did. It has been exciting getting to know some of the key figures in the Tea world such as Linda Villano and John Harney, and collecting their stories and support.
You’ve been working with tea and other materials for quite a long time. Tell us about your creative process from inspiration to manifestation.
The success of my work thrives on the interaction with new communities and environments. Through a careful investigative method of gathering regional materials, native plants, local stories, architectural landmarks and historic research I have focused on the creation of site-generated works of art that illuminate the unobserved in our day to day surroundings and the challenges facing our environment.
Who or what inspires or influences your work as an artist?
It is the day-to-day objects in our lives and their functions that inspire me.
What is the biggest creative obstacle you’ve faced? How did you work through it?
Lately it is having the time and sustained energy to work. So, it helps when I have assistants to work with me, or when I can go away on a residency.
Do you have any rituals that sustain your creative process?
My daily ritual to start my day is to make a pot of tea and sit down to write in the quiet of the morning hours when my mind and body are fresh.
You’ve traveled the world bridging communities through art and creative expression but from the perspective of an “outsider looking in.” Is there any one experience that has had a more lasting effect on how you work or even how you see the world?
My very first residency in 1998 in the north of France was an incredible experience and adventure. And I think most of it was due to my host, Luc Brevart a hardworking and talented artist who is wise to the ways of artists and travel.
What quote best represents your philosophy on the creative life?
It is okay to make mistakes.
Do you have ritual for preparing tea?
My first morning pot of the day: Spooning two teaspoons of a loose leaf black tea such as Assam or a Nepalese black into my infuser by my kitchen back window, facing a small grove of trees in a back lot in the Bronx. Then, adding a spoonful of honey.
Street Vendor Tea Ceremony – A video by Michele, serving tea where strangers meet and lives are changed through the sharing of tea.
If you could inscribe anything on a tea bag and have it preserved forever as art, what would you write?
Tags: activist, art, artist, artistic process, author, Brooklyn Botantical Garden, creative minds, creative process, Creativitea, creativity, inspiration, Michele Brody, Possibiliteas, soul, tea, tea and art, tea art, tea bags, tea for creatives, tea leaves, tea paper, travel and art, traveler, visual artist
Trackback from your site.