When I was living in Oxfordshire I would meet with a group of friends and we would mediate and produce art lead by Debbie Howard. The group is called ‘Soulseedsessions’ which is how we tag our work on social media . This last week we made a tea stained journal. This took several sessions to complete
The first part of the project was to select a variety of different papers with which we had an emotional connection. I have been working with my mandalas, and feeling disassociated so I decided to see if I could work through these feelings.
I chose a variety of circular based images, faces, adverts , my drawings. I had a bit of a frustrating time with some of my medication recently so I added a prescription script and a medication instruction sheet. This is the first time I had done this process so I included all different types of papers – photographs , hand drawn mandalas, photocopies, different magazines etc to see what happened to the inks etc in the boiling.
We tied the pile of paper up with string and packed in 6 tea bags , 2 or 3 teaspoons of termeric and bits of rusty metal between the pages. The parcel was wrapped up in fabric and tied again. The rusty metal was added to release brown marks within the journals
The journals were simmered for 30 mins in tea and a splash of vinegar. The vinegar releases the rust from the metal.
During this session I felt like I was accessing something earthy and elemental – I told my family I was being a witch( lol)
I had routed through my paper stash and work making a right mess , I collected far too much stuff. The next stage was to go through the stash and draw or write on them with different pens, oil pastels, gelatos and paint – making swirls , arrows or writing single words that had some meaning at the time.
I expected the vinegar to stink out my kitchen but it was pleasently fragrant when mixed with the tea and turmeric
After 30 mins I took the parcel out of the liquid and let it drain in the sink till cool. I squeezed out some of the liquid and then peeled off the sheets – I have a big selection of towels that I use for art/ craft and I spread the papers out on these to absorb the liquid
The images that were the most affected by the simmering were modern magazine pages from a weekly newspapers. My new inkjet did not get distressed or the photographs. Older magazine papers or the fashion magazines didn’t seem to be affectedeither . The gelatos, permanent markers and oil pastels survived very well. My uniball eye markers were not distressed at all – which was a bit annoying because I added a lot of them expecting them to disintergrate a bit
The papers take on a different feel when they are dry , quite hard and leathery.
I travelled down south for the next stage as part of a trip to see family.
The idea was to journal with the papers into a small A6 journal with a soft cover- the pages were quite thick cartridge paper.
I had had a severe migraine the night before and was nervy and anxious about participating in the session. Debbie put out a large selection of materials , acrylic paint , stabillo pencils , oil pastels , stencils, Matt medium , bubble wrap and sand paper. She started by getting us to do a few warm up exercises and then we were let loose.
I had great fun , I was working with friends and I concentrated on circles, moving my whole body , getting paint on my hands and under my finger nails. We had participated in a meditation before making and the phrase let life live through you stuck with me so I scribbled and write it on various pages.
I brought my Tim Hotlz distress pastels with me because they had survived the first simmering very well. One of Debbie’s exercises had been to write with a paintbrush withthin acrylic – this worked well with my mood of making big messy statements
On this page I sewed a teabag portrait.
I must try and work out a way to transfer this energy and ‘manic’ expression to my mandalas. To reinforce the book we stitched the pages together using pamphlet stitch
We tied up our journals and stuffed them with tea leaves, tea bags , turmeric , beetroot ,onion skins and rusty metal . Then it was back into a shallow bath of tea and vinegar for another 30 mins of simmering
Again we left the journals in the sink to drain and cool and then unpacked them. This time placing a piece of kitchen roll in between each page. The journal needs to be placed some where warm and checked regularly. I removed the damp paper and added more in the morning- it took about 24hrs to dry .
Debbie’s book drying
Examples of pages before and after simmering
I drew with some different water soluble pens on my way down south hoping that these would distress – they disappeared – top right as did the distress ink spray – blue top left. Even though we stuck everything in with Matt Medium most papers and images were altered with a brown stain. ( I think may be the books could do with completely drying out for 24hrs – we used heat dryers in between pages – I shall be experimenting further)
When my book was dry I looked up let life live through you’ and found that it is a line from a poem . A lot of these felt important so I used sections throughout my journal
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive —
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter ifyou draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
ifyou saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
– Roger Keyes
I need to do more work like this to feel more grounded and intouch with my self – I love making my mandalas. But I also need to make a big mess and I am definitely going to do more tea simmering