Fancy a cuppa tea? How about 20,OOO cups of tea? Apparenly artist and architect Hong Yi did, because that’s just how many cups of tea she brewed in order to make a thoughtful portrait of a Malaysian tea vendor from the appropriate materials.
I wanted to create a piece that reflected an everyday scene in Malaysia that reminds me of home. Teh Tarik (which means ‘pulled-tea’ in Malay) is a drink served in local coffeeshops (or kopitiams) that is sweet, frothy and milky, and is frothed up when tea is poured between two containers.
Made in two overlapping pieces, the background of the portrait depicts a man preparing the Teh Tarik, and various tea ingredients are rendered on the piece hanging in front of it. Confused? Luckily, Hong Li illustrates what a Teh Tarik man does, as well as the process of making her portrait in the terrific video below.
Although, she didn’t actually drink all the tea that she brewed with all those tea bags, she does explain how she used them to make the portrait and why some of them wouldn’t have made a very nice cup of tea anyway.
The teabags were stained by steeping the bags in hot water – the lesser and hotter the water, the more they were stained – and the darker tones were stained with brown food dye. All these bags were stapled and attached onto tiles of wire mesh, then hung off a wooden frame.
Personally, I think it would have been great if should could have sourced the used tea bags from an actual tea vendor for this particular project, but as a maker I understand that certain logistical considerations can sometimes make aspects of a project impossible to pull off, and this ingenious work was certainly a worthwhile endeavor!