Consider the tea towel

With photos like this,  it’s difficult to believe I have an artistic bone in my body.  



Recently I saw a great exhibition of….tea towels! Yes, leave it to the Japanese to find a way to make the most mundane objects an art form. Right now, the Nikkei National Museum does look a little like an exclusive linen store or even a ritzy clothesline, since it’s filled with tengui or printed cotton towels. It’s an interesting show for those who like design, craft or Japanese culture. There is even a video showing the long process of making the towels, the stencilling part was especially interesting to me since I use stencils in my art. Given the hard work that goes into every step of making tengui, I now feel guilty for using them to dry dishes.

Seeing the tea towels beautifully displayed reminded me how many items are treated as fine craft in Japan. When I lived there, I saw beautiful pottery, hand-crafted garden ornaments, painstakingly sculpted gardens and intricate foods. I learned that not only was the tea ceremony an art, but there were stores completely devoted to tea. Now we have dedicated tea stores in North America too, but at the time I was amazed at all the energy devoted to tea.


Relaxing with some things I love: green tea in a teacup by Cul de Sac, jar by Hey Day, painting by (blush) me, and cat head made by my  creative daughter.

However, when I consider the humble cup of tea or the simple tea towel, it makes me think that beauty and art can be a part of our everyday lives. If we take time to properly brew a cup of tea, and serve it in a cup handcrafted by a friend and artist, then that simple act becomes beautiful as well. And if we raise the mundane act of drying the dishes to art form as well, then a chore becomes a ritual and our lives are elevated.


One new note to add on my year of giving, while at the National Nikkei Museum, I dropped off a painting for Bloom, their silent art fundraiser which will be on Saturday, April 28th. Although I neglected to take a photo of the painting, it’s an older one of mine canvas which I based on this beautiful scrap of Japanese fabric I’ve had for years:


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2 thoughts on “Consider the tea towel

  1. You're right-there are many things we can learn form the Japanese when it comes to the potential for beauty in everyday activities. I think this approach helps keep you "in the moment" when doing something as mundane as drying dishes.

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