The Way of Tea

When I’m not drawing I’m drinking tea.

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The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道 literally “the way of tea”) conjures up ideas of complex tea ware and formal etiquette that doesn’t have space in our everyday lives. Yet I think if we break down the ideas behind this beautiful celebration of the mundane, we can create our own little ceremonies and tea traditions that add a little art to the simple everyday act of making a cup of tea.

Okakura Kakuzō wonderfully describes the ceremony in The Book of Tea as “an improvised drama whose plot was woven about the tea, the flowers, and the paintings. Not a colour to disturb the tone of the room, not a sound to mar the rhythm of things […] all movements to be performed simply and naturally.” We don’t need to completely mimic the drama of a Japanese tea ceremony in order to put more thought into the simple act of tea drinking. We can adapt some of the simpler ideas though, such as creating a peaceful space to sit with a beautiful painting or simple flower arrangement upon which to rest ones gaze in a quiet moment of meditation. Our own ceremony can be developed from what we already have access to and from just giving a bit more time for carefully selecting our favourite cup and teapot.

The teashop I work in is named ‘Seibiant’, a welsh word meaning to pause and take a moment in the day for a little piece of respite. This moment hopefully already exists in your life simply and naturally, and we can take ideas from the tea ceremony to make it a little more nourishing.

Of course I can’t discuss the ceremony without talking about tea, and if you don’t like tea (are your crazy?) then this can be adapted to whatever your favourite beverage is. Even a glass of water works for this is about the simple things in life. I’m frequently asked about my views on the British “builders brew” with the expectation that I will hold my snobby tea specialist nose in the air with disgust. I will happily explain in detail that what goes into a brits tea bag is classed as “dust”, swept of the floor once all the tea grading has been done and the best leaves have been selected. But also I was brought up on this stuff, it is my tradition, and nothing makes me happier than to sit with a friend with low grade black tea improved with a splash of milk and accompanied by a biscuit. We add milk (and some add sugar) because the quality is low making the tea taste bitter, but I’m not here to judge, tea is for your taste and is to be enjoyed. I occasionally do love a good builders brew.

However I would hasten to add that tea bags are made with plastic and the act of making a pot of  loose leaf tea adds more chance for ceremony. There are a myriad of teas out there filled with stories and legends and different tastes and brewing methods. So if you did happen to feel inclined I would encourage you to sample some of the wonderful teas that the world offers. A cupboard full of teas is a beautiful thing to have and allows one to choose a tea dependent on mood or the weather or time or day or season.

To conclude I’ve made a little recipe for making your own tea drinking ceremony:

1. Find a quiet space in which you can sit a few moments, preferably with something simple and beautiful to look at.

2. Select your favourite tea cup and a tea that suits your current mood, the season, the weather etc

3. Take your time to prepare the tea, even if it’s a tea bag in a mug, pour the water slowly.

4. Sit and savour, really focus on the flavour and the way you feel.

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I would love to hear about your own tea ceremonies and feel free to get in touch with any questions (I’m mostly on Instagram @carissatanton).

Happy tea drinking.

C

In Search of Style

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Style:

noun
  1. a particular form, appearance, or character.
  2. distinctive characteristic, mode of action or manner of acting.
  3. a mode of living.

I’ve been thinking a lot about style recently. Not just in a way of drawing or painting or writing or composing or dressing but in all aspects where style is expressed. Style is the way by which something is usually done and therefore our style encompasses everything we do.

I think that a lot of people (myself included) can feel a bit lost when it comes to embracing, or “discovering”, their own style. Personally this has been more in terms of finding a drawing style, but I think the same goes for anything, and that it’s about finding something that feels comfortable and best expresses what you want to put out into the world.

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” – Rachel Zoe

I wouldn’t say that I have found my style and I’m sticking to it no matter what, on the contrary I have so much to learn and the way I draw is constantly evolving and I hope it never stops. In trying different forms of creating I figured out what was most important to me, and that was to be able to easily create anywhere in a simple way. My style evolved from this practicality and is why I decided to make my tools minimal: black pen and white paper.

Seeking your own style in my opinion is more to do with figuring out what works for you and what’s important to you. If you want to find your artistic style maybe take a look at another part of your life in which you feel most comfortable with. For example look at how you dress, if it’s colourful and bold and you feel great in your clothes then perhaps you would feel comfortable painting in this style too. Or look at how you cook. If you love to keep to simple recipes that you come back to again and again, then maybe this philosophy is also mirrored in how you dress, and then could be a key aspect of your creative style too.

Finding your style is a lot about looking inwards, because really your style already exists, you are your style. However if you are finding it hard to identify your style in anyway then it can also be helpful to look outwards to find what it is that you do and don’t like, I’ve found Pinterest a particularly helpful place to turn to in this aspect, it’s about trying things on and seeing if they fit and feel familiar or comfortable.

Whilst looking outwards there becomes a defining point in which you realise that you can appreciate something on someone else and realising it’s not for you. I am in love with colourful and detailed illustrations but it’s not how I draw. This realisation has slowly given clarity in other areas of my life. For example I’ve always struggled with what to wear. Now I feel more comfortable with understanding my style, and if you look at the way I draw perhaps you can imagine the way I feel most comfortably dressed. Now I often find clothes, appreciate the pieces beauty and detail, then put it back down and go and find some black jeans. It’s not my style and I won’t feel comfortably me in it. Previously I’d have taken it home, worn it once, then left it hanging in my mismatched wardrobe.

I think I’ve identified that everything in my style could be boiled down to the seeking of simplicity and I’m a bit obsessed with the ideas of slow living and minimalism. So now my wardrobe is mostly black and white (with a touch of pink). I almost have a uniform of jeans, t shirt and a jumper. My home is white walled and tidy with everything in its place. My drawing are pen and paper, sometimes using patterns to add detail where colour would in someone else work.

So if you’re seeking your style I’d recommend looking at other aspects of your life but also think about how you want each area to look and feel, as it may not all currently be reflecting your true style.

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” – Gore Vidal

If you’ve got any tips on how you found your style I’d love to here them, either comment below or come say hi on instagram (@carissatanton).

Much Love

C.