Discarded teabags start a stir


Picasso said “when you work it is like keeping a diary” and during lockdown Rowena McWilliams, an artist from Kent, found herself doing both – working every day and keeping a journal. And early on in lockdown she was intrigued by a piece in The Times by Richard Morrison about the arts and the fact that artists and performers might be feeling a little bit ‘like discarded teabags’. The phrase struck a chord with her and, as a result, it has inspired a group of artists working together online during lockdown – and an exhibition at Smallhythe, near Tenterden.

Phil Auden, Jo Lucas, Michele O’Neill, Fran White and Rowena found themselves challenged as to whether or not they felt discarded, but discovered that they thrived and had fun working ‘together but apart’. Taking a different theme each week, they responded to the whole analogy of tea – storm in a teacup, special brew, for all the tea in China, tasseography, hanging by a thread and so on.

Some artists found lockdown difficult, but others thrived on the extra time in their studios and adversity often leads to greater creativity and inspiration. Michele has produced a whole body of work using actual teabags; Fran produced drawings in the time it took to boil a kettle; Rowena produced work about what she read in The Times each day; Jo painted portraits of her whole family who she could not visit; Phil thrived on the extra time in his studio.

In October their exhibition ‘Discarded Teabags’ will give an opportunity to see what a selection of artists from the South East have been up in these strange times of lockdown – a chance to see their journals, read their stories and enjoy their artwork – and the exhibition also asks questions about what changes might be precipitated by the pandemic. Caroline Fraser, Edith Barton, Philip Richardson, Simon Mills and Bronach Ray will also be showing their work.

The exhibition is at the Smallhythe Studio, Tenterden, TN30 7NB, on the road to Rye and there is a private view on Friday 2, Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 October by invitation, and the exhibition is open by appointment all through October – just call or text 07905 948 525 or email art@smallhythestudio.com.

Government safety precautions are in place at the gallery.

Image Credits: Rowena McWilliams .

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  1. Fabulous! How creative and inspiring! I’m an avid drinker of Yorkshire tea for about 25 years. Unfortunately I’m an American stuck in America right now, and won’t be over for my fall visit to Kent and East Sussex. Will be visiting “Discarded Teabags” in spirit: I’ve created quite a few of them since we left England on February! Well done, to all!


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