Meet the artist who paints UK landmarks on used tea bags

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An artist has given used tea bags "another lease of life" by painting famous UK landmarks on them and turned an item which is often discarded into "something beautiful".

Caroline West , 49, began painting on tea bags in August 2023 as sustainability has always been something she is passionate about, and has depicted everything from popular landmarks including Stonehenge to nature scenes on the unique canvas.

She has painted around 70 tea bags and counting, and said it takes between an hour to and hour and a half to complete a creation, depending on the level of detail.

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"I really love the idea of just taking something that you would normally discard or throw away and then transforming it into a work of art and giving it another lease of life," Mrs West who is based in Waterlooville. "I just think we're all so busy all the time and it is hard to take the time to slow down and notice the beauty in the everyday things that are often taken for granted. I liked the idea of using tea bags as a way to turn something mundane into something beautiful."

Caroline West with some of her artwork, which consists of painting famous UK landmarks on used teabags.Caroline West with some of her artwork, which consists of painting famous UK landmarks on used teabags.
Caroline West with some of her artwork, which consists of painting famous UK landmarks on used teabags.

The process begins by drying out used tea bags - which can take a few days - cutting them up, scraping out all the tea and ironing them flat. The edges are then cut off, the tea bag is placed on backing paper, a base layer is applied and then the art can begin using acrylic paint.

"It's quite a process because you've got to wait for that to fully dry because the tea bags are quite absorbent," she added. "Then, you just gradually build up the layers, tape them up at the ends, take it off the backing paper and hope it doesn't tear and swear a lot if it does."

Yorkshire Tea tea bags have been a popular choice for the miniature works of art - something Mrs West gets from her mother as she is more of a fan of herbal tea.

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"Weirdly, I don't actually drink normal tea - I drink herbal tea - so my mum saves me all the tea bags," she said. "I have done a little series because she drinks Yorkshire Tea of Yorkshire landmarks on Yorkshire Tea tea bags."

Caroline West, 49, holding a collection of her artwork, which consists of painting famous UK landmarks on used teabags. Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA WireCaroline West, 49, holding a collection of her artwork, which consists of painting famous UK landmarks on used teabags. Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA Wire
Caroline West, 49, holding a collection of her artwork, which consists of painting famous UK landmarks on used teabags. Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA Wire

The series happened around April and saw Mrs West replicate places including Saltburn Pier, Scarborough Castle , Humber Bridge and the Yorkshire Dales. Tower Bridge, Stonehenge, Blackpool Tower and Snowdon have also been painted in tiny form by the artist – as well as Portsmouth’s own Spinnaker Tower.

"I just thought it would be really nice and British to have British landmarks on British tea bags," she added.

She has found a way to incorporate herbal tea bags in her work, adding they provide different pops of colour compared to their regular counterpart.

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"My husband drinks fruit teas so that has a really nice pinky tone and I drink chamomile, so that produces a yellow tone," she explained.

A painting of Spinnaker Tower, which Caroline created on a used teabag. Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA WireA painting of Spinnaker Tower, which Caroline created on a used teabag. Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA Wire
A painting of Spinnaker Tower, which Caroline created on a used teabag. Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA Wire

Her favourite landmark to paint has been Stonehenge, with the most enjoyable part of the process the start.

"I really enjoy the beginning because I think the start of something is really exciting and the work is based on my ideas," she said.

"I also quite enjoy the intricacy because I do like painting small; I just think there's something magical about having a really small painting."

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Mrs West posts her work on social media and said people expressing an interest "means a lot to me". "It's really lovely to get positive feedback on something I really love doing and people are just really amazed by the fact these paintings are on tea bags," she added.

Paintings of Durdle Door (left) and Glastonbury Tor (right). Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA WirePaintings of Durdle Door (left) and Glastonbury Tor (right). Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA Wire
Paintings of Durdle Door (left) and Glastonbury Tor (right). Picture: Ella Sandy/family handout/PA Wire

She also dabbles in painting other small items including pumpkin seeds and leaves, and has even turned crisp packets into keyrings and necklaces. More information about Mrs West's work can be found here: https://www.carolouiseart.com/