Camellia sinensis, also known as the tea plant where all true tea comes from, is one of the most interesting and beautiful plants in the world. I make this statement as both a tea and nature lover. Before I even knew much about the tea plant or tea in general I always admired intricate Camellia sinensis illustrations found online or in books. If you have followed this blog for some time you’ll know that I am a big fan of unique tea related art. With all of this, it only made sense that I would fall in love with these lovely tea greeting cards by Agnes Becker.
The illustrator of these beautiful cards and owner of we are stardust – where art and science collide shop resides in the UK where a cup of tea is the answer to nearly everything. Tea played a big part in her upbringing and culture. She grew up with fresh pots of English Breakfast tea (with a splash of milk!) that her Mum would prepare for breakfast, after lunch, afternoon cake and after dinner.
Her passion for tea grew in her early twenties when she travelled through China and India, enjoying every green tea and masala chai she could get her hands on. She found loose leaf teas thanks to a fellow tea fanatic friend, fell in love with their delicate, fresh flavours and hasn’t looked back since. Agnes says it was inevitable that tea would eventually find its way into her art & science work.
Why science and art? “I have never sat comfortably within the sciences or arts, I’ve always been somewhere in between. As a child I used to imagine I was an explorer in a jungle gathering unusual animal specimens on mysterious tropical islands or discovering ancient civilizations. I’d draw maps of my explorations and collect strange stones, shells and flowers. The boundaries between art and science weren’t there – it was all about exploring the world,” Agnes explains.
She describes her greeting cards shop, we are stardust, as a “natural progression from her childhood imaginations and an extension of how she sees the world.” She researches, illustrates and designs each card to capture a fact, story or curiosity that inspires a moment of wonder for the natural world. While patiently awaiting for my Camellia sinensis greeting cards to come in the mail, Agnes and I chatted about her inspiration, what she hopes to communicate and creative rituals for the pieces. Here’s what she had to say…
I was curious to find out what it is about tea that makes it so tasty. In my research I came across the flavonoids in the Camellia sinensis plant that help to protect the plant from stresses, such as too much light. I thought this was a great parallel with why many of us drink tea. It gives us a moment of respite and reflection in our busy lives, either as a quiet time for ourselves or to chat with friends and family.
During my research I started to look more closely at the Camellia sinensis tea plant – the rows of fresh greens in the photos of tea plantations caught my imagination. As the we are stardust botany collection is inspired by old scientific botanical plates and etchings, I sought out an old botanical illustration for the tea cards and came across Dr. Thornton’s 1809 botanical plate (he actually calls it Thea viridis, or Green tea, which is the same plant). I loved the way it flowed and how the leaves overlapped each other. Normally, I’d prefer to draw from real life but, in the absence of having a tea plant nearby, I created my illustration based on Dr. Thornton’s botanical plate, tweaking the colours to include the fresh, bright green of the tea plantations.
My cards hope to celebrate the flavonoids in Camellia sinensis. Flavonoids are natural chemicals in the plant that contribute to tea’s amazing flavours and protect it from stress. Through my research I even found a study that suggested drinking tea could protect us from type II diabetes. I love the parallel between the flavonoids protecting both the plant and us from stress.
While working on the tea plant designs, I’d start the day by making a cup of tea (of course!) and sitting down in my study to draw and paint Camellia sinensis, using the Dr. Thornton illustration as a guide. I drew the outline in pencil and then filled in the plant with water colours. I did a few tests before I settled on the finished version – you can see more about my process in my ‘from the sketchbook’ video blog.
One spring afternoon (with another cup of tea by my side) I set about scanning the image into my computer and creating the new designs on my computer. Once happy with a few I sent the digital artwork off to my printer who sent some test cards, known as proofs, back. Out of the five proofs I chose the three final designs you see in my shop today.
Out of the three tea greeting cards available, which one is your favourite?
This is a hard question! I love them all. After agonizing over each design for weeks each one is quite precious to me – so perhaps the Tea Plant Gift Set where you get two of each design is the best one for me! I am particularly proud of the “But first, Tea” and William Morris style “Tea plant pattern” designs as they are new styles I tried out especially for the tea card range. However, if I am pushed to choose, I think my favourite is the classic scientific botanical illustration style of the “Tea plant Camellia sinensis” design as it shows the whole plant and has connotations of how art and science can come together to celebrate the wonders of the natural world.
Interested in these tea greeting cards?
The tea greeting cards are printed on Forestry Stewardship Council certified paper and wrapped in biodegradable cellophane bags and include recycled kraft paper envelopes. You can purchase the tea greeting cards individually or as a gift set beautifully wrapped with silk ribbon.
You can get 10% OFF all tea cards. Browse we are stardust shop here and enter “THECUPOFLIFE17” at the check out. This special offer is valid until July 31, 2017.
Which tea plant greeting card caught your eye the most? Let me know your favourite in the comments below!