Artist : Ruth Tabancay

A few months ago I came across Ruth Tabancay's quilts. As you know, I love anybody's work that pushes the limits of the traditional quilt to its' edge and her work does just that. Her pieces are made entirely out of tea bags. And surprisingly with the tea still in them.

On wall: Garden Variations, 2009 49"x65". On floor: Extending the Useful Life, 2010 33"x26"x65".
by Ruth Tabancay. Image by Dana Davis. 

Ruth has been working in this medium for the past ten years. The idea came to her while doing homework with her teenage daughter. They wrapped themselves in a comforter as they drank cups of tea. She saved and dried the tea bags and then sewed them together "to capture a moment of intimacy."
Garden Variations (detail), 2009 49" x 65" x 1". Tea bags, acrylic paint, embroidery floss, muslin, batting.
by Ruth Tabancay. Image by Scott Braley         

I had the wonderful fortune of finally meeting Ruth in person at the Scrap ART opening at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. One of her tea bag quilts was included in the show. When I asked to write about her work, she told me that she recently completed the Fiber Art Certificate Program at the University of Washington, Seattle. She flew back and forth for a year from the bay area to Seattle. That's true commitment to your craft! It was an immensly rewarding experience and encouraged her to expand her medium. And here are some of her new pieces which frankly, have me floored.

Twice the Size of Texas,  Kala Artist Project Space, Berkeley, CA.
by Ruth Tabancay. Image by Dana Davis.

Twice the Size of Texas, installed at the Kala Artist Project Space, is a monumental piece.

"(It is) a 10 ft X 19 ft wall piece made of over 1400 pieces of plastic bags. The shape represents the North Pacific Gyre, the location of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where plastic, among other discards, has been broken down by mechanical and photo-degradation into confetti-like pieces and moves very slowly in a clockwise direction toward the center. The exact size of this debris mass depends on the where one draws the boundaries but one of the more quoted estimates is twice the size of Texas."
Ruth Tabancay

Twice the Size of Texas (detail), Kala Artist Project Space, Berkeley, CA.
by Ruth Tabancay. Image by Dana Davis.
Another series she is currently developing is embroidery on vintage linens.

Embroidery on Vintage Linens by Ruth Tabancay. Image by Scott Braley.

Many pieces of these cloths–runner, doilies, coasters, napkins–have a floral theme in embroidery, crochet, or tatting as decoration, the craft of women in the 30's through 50's. I have embroidered on these cloths images that show what the textile might have actually experienced. Coasters have water, coffee, and red wine rings. Runners show fallen petals and leaves and the rust ring left by a metal vase. A napkin discretely hides chicken bones. A hanky staunches a bloody nose.
Ruth Tabancay

Recycling is a common thread that runs through all of Ruth's work and draws me in even more. She has the rare ability and confidence to push the boundaries of her practice. It makes a powerful statement.

Embroidery on Vintage Linens
by Ruth Tabancay. Image by Scott Braley.
See more of Ruth's art online at her website. Her work is currently on exhibit on the west coast at The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles through October 16th. If you're on the east coast, her work is shown in a video slideshow at the Textile Museum in Washington DC for Green: the Color and the Cause. The show runs through September 11th.


Kitty Kilian said...

Ah, the thinks you can think of! Round teabags... Have never seen those around here. i love the plastic swirl, but would like to have it in a somewhat smaller size (say the size of a bed) and in some wild, outrageous material.. Say.. Cotton! (Just joking hehe)

Katrina said...

i'm hooked: the tea tags, the pacific garbage swirl, the vintage embroidery. i love, love how you showcase contemporary fiber artists doing awesome work. thank you for sharing them with us. xo.


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