Dis-taste An alternative tea ceremony of water, soil and waste

Dis-taste An alternative tea ceremony of water, soil and waste

What have sewage and food growing got in common? In response to the reinvention of Water Works from derelict industrial site into a social, growing and wildlife hub for the local area; artists Alex and Hannah are working with local people to investigate the sites history through the different ‘cycles’ which continue to take place here, such as the re-cycling of water, nutrients and land.


A story recently appeared in the Barrhead News about their “unusual tea party”, here’s what Alex & Hannah they have to say about their work at the Water Works –

“We are running creative workshops with different groups involving practical processes from planting to ceramic design, paper kiln firing to tea brewing. The ideas and experiments generated through the project will culminate in a big public Tea Ceremony event in late summer, bringing people together to share the research and a taste from the site.

Starting in May 2017, the first workshop for the project was held with pupils from Carlibar School. They were tasked with visiting the site in advance and recording their observations in drawings. The workshop began with a presentation by the pupils of their lovely eclectic collection of sketches from their trip – interpreting plants, wildlife and the remnants of the sewage works. In return we shared our own preliminary research, gathered imagery relating to both the sewage works and magnificent and eccentric sanitary ware that was produced by Shanks of Barrhead. The pupils brief was to each design a ceramic (drinking or pouring) vessel – inspired by this colourful past and the current ecology of the site. From outline ideas of paper, we worked with the students to translate their ideas into ambitious 3D shapes. Introducing a range of ceramic techniques from coil building to slab building, working with professional clay and tools. The outcomes were varied and personalised and will act as inspiration for a future stage of the project as we undertake the same brief and work up designs for a permanent tea set for use on the site. One of the most intriguing designs was for a mug which would strain the water for you to make your tea.

The second workshop in May, called ‘Teas for plants, soil and people’ was a public event on the site. We started the day with a led foraging walk, examining and collecting edible wild plants which have already colonised the site. From nettles and raspberries leaves suitable for tea making to dandelion leaves, garlic mustard, ground elder, plantain leaves, hawthorn leaves and clovers which make a tasty salad, even finding flowers and berries for summer cordials or wines. After a picnic and tea sampling we worked together for the afternoon to create practical new growing spaces on the site, tailored to producing different kinds of teas. Initially we established raised beds for cultivated herbs – for folk in the future to use for drinkable teas – including three types of mint, thyme, fennel, lemon balm and chamomile. Secondly we discussed plants which have similar vitalising benefits but for the soil directly and to demonstrate this participants prepared a bed with green manure seeds (Phacelia) – to later be dug into the earth later in the year. Finally we began an experiment brewing up some rather smelly but brilliantly nutritious compost teas for plants (organic plant fertilisers.) Planting a new comfrey patch and using thick gloves to collect nettle and comfrey leaves directly. These were added to water and left to brew (stored in an reclaimed Shanks toilet of course!).”


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