On November 1st, 2007, I held a Devonshire Teacosy Party at Ravenswood Primary School for grade 3/4 students, on the request of their teacher, my friend Rebecca Harrington, who has been a friend every since our grade 3 Deloraine Primary School days! I took along some cosies from my personal collection of antique and art cosies. Above is "Teacosy* Number 6, Sweden cosy", which I made at the end of 2005 when I was working on a suite at the Ice Hotel in Northern Sweden with fellow Tasmanian artist, Julia Adzuki. The stories involved in the making of each cosy are always entertaining to retell and they locate the cosies as cultural objects within a global environment and cultural aspect. This is the reason I keep making tea cosies...to take them out of the kitchen cupboard and rescue them from the second-hand shop or landfill rubbish dumps and give them a new life. Tea cosies are also effective energy efficient heat storage devices which cut down on power consumption and the need to regularly boil a kettle. A good tea cosy will keep a pot of tea warm for up to four hours! In Korea they use rice bowl covers to do the same thing with bowls of rice. These covers look remarkably like tea cosies and are traditionally made of silk and cotton, silk being a wonderfully efficient and light heat-storing textile.
Explaining to the students what tea cosies are and what they do and showing them some of my tea cosy creations. This tea cosy now belongs to my partner, Rainier, who bought it at one of my exhibitions before we started seeing each other...how's that for seduction?!
First I got the students to cut out the shape of their desired tea cosy with paper and put their name on their pattern piece, which I then laid out with the others on an old Waverly Woollen Mills (Tasmania) blanket and cut two sides. Then I set up each student with a needle and thread (which took quite a while, even with the help of their teacher and a parent and another helper...thanks so much guys!!), and we got them all to sew their cosies together and then they could choose to stitch or/and glue their decorations on to personalise their cosy. I've never seen so many happily occupied and enthusiastic kids, with the ones who knew already how to sew helping the ones who'd never stitched in their lives! It was so much fun!
One of the finished tea cosies, a folding cushion-like cosy without its ties stitched on and sporting some very fine glued decoration of a skull and lace face. The objective was to get a group of 28 schoolgirls to sew, decorate and take home a tea cosy they'd made, all in one day, with a teaparty to finish with. We did a rotation system where, whilst some students were sewing, a small group would go and make scones for the Devonshire Tea part of the tea party. I can safely say that when the need arises, I have the vocal abilities and authority of a Sergent Major in a skirt! The kids were all really great and very excited and enthusiastic, which was wonderful! They were so inspiring and appreciative, it really was a very rewarding experience and I'd like to keep doing these Teaparty and Tea cosy making events in schools.
Another tea cosy...the student spent a long time gluing beads and buttons and sparkles on to her cosy, which we had to put over a chair back to dry! There was glue everywhere, she had a great time!