Communal Tea Set
Healing through ritual
For our final semester in school, we were required to complete a thesis project. Our class was assigned the theme of "social issue." I chose to work with people who have survived, but had been displaced by a natural disaster.
After interviewing members of the Peace Corps and FEMA, I discovered that a lot of design has gone toward survival, but almost none has gone to restoring a sense of community. I decided to tackle that specific issue. To bring people together, I chose an event that people often congregate around.: food. More specifically, I chose the tea ceremony. Tea has a spiritual, healing connotation, coupled with a caring, grandmotherly mood. Certain blends of tea contain caffeine (which boosts mood) but not so much that children are barred from drinking it.
Since this project is about disaster relief, it was imperative that the contents be packed as tightly and efficiently as possible. Which explains the square-like qualites. The rounded corners and sides are meant to give the product a human feel, and allow for a comfortable grip on the cups and tea pot.
Here is a render of what the set would look like if manufactured. The tea pot is double-walled plastic. The inner shell is transparent, while the outer shell is translucent. This decision was made to allow the user to monitor the steeping and also for the steeping to play as a piece of performance.
When opened, the kit displays messages and instructions on the flaps to avoid waste of materials.
The kit includes:
-Flexible carrying strap
-4 individual bags of loose tea leaves
-4 Individual bottles of hand sanitizer (its important to keep your hands clean during any type of consumption, its a problem in refugee and disaster camps)
I chose the Red Cross as a method of distribution as it is closer to their type of brand than other organizations. Here is a letter to the survivors.
In essence, I didn't really design a tea set, but a ritual. The steps are listed on the flaps of the box.
1. You are asked to wash your hands with the hand sanitizer.
2. Pour hot water into the tea pot.
3. Collect tea leaves from each person participating in the serving of the tea. Collect the leaves in the mesh strainer.
4. Attach the strainer to the lid and screw it ito the top.
5. When closed, the tea leaves will not reach or barely reach the water level. To allow the tea to steep, flip over the tea pot.
6. Allow the water to change color.
7. Take turns serving one another.
In case the diagrams seemed a bit abstract, I supplied written instructions to clear any misunderstanding. The directions were written in an almost religious tone rather than a colder, technical one.
Throughout this project, I was always looking for ways to squeeze out more use from the inidivual components. For example: When flipped over, the box itself acts as an altar to elevate the entire experience. Its printed with placemarkers to show where the pieces should rest.