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a brief history of the paintings

About ten years ago I was approached by a man called Richard Baker to do some images for the boxes for his new tea company, Withered Leaves, in Sri Lanka. He is a man with a passion for high quality tea and a vision of bringing this to the public. Specialising in small estates some of which were the first to be planted on the island.

Richard’s brief was simple and, over a lunch or two, we came to understand what was needed. Generously he gave only the broadest of restrictions and left the rest to me for the paintings.

Over the years we have collaborated on new collections with different themes to each one. I have learnt so much about tea production, the immense physical work , incredible care and precision involved in providing the world with this drink we all take so much for granted.

Ive also found the stories behind the names of tea estates, some very sad , some romantic and some very unassuming but growing the most delicate of tea. It has been rich inspiration for me.

The most recent change has been to rebrand as R+D tea and as part of that Richard came to me with a request for 50 new images.

We decided to use the idea of the silhouette of different teapots to contain various scenes both imaginary and real, set on bright backgrounds . A picture within a picture !

Thus began a lot of research into teapots. I found the most incredible craftsmanship and history and it appears that there is very little in terms of animal, vegetable or even scene that cannot be turned into a teapot!

Once I had chosen 50 that would work in the way I needed, the painting began, and over the next several months I was immersed in creating the images presented in this collection. I wanted to try and capture the vibrant colours and spirit of the island of Sri Lanka and specifically the Hill country tea estates. A celebration of tea and its Sri Lankan roots.

Alex Stewart - March 2020


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