Seattle U Professor Turns Used Tea Bags into Art


Most people toss their old tea bags in the trash while others use them as home-made spa treatments. But Associate Professor Naomi Kasumi spent two years recycling and turning used tea bags into an art installation, MEM: memory•memorial no.7 scriptorium. The art has been exhibited at galleries and spaces throughout the world and through May is at Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.  

“The beautiful hangings glow with a soft golden warmth when backlit,” said Amy Chinn, marketing director at the Wing Luke Museum. “We chose Professor Kasumi’s art to be in the Sacred Seattle exhibit because it spoke to the themes of the show so well.”  

Inspired by her own nightly ritual of tea drinking, Kasumi spent more than a year collecting tea bags. This included gathering used tea bags from friends and colleagues, and reaching out to Tazo Tea Company, which responded by providing 1,500 tea bags for the project. Over the next year, she solicited campus-wide help and got donations from students, staff and Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., among others.  

“It is all about ritual,” Kasumi said about her art. “It’s about ritualistic behavior and a ritualistic process of creating the art.”   

Kasumi’s art is featured in Wing Luke Museum’s Sacred Seattle series, which through the of exploration of religion and spirituality in the cityreveals the complex ways that immigrant communities have created spiritual homes through home altars, attending services, building new religious institutions and engaging in devotional worship, prayers and rituals.  

In April, Kasumi will head to New Delhi, India where she was selected to participate in an artist residency program. She will spend her time there developing a new art exhibit.  

To learn more about Kasumi and Seattle University’s Fine Arts program, which offers courses in creating art and managing arts organizations, visit:  

For more information about the exhibit visit: