Creative Dundee

The Entangled Tea Set

Design by Tommy Perman.

CULTIVATE Creative Practitioner Nicky Bolland shares more about the Alyth ‘community tea set’.

CULTIVATE is a regional leadership programme for Creative Practitioners and Local Communities to collaboratively explore new ways of embedding creativity at the core of grassroots collective action for climate justice, across the Tay region. Read more about the programme’s ambition and progress in this blog.

In close collaboration with Alyth Development Trust and The Cateran Ecomuseum, Nicky has spent the last six months connecting with the Alyth community, using creativity and play to imagine the future with people. She helped make a ‘community tea set’ which captures the ideas and concerns of community members, and can be collectively used as a vessel for warm drinks and collective conversations that are both challenging and hopeful.

We’re excited to share the progress on Alyth’s Entangled Tea Set, a participatory project which aims to communicate a vision of Alyth’s future, celebrating community, connection and conversation whilst also holding a good warm brew.

What is the Entangled Tea Set?

Drawing on Alyth’s rich past, present and vision of the future, community members have contributed to the creation of a tea set which explores ‘what gives life?’ in this community and how we can sustain it into the future as we face the challenges ahead.

Why a tea set?

The idea for the tea set came from some of the themes that arose again and again:

  • The importance of hospitality and community here in Alyth
  • The representation of ‘water contained’ as comfort and aspiration
  • The role conversation and connection must play in facing the challenges ahead

How will it be used?

The hope is that The Entangled Tea Set will be used both as a ceremonial and an everyday resource for the community: we want it to provide tangible opportunities to think together about the things that matter – to think about life here in this community and how we will sustain it. We also want it to feel like something that can be used when community members want to use it – indoors and outdoors. Whilst the set isn’t quite big enough for the whole community to use in one sitting, we hope it will be enjoyed by the whole community at different moments of connection well into the future.

We hope the tea set will have it’s first official outing at a tea party in the Community Orchard in the springtime (date tbc). Keep an eye out for info on this and let us know if you have any ideas on what we should include, from fancy pieces to conversation topics!

The Creative Process:

How did we make the tea set?

The tea set is a combination of ceramic and textile elements decorated using simple stamps created by community members of all ages.

Making the ceramic pieces

The ceramic parts of the tea set are built from clay rolled out into big flat slabs (a bit like pastry!). We then pressed stamps into the clay slabs before building the forms as the clay was beginning to firm up. Once each piece was built, we added the rivers and tracks to the pieces. Once dried, the pieces were fired in the kiln, before rubbing coloured underglaze into the designs – the colours will hold where the stamps and tools have been pressed – bringing the design to life! Once colour is added we’ll apply clear glaze to the set to ensure it is watertight and then fire it at a really high temperature.

Making the stamps

Most of the stamps were created using pieces of lino. People drew designs inspired by the themes and then carved them into the material. Some of the stamps (doughnut shaped – inspired by the historic spindle whorls of the local area) were carved into clay by young people – and fired. The stamps made were then used to ‘print’ onto both the clay and the textile elements of the set.


Having found some suitable second-hand textile in Thrifty 1, Threadie members printed the different stamps onto the textile elements using acrylic paint and a special medium which ensures the prints won’t wash out. Karen and the Threadies added the rivers and tracks as embroidery details using special embroidery machines.

The Themes:

Circles / knots – ‘What gives life?’

Each circular image on the tea set illustrates what gives life in this community, offering us something tangible we can connect to helping us to keep these bigger themes in mind as we journey towards our future.

The circular images scattered across the tea set represent the things which ‘give and support life’ here in Alyth. These are categorised by the following themes drawn from the ‘great imagining’ conversations and the Community Action Plan:

  • The cups/napkins represent dwelling (the places and things that settle us and offer shelter). On each of the cups there are also symbolic designs created by young people which communicate the theme of justice
  • The plates/napkins represent sustenance (the things that nourish us)
  • The teapot represents knowledge (what wisdom do we need to gather and share)
  • The sugar bowl represents energy
  • The jug represents exchange
  • Community runs through all the pieces of the set and all the above elements are represented on the tablecloth.

Lines and tracks – ‘life moving across the landscape’

The life of a person is the sum of his tracks

Roy Wagner

Can the same be said of a community?

The lines and tracks which run across the tea set represent the following themes emerging from conversations in the local community:

  • Rivers, especially Alyth burn
  • Biodiversity – what are the more-than-human beings we might see traversing this landscape in the future?
  • Human movement – what modes of ‘travel’ will take precedence in the future and how will our movement across the landscape differ from today?

Tea parties of the future

Where will the tea set live?

We’d like the tea set to live somewhere public where it can be seen and enjoyed by the Alyth community, and we are keen that the tea set gets used in a range of places and with different groups. If you have any ideas for where it could live or where you’d like to see the tea set used – let us know!


Raise a cup!

We’d like to thank the following projects and individuals for their help in making this happen:The project has been delivered in Partnership with Cateran Ecomuseum, Alyth Development Trust and Creative Dundee who have put a lot of energy into guiding and facilitating the project.

Those who have contributed to the design of the tea set:

Alyth Youth Partnership

Thrifty Threadies

All who attended our ‘Make your Mark’ sessions

Cornelia and Ciara who helped with delivering the creative workshops

Other groups that have helped in different ways:

Scout hall – letting us use their space for sessions

Thrifty one – helping us with textiles for the project

Read more about Nicky’s collaboration with the Alyth community in this previous blog: Playing for the Future

CULTIVATE is a pilot project, which engages communities with Climate Justice through creativity and peer-education. We’ll be sharing more insights into each of our first six Creative Practitioner commissions over the coming months.

Creative Dundee is part of Culture Collective, a network of 26 participatory arts projects, shaped by local communities alongside artists and creative organisations. Funded by Scottish Government emergency COVID-19 funds through Creative Scotland.

The Culture Collective programme has the potential to place creative practise right at the heart of a just transition and help shape the future of local cultural life, which will impact massively the way we embrace creativity and culture in Scotland.

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