Tea Bag Art Helps Africans Make a Living

Jill Heyes' company sells crafts designed with tea leaves made by African woman, who as a result have raised their standard of living.

When Jill Heyes moved from the United Kingdom to Cape Town, South Africa, 10 years ago, she was “saddened by the poverty at the end of the road,” she says. Many of her African neighbors lived in tiny run-down shacks, and could hardly afford to feed their families.

As Heyes became friends with some of the African women who lived nearby, she could see that they were hard-working, talented, and creative individuals. She realized that, by teaching them to make crafts to sell, she could help them rise above their poverty.

Heyes formed the T-Bag Designs Company with an original group of five women. The women would empty the leaves from used tea bags, let the bags dry in the sun, and then iron them. Then, they would paint the bags with unique and beautiful designs. The painted bags were then used to create picture frames, coasters, earrings, and other crafts, which could be sold at local markets.

Today, T-Bag Design Company has grown to support 23 African artists and their families, and the company’s products are sold all over the world. “Everyone earns a very good daily wage,” says Heyes. “We can see the difference in many of their lives as they begin to gain confidence and have pride in themselves.”

One of the company’s artists, Nomsa, recently used her work earnings to purchase a new house. “The most wonderful thing in the world is hearing the rain on the roof and knowing that my children are warm and dry,” she says.

To learn more about T-Bag Designs and purchase their unique gifts, click here.