Making a Cardboard Afternoon Tea Set

Shown above are some photos which give you an inclination of the carnage that took over my room while I worked on this project. Carboard is not a friendly material, as my carpet and irritated palms can attest to, and it takes some wrestling to get it to behave in any useful or attractive way. The making of these pieces therefore took much longer than I had anticipated/planned for.

I ended up basing my set on this image found on Google, from an eBay sale of a vintage tea-set. It felt like a good amount to tackle.

The centrepiece, a three tiered cake stand, was the first piece I made. Measuring each piece was a challenge, as you can see she turned out rather wonky, but I think she’s pretty cute nonetheless. “Rustic charm” springs to mind.

I actually debated for some time over which style of cake stand to emulate – so much so that I delayed the project from starting by at least half a day as I ruminated on which I preferred (the first) and which was feasible (the second). I inevitably gave in to practicality :/.

I decided to make a tea set as my first foray into cardboard because I knew it was something the whole flat would enjoy using, something which we wouldn’t otherwise have access to and it would test the limits and uses of the material. I had recently attended afternoon tea at the gorgeous (very expensive!!) Prestonfield House Hotel, which we had discussed wistfully as a flat, knowing that we could never afford a trip there together without our parents as financial sponsors, so I think this is what inspired the idea.

The juxtaposition of the typically high-class activity with the low-class materials interested me, and I thought added a level of humour to the event. Why dine from fine china when you can reuse your food packaging, adding Sellotape and glue here and there…

A tricky part of the process was the fact that I have 3 flatmates, therefore four sets of crockery were required. I used paper patterns and the natural lengths and creases of the cardboard to try and make them as uniform as possible, but of course the pieces are incredibly crude in their design and execution. I’m an ideas woman, not an artisan.

I used a combination of plastic folders, Sellotape and a freezer bag to waterproof my creations. The cups, jars and the teapot all received this treatment in an effort to make them at least partially functional. This was very time consuming, much Louis Theroux and 60 Day’s In was consumed during this process.

The teapot was probably the most aesthetically gratifying piece to make – it’s just so goddamned cute. Adorable one might say. This was made in four pieces; square based pyramid body, handle, V-shape spout and a folded lid. It took me a long time to make, and I knew it was highly unlikely I would even use it to pour tea, but I think it really brought the set together.

Overall, not the most enjoyable process, very time consuming, at times mind-numbingly boring, and irritating on the hands. However, I was very happy with the results, possibly because I was acutely aware of the effort that went into them, and once I found my rhythm I did come to enjoy making the pieces, the cups being particularly fun to make. Making took me three days in total.

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