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Hina Nitesh of Papertown

Those are the cutest paper cats ever, don’t you agree? I commissioned Hina Nitesh to translate my Warp and Weft into images, and she lived up to my expectations with this wonderful reproduction.

I have the deepest admiration for creators who work with their hands to produce something so detailed and delicate.

We met when we began to participate in craft fairs together and I am thrilled to own a piece of her artistry.

Quilled paper jewellery set of earrings and necklace

Let’s hear what she has to say about her crafting journey.

Why do you craft? And why quilling? Was it a straightforward journey, something you always wanted to do? Or did you get there via other pathways?

Creating something with my hands gives me immense happiness and is also a stress buster. I love to experiment with different media, colours and techniques. I find it difficult to stick to one type of craft form for long so I keep on shuttling between different craft forms. I have tried oil painting, making zentangles, crochet, embroidery, decoupage, candle making, cold porcelain crafts, flower making – some learnt formally while others were self taught. These days (actually for more than a year, probably a record of sorts) I am quilling. It was not something that I started with the aim of making it my calling, but I find it fascinating and it has held my attention thus far.

Green and blue paper quilled jewellery set

Are you a process crafter or a product crafter? Do you do it for the joy of making something, or to enjoy what you’ve made?

I feel that the process and the product are deeply interlinked and it is difficult to distinguish between the two. I enjoy the process of crafting and this is reflected in the product. The joy is both in the making as well as in the product being admired.

What has been your most rewarding crafting moment so far? Can you reproduce it, do you think? Have you tried to?

There have been many rewarding moments, for sure. There are two kinds of people whose appreciation is important to me – one is the total stranger who sees my work at an exhibition or on my page and admires it. The other is my own children who don’t mince words when it comes to ‘honest’ opinion. So, when my children want to gift their friends something made by me, I am over the moon!

I often think of reproducing products that are popular with people. I have tried it with jewellery, but ended with a slightly different product each time. And why not, one of the charms of handmade is that it is different and can be customised.

Customised trinket box with quilled top

What normally gets you down or stops you in your tracks when you’re in the middle of a project? How do you then overcome the hurdle or circumvent it?

Before we talk of ‘stopping in tracks’, let me talk about ‘getting started’ for that is the toughest part for me. I keep thinking about the different aspects, like colours, forms, fonts, etc. In case of a custom order, I also think of the person whose personality I try to reflect. When I am stuck in the middle of the project, unable to decide the way ahead, I look at images (not necessarily quilling) for inspiration. Thankfully, with my craft, the entire canvas is an experiment till it is glued down. This leaves me with a lot of room to experiment. I leave the canvas overnight (or days!!) with strips in place. If I still like it the next day, I glue it all down!

Has your craft changed you? In what way?

Quilling, as an art form, is slow and requires a lot of precision. I spend hours on a project but there is little to show on the canvas. So one of the things that I have learnt is patience. Cutting the strips, rolling them, gluing them down in the perfect place with forceps in my hand – it all makes me realise how important it is to pay attention to the details.

Does your craft define you?

Yes, my craft is now one of the things that define me.

 

Some advice you wish someone had given you when you were still beginning your journey as a crafter?

If you wish to make your craft a source of livelihood, it is a big struggle, especially in the Indian context. I would say, take pride in your work and demand to be paid for it. There will always be people who will appreciate and encourage you – count on them and forget the sceptics. Be a thorough professional and pay attention to everything, from the product to its packaging. Think global by being social media savvy and have an online presence.

Are there still horizons for you to conquer? Which ones, specifically?

Paper is an amazing medium to work with. One, it is easily available and pliable. You can explore forms and geometry, cut it, tear it, fold it, roll it and make it resemble just about anything. With quilling I am just skimming the surface of the immense possibilities that paper offers. Then there are artists like Yulia Brodskaya, Caroline Rose, Gunjan Aylawadi, Parth Kothekar whose work inspires me. So yes, there is a long way to go…

Find Hina’s work on Instagram and Facebook.

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Ritesh Uttamchandani, photographer

The photographer trying to charm the grey cat

Nearly everyone has a camera in their pockets nowadays. So while the mystique of film photography and waiting to see what developed no longer exists, it takes someone exceptional to shine amid the constant bombardment of visual stimuli we face every day.

On a monsoon Saturday in July, with the water sheeting it down, raining cats and dogs and other small furry animals, we had a visitor who battled through the streets to deliver The Red Cat. This is the first book compiling some of the thought-provoking photographs of the man behind the camera. Let’s hear from him about his craft and his passion.

Meet Ritesh Uttamchandani. In his own words, “Just photographer will do. Because I’m not just a photojournalist and categories are consistently broken as I go along. Not an artist, I don’t like calling myself that. When photogs call themselves artists, they effectively negate the value of their own craft. You don’t need to do that.”

Idol workshop, Chinchpokhli

Why do you take pictures? Was it a straightforward journey, something you always wanted to do? Like “I’m going to be a photographer when I grow up…”?

I think it is purely because of the kind of person I am. I was a reasonably shy child. And everyday I would wake up in the morning and see Dad and my sisters reading the paper. The first thing as a child I would notice were the photos.

A jyotish used to come often to our house, and he would tell my mother that I would do something to do with the arts and I was like, “Bhakk, I want to be a sportsman and later a scientist.” And I guess it’s the fables and stories my sisters and mum would narrate. They would just spark my imagination. I’d imagine things, what must Karachi look like and so on. In those days, we had radio plays for kids and film reviews, so words would influence and invoke images.

Do you enjoy the entire process? Which part of being a photographer is your favourite? Are there any bits you want to fast forward over?

Every part of it is my favourite. But the best part is hanging with people, hearing their stories, and the food. Anyone who hangs with me is well aware of how much I value a power nap and the food.

What has been your most rewarding moment so far? Can you reproduce it, do you think? Have you tried to?

I can’t pinpoint that. And rewards differ as one grows. It might have been an award, but nowadays, I feel very happy when a photograph of mine manages to make a tangible difference in the collaborator’s life.

Cinderella, Goregaon West

What normally gets you down or stops you in your tracks when you’re in the middle of a project? How do you then overcome the hurdle or circumvent it?

Generally the slowdown is self-induced; there is too much noise around us. Too many people have notions about how something should and shouldn’t be and the only way to power through is block out these noises. And they have a right too, photographs are subjective and the medium is too democratic now. In fact, I think all of us are lost to a large extent. Embracing it only makes the journey a little more comfortable and productive.

Has your craft changed you? In what way?

I doubt I’m an authority on that. Viewers have to evaluate that. But yeah, to a large extent I find photography to be like a performance; you switch roles according to a scene.

Does your craft define you?

No, it defines some parts of me. And we, as a species, are fairly complex, so any definition that holds true today, might not stay the same way after a few years, or even hours.

Servicing high-tension wires over salt pans, Bhandup

Some advice you wish someone had given you when you were still at the beginning of your journey? Has becoming a photographer turned out the way you imagined it would be?

I keep collecting advice and ideas. I mean, we all begin thinking that we will be the next gear toting world traveller. But the scene has changed in the last decade. And I’m just happy to be on the journey. And pictures can be made anywhere. I was recently exposed to Eva Haeberle’s work. I don’t understand a word of German, but that was some wonderful mind altering work, yet so simple.

Are there still horizons for you to conquer? Which ones, specifically?

I haven’t been hired yet by the ad world. I think I could bring a lot to the table. I’m hopeful that someone somewhere will give me a shot. That’s actually how everything begins. Someone gave me a chance 14 years ago. Even the people I meet and photograph, they are actually giving me a chance, allowing me to be a part of their life, just for a bit!

Electric dancer

The Red Cat and other Stories is available from Ritesh’s website. This is a lovingly produced book, that has not only unusual photographs, but also little gems of narrative that will cause you to look differently at your everyday surroundings. Go on, click though and order it!

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Saira Sumar of Lihaaf

Let’s hear from my next Creator who Inspires in her own words.

Hello, I’m Saira from Mumbai. I quilt under the brand name Lihaaf (which means quilt).

I play a myriad of roles: daughter, wife, mom, sister, teacher, friend and quilter…

I don’t claim to have been sewing/quilting all my life. In fact, I hadn’t been near a sewing machine for over 25 or more years. But once the bug struck, now I can’t be away from it for 25 hours. The time spent assisting my mom with her sewing and quilting as a young girl helped me grow fast as a quilter. I’ve made and gifted quilts and quilted items to family and friends.

I just can’t stop; I have found my passion.

Designing, buying fabric, cutting, sewing, quilting make me happy.

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Why do you craft? And why the specific craft(s) you pursue? Was it a straightforward journey, something you always wanted to do? Or did you get there via other pathways?

I’ve never asked myself this question…why?

Crafting, it’s something I’ve always done…but it’s also varied crafts and with huge gaps when I haven’t when I was occupied with college/marriage/kids…

Currently I’m into quilting, from 2014.

I’ve done crochet, embroidery, stained glass, fabric painting, calligraphy.

How did I start my quilting journey? I happened to see some posts on Facebook of quilts made by my friend’s cousin. (QTQuilts) I loved them and was drawn to them.

I spent 6 months ogling her lovely work and then I texted her asking if I could also learn how to quilt in Mumbai and what did I need? She said yes, of course and that’s all I needed to hear …

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Are you a process crafter or a product crafter? Do you do it for the joy of making something, or to enjoy what you’ve made?

I’m definitely a process crafter and luckily I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve made. 🙂

What has been your most rewarding sewing moment so far? Can you reproduce it, do you think? Have you tried to?

I’m happiest when I’m making baby quilts. The joy of picking fabrics, colours, patterns…I love it.

Once I’ve completed a project, I note down all the specifications

Once I’ve completed a project, I note down all the specifications: fabric sourced from, size, tutorial link, changes I have made or will make in my next piece, a photo for future reference. So yes, I can reproduce whatever I’ve made.

What normally gets you down or stops you in your tracks when you’re in the middle of a project? How do you then overcome the hurdle or circumvent it?

So far I haven’t experienced quilters’ block. But yes, life generally does get in the way. Then I wait for that period to pass and while I can’t get to the sewing machine, I keep in touch by watching tutorials, following sewing blogs, shopping online and offline for fabric, etc.

Has your craft changed you? In what way?

I start my day earlier to add an hour or two for sewing before the day really begins. Earlier I would be ready to step out of the house for anything. Now I try to merge two tasks and reduce the time away from my machine. I do think I’ve become a bit more patient…

I’ve changed from being a reader to becoming an audio learner. Multitasking is my forte.

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Some advice you wish someone had given you when you were still in the beginning of your journey as a crafter?

When I began quilting, my best friend said, “You’re getting old!” But I found that being creative made me more energetic, enthusiastic and I made loads of new friends.

So I would say to anyone who wants to start, just do it. You will learn everything along the way. But be warned! Quilting is addicting.

Are there still horizons for you to conquer? Which ones, specifically?

There’s so much to learn…I’m barely past being a beginner.

I want to try my hand at Art Quilts sometime in the future. I want to learn to do intricate free motion quilting. I want to make a quilt to submit in a quilt show. I want to grow my home business of quilts and quilty products.

“Stop wishing start doing” is what I need to remember.

HexagonQuilt-105

See more of Saira’s lovely work and get in touch with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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The Artisan Corina

I first met Rohinni Juneja (The Artisan Corina) when a quilting friend brought her home for her to see my looms. Thankfully she’d been forewarned that I’m eccentric, and we hit it off quite well.

Her aesthetic is so different from my own (non-existent) one, as you’ll see from the images of her work that she’s shared with us here. Delicate shades of pastels and pearly hues, and an immense attention to detail mark her output. She’s also an ace at photography, so I’m thrilled to be able to show off her work at its best.

In addition, she appreciates the same sort of absurdity and hubris in human nature as I do, so we’ve chatted late into the night on many occasions.

When first it occurred to me to have a gallery of my favourite craftspeople, she naturally featured, and despite a brand new baby, she very kindly answered all my questions and supplied images. My attempts at illustrating her crafting story likely do not bring out all aspects of her creativity, but I hope they draw you to her. I’ve given her social media links at the bottom of the post for you to explore her oeuvre yourself.

How would you describe yourself?

A highbrow eccentric with an eclectic mix of belongings (material and otherwise). (laughs maniacally for a good 5 minutes)

No, I’m not all that. I’m a simple homebody who finds joy and peace in sewing, embroidery and most other forms of handicraft.

Why do you craft? And why the specific craft(s) you pursue? Was it a straightforward journey, something you always wanted to do?

I craft because working with my hands brings me joy, the repetitive nature of the work brings me peace and the predictability of the result keeps my anxiety at bay.

I craft because working with my hands brings me joy, the repetitive nature of the work brings me peace and the predictability of the result keeps my anxiety at bay.

The final product will maybe warm someone’s home and heart (I’m hoping, most times, since I generally give away most things I craft as gifts).

Flower pouches
Made for my sister’s engagement

 

I’ve always believed that life must not have space for regrets and that’s why I make it a point to try/learn everything I’m given a chance at. I started when I was 6 maybe. My father bought me a wool weaving kit (because I threatened to HELP him with some bits of a hand knotted carpet he was working on) and that was it, there wasn’t any looking back from there. My mother taught me to knit, crochet, sew and whatever else she knew. As simple as it sounds, it wasn’t always so. Raw materials and most basic crafting supplies weren’t easy to find. Oftentimes we’d have to substitute and improvise.

Are you a process crafter or a product crafter? Do you do it for the joy of making something, or to enjoy what you’ve made?

I’m a bit of both. It’s mostly about the process. As someone who suffers from anxiety and insomnia, I find the process very soothing. Also, I’m extremely critical of everything that I make (I don’t eat when I cook (laughs) and it’s not because the food might be horrid) so I don’t think there are too many things on the list that I’ve actually enjoyed.

What has been your most rewarding crafting moment so far? Can you reproduce it, do you think? Have you tried to?

I haven’t gotten there as yet. I don’t believe reproducing items interests me in the least, and to be honest I wouldn’t even try. I am a sloth!

What normally gets you down or stops you in your tracks when you’re in the middle of a project? How do you then overcome the hurdle or circumvent it?

MATH!! I’m horrible with numbers. Of course, my sense of direction would like to compete. Almost always, I calculate and recalculate before I cut for any project. With all the calculation and recalculation (this could last a few days) I have always ended up with pieces of fabric that make no sense when sewn together.

I then recalculate (laughs) and cut the pieces that have already been cut and sew them anyway. So the idea, the interpretation and the final product are always VERY different.

Has your craft changed you? In what way?

Yes, it has. Patience, calm and tired fingers it has gifted me.

Does your craft define you?

It is a large part of who I am, but it does not define me.

(Ed.: The bag above was made for someone in a swap, who later sold it. The buyer was Shamlu Dudeja, known for her role in reviving Kantha.)

Some advice you wish someone had given you when you were still in the beginning of your journey as a crafter?

I wish someone had told me that it’s OK to give up sometimes. That it’s OK to put down that crazily failed product into the prototype bin and move on. That doing and redoing the “imperfect” bits may not always give you the desired results.

That doing and redoing the “imperfect” bits may not always give you the desired results. That it’s best to start over sometimes.

That it’s best to start over sometimes. And, that being stubborn isn’t always good.

Are there still horizons for you to conquer? Which ones, specifically?

I can’t even begin with that list (laughs). There is so much out there to learn. First on my list, at the moment, is to learn to organise my workspace. Once I’ve conquered that, I can’t wait to travel and meet the world.

Mixed media mini quilt
Mixed media mini quilt

There you have my tiny snapshot of a crafter who amazes, enchants and inspires me. Before you go, I can’t resist sharing what might be my favourite example of her work.

 

Cross stitch owl
Cross stitch owl

You can find Rohinni on Instagram and on Facebook.

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