A stitch in time

A stitch in time

Crafting stories around everyday moments

Embroidery is an intricate art form that is both strenuous and elegant. Its early origins go way back to prehistoric times, and despite being an age-old tradition, it has quickly become an integral part of the contemporary world. Many artists around the world have found a way to express themselves through this art form. One among those artists is Anuradha Bhaumick, who channels her love and appreciation for everyday moments into her work, and weaves little joys of life in colourful creations. At IKKIVI Zine, we spoke to her about her love for embroidery, her approach toward her projects, the different perceptions people have toward this art, the role of sustainability in her creations, and more.

We deeply admire your beautiful and intricate work. We would love to know how your journey as an embroidery artist began and what was your inspiration behind pursuing the art form.  

I was taught embroidery at the age of five by my mother. I had chickenpox and was a hyperactive kid, which is a daunting combination, especially for the guardian responsible for isolating the child. I would wait for playtime every evening. My mom did not know how to quarantine me and did what she knew best. She gave me a handkerchief and taught me running stitch, chain stitch, and lazy daisy. Little did she know that she would have to spend the next three weeks trying to wean me off of it. I had forgotten about playtime even though I had recovered fully. I found a different kind of joy in embroidery. But my mom eventually did manage to make me go out. Between swimming lessons and growing up, embroidery took a backseat for me. However, I always had embroidery stuck in the back of my head. My mother’s Kantha sarees and her salvaging old sofa upholstery, raggedy pieces of denim, and faded school uniforms into unique jackets and other types of clothing really inspired me. I pursued fashion design for my bachelor’s and once again was reunited with my love for embroidery in the course material. But between having design jobs where the design direction is set in stone by international fashion forecasting agencies, I never really got to fully explore embroidery. By November 2019, I gave my resignation and started pursuing embroidery full-time.

Most of your work portrays everyday life in a myriad of colours and details. What made you want to make this your signature style? 

I find myself drawn to people living their best lives in their own safe spaces. Seeing people blossom without fear and gnawing worry of validation and criticism makes my heart twinkle. I admire and respect this feeling and want to shield it in any way I can. All my embroideries are mood boards for me. Everything I make, I aspire to be. As for colours, I draw inspiration from my garden I have grown from the ground up. The flowers, leaves, and fruits that grow in Olive’s garden are my inspiration, named after my pug, Olive. We were recommended this book called Colour Harmony when we were in design school. My mom bought it for me and reminded me repeatedly to milk every inch of it as it was pretty expensive. I only brushed through it once and felt like if you have to assign rules to colours, it steals the joy of it. Colours should represent current emotions, nostalgia, and what we want from the future. Not what someone else says is correct. That’s the wrong use of colour. And that’s pretty much my colour theory.

Could you tell us what your creative process looks like and how much time it takes to create the lovely embroideries for your clientele?

My creative process is a lot of notes on the Keep App, segregating bunches of different colours of thread together (adding and reworking my colours), mental sketches, and handwritten notes in my diary. I don’t make rough sketches. I have only made it thrice on request for clients, and it’s not something I enjoy. Once I have made up my mind, I go straight for the kill or the muslin, to be more precise. I draw with a black ball pen on muslin. And I draw with a washable marker for the parts I’m unsure about. But I only draw portions of my artwork. I always begin with the main subjects, such as people, their four-legged family members, furniture, sentimental objects, plants, and other items. I build as I go as my work is very intuitive. I can’t stick to one sketch. Even I can’t predict how my artwork will turn out until the very last hour. It takes me anywhere between 20 – 150 hours to create my pieces. The time is dependent on many factors, such as the number of details, intricacy required, type of stitch, number of colours, the number of times I would need to thread my needle depending on these variables, the size of my canvas if I need to paint or appliqué.

Is there any artwork that is special to you, and if so, can you tell us about the story behind it? 

All of my artwork is precious to me, but my ongoing series ‘Comfort Collages’ is appliquéd with fabrics that people have sent me from all over the world. Some fabrics belong to a mother who passed away. I am humbled by this kind of blind trust, when people give me their heirlooms. After all, who said fabric isn’t an heirloom? To say I am grateful would still not be enough. These acts of kindness remind me I am on the right path.

Your embroideries have made it all across the world. How is your artwork perceived in India and abroad? Is there a difference between the two spaces?

There is a huge difference in my audience in India and the rest of the world. Here, to bluntly put it, embroidery is looked down on. A lot of it is rooted in misogyny and misinformation. In India, embroidery, knitting, and fibre arts are perceived as women’s work and a sign of subservience. This is preposterous because the origins of embroidery have been recorded since BC and have been used by women to record history, reinforce clothing from royal robes to the armour of warriors, and even in acts of resistance by the women of Palestine through the Tatreez. These are just a few examples I can think of at the top of my head. If one would take the time to dive deep, one would know the history of embroidery is a story founded on empowerment, emancipation, and an essential life skill. People are so used to seeing the people in their homes do needlework, knitting, and crochet as unpaid labour that they equate it to busywork. Embroidery, knitting, and all kinds of fibre arts we so often see in India require expensive tools, fabric, and other supplies. It is a beautiful art form that needs to be held with respect and power. I want to see this change in real time in India. Not only for me or my contemporaries but for all the people working in ateliers, in the corner tailor shops, in homes, everywhere.

How does sustainability play a role in your projects? Are there any particular fabrics or materials you use to encourage the same? 

Sustainability is the core value of my practice. 99% of the fabrics I use for appliqué are from my mother’s kurtas. Why her kurtas, you must wonder. Because she is 4’11”, and store-bought kurtas never fit her. I have been collecting these residual fabrics for years from her tailor, post alterations. All the fabric you see in my art is from her kurtas. I have everything I need, from Jaipuri Indigo cotton to Thai silks and ikats, all from my own house. Over the past 2 years and a half of my existence on social media, I have been receiving bags of heirloom fabrics from all over the world and even deadstock fabrics from fashion brands. I am thrilled to receive these and figure out how they shape my art in the future and currently through my collection called ‘Comfort Collages’. Besides that, I believe all objects have a life of their own. Objects are treasure troves of memories, hurt, pain, nostalgia, romance, and a thousand more emotions to travel back in time. This belief dictates my work and life, and I only spend on what I know I will not be able to discard. In my opinion, Toy Story is not an urban legend but a documentary. Call me silly, but I love the things I own, and they are irreplaceable.

What advice would you like to give aspiring artists from your experience? And tell us about your plans for the future, as we are very excited to know more and support them.

From my experience, I would like to say experiment, don’t try to be neat, be messy, and emote! It is the advice I am giving to myself. I hope it’s good enough for someone else too. And most importantly, price your work well!

And I will be participating in exhibitions next year. I am dreaming up many silly embroidery dreams in my head, and if I make them, it will be mind-boggling. Unconventional embroidery placements are time-consuming, maybe which is why I am still procrastinating. If I make them, I will be very happy, and it will be a new chapter in my embroidery life or LIFE!


With Fatimah Asghar

With Fatimah Asghar

Conversations On the Versatilities of Art

Art as an expressive and symbolic system is often positioned toward itself (the art object), the artist (the maker), actualities (the world) or concepts (as ideas or possible states of being). The cultural and individual insights, of both makers and viewers, in works of art continually reveal to us the range of possibilities – of form and detail – that lie inherent in each art form. At IKKIVI, we had the occasion to speak with Fatimah Asghar on the various emotional, artistic, and intellectual processes and experiences that (can) underlay works of art. Discussing the characteristics and significance of different artistic mediums, she shares with us the particularities that influence and embody her poetry, screen-writing, experiences and projects.

Fatimah Asghar photographed by Cassidy Kristiansen

Are there any defining moments from your childhood and adolescent years that have shaped your artistic expression?

My entire upbringing and life really informs my work. A huge theme in my work is around orphaning—my parents died when I was really young and that’s something that has been such a huge influence over my life. I don’t think most people really consider how much of our society is formed and privileges the idea of family: so when you don’t have that, when that’s taken away from you early, you really see a different side to the world. 

Are there any poets, thinkers, writers, or artists whose works continue to resonate with and move you?

So many! I feel really blessed to live in a world where I get to constantly look around and be inspired by so many people’s art. Some of my favorite poets are my peers: Danez Smith, Franny Choi, Angel Nafis, Safia Elhillo, Morgan Parker, Hanif Abdurraqib, Kaveh Akbar, Justin Phillip Reed—the list can go on forever. I love Ross Gay’s work; I wouldn’t be here without Patricia Smith and Tarfia Faizullah.


Does an art form play a role in the development of the other art forms you engage with? If so, could you describe their interplay?

I am an artist that works across multiple genres. They’re always influencing each other and informing each other. I’m someone who really thinks about the thing that wants to be told before I consider its container. If there’s a line that comes to me, I just write what I feel and then decide what it is once I have the thing down: is it a poem? A screenplay? Prose? I think our art is often smarter than we are, and we just need to make space for it to tell us what it wants to do.

As even within writing your work spans across different mediums, what is the relationship between your poetic voice and screen-writing voice? In the same context, where does one art form end and the other begin?

I think that my poetic voice and my screenwriting voice are incredibly interconnected because they come from the same person. We’re all such multifaceted people, that contain a lot of depth and multitudes. But ultimately, since these voices and projects come from the same person, they’re inherently connected because they have that in common. I’m not a stickler for believing in different genres as different, I love the blending of things. And therefore, I’m not too concerned with the question of where one art form begins and one ends, because ultimately I don’t know how much that matters: I’m just interested in making art that feels true to me, that is authentic, that makes a home for myself and others.

Is there a certain process you follow as you write/ in your writing?

It’s all so different depending on the project. Sometimes it just pours out of me, sometimes it takes a lot of careful planning, sometimes I dream of a project for days, months, years, before ever writing anything down. I think what’s most important to me is just trying to stay open, and trying to carve out as much space where I can really listen to my own self and voice, rather than letting iit get jumbled with others’ opinions.

Poetry Book If They Come For Us

The poems in your book, ‘If They Come For Us’, look at emotions and pain in profundity. What was the experience of writing these poems like for you? Were there any recurrent thoughts you had, and emotions you felt, through it?

I wrote the poems in that book over the course of years, and many poems that I was writing at the time didn’t make it into the book. The experience was so varied—some of the poems are so painful, and those were difficult to write. Some are very nostalgic and joyous, and felt like such a breath of fresh air to write. When you write one off poems they stand on their own, but when you’re compiling them into a book you have to be really careful: what are the recurring voltas in the poems? Are those intentional or repetitive? How can you switch it up and add more texture throughout it? When they’re put together what poems become redundant and can be cut? What poems do you need to write to thread the themes you’re writing out better? Because the book has such a heavy theme of Partition, I wanted to make sure that I was being responsible: trying to not point fingers at anyone (because that’s actually just impossible when there were transgressions on every side), but trying to really contextualize that pain and history while also dreaming of a more peaceful future.

Still from series Brown Girls

How did the plot and idea of your web-series ‘Brown Girls’ come to be? Was it a story that you had developed and wanted to showcase or something you worked on exclusively for this project?

It just came out pretty naturally. I just kind of wrote and let the writing take me where it needed to go and be.

The show (has) received a lot of praise from the public and the fraternity. What have been the personal highlights or take-aways for you and the other creators from its success?

I think the main thing was to just always make your art, even when people doubt you. Film is so hard because it’s so expensive and there are so many moving parts, but you just gotta find a way to make it. And treat people well. It’s really important to me, and to Sam Bailey who was the director of the series, that our sets be safe for queer people, people of color, and women. So often sets are so unsafe for marginalized people. And if most sets are unsafe on a basic level for marginalized people, then what art and perspectives are getting told and prioritized? When you have to show up to work every day and fight under such extreme conditions to even be considered a human, how can you make your best art? For us it was really important to make our sets like the worlds we live in: centering queer people of color, centering our humanity and being—not just our bodies and aesthetic.  

Still from short Got Game

We enjoyed watching your short film ‘Got Game’. Could you tell us a little bit about how the film came about? 

I wrote the script and then directed it. It was my first time narratively directing something so I really learned a lot. I deeply relate to the protagonist, and it really came from trying to navigate being single after being in a really long-term relationship and just being really awkward and wondering why it seems so easy for everyone else. 

Your craft ties with and expands on social activism closely. Does art inherently embody characteristics of social change or development for you?

I don’t know that I can make grand sweeping statements about art on any level. I know for me; I write deeply about what I care about. I care about a world that treats queer people of color well, where queer people of color get to thrive, where people can be who they are without being crushed by white supremacy. I think everyone should care about that. And not care so you can make art about it, but care deeply because the world we’ve inherited is fucked, shaped by so much systemic racism, and it’s going to take all of us to change it, every day, every moment.

(How) do the dialogues on social media influence the way you approach your art or your work?

I go on and off social media a lot and have a very complicated relationship with it. I think social media is a really useful tool; I also think over-listening to social media will damage you as an artist.

Are there any projects you are currently working on? When do you think we will be able to see them?

There are, but I’m not really allowed to talk about them! I’m working on a novel right now, and so that’s on the horizon.

In the wake of the recent identity violence and protests that have outbroken, what do you think one could do to stay grounded in themselves while traversing through these tense conditions?

Again, I feel like this is really hard to speak about in generalizations because it’s so specific to each person. You have to take care of yourself to be able to contribute well to the world. And so, whatever is part of your grounding ritual is important to honor—whether it be meditation, prayer, making sure you’re eating, talking to loved ones. But also, it’s our duty to show up in solidarity for Black people, to combat anti-Blackness wherever we see it, to fight for a better world. And I really hope that as folks, particularly non-Black folks are emphasizing taking care of themselves, they’re also emphasizing showing up to fight against anti-Blackness and to be anti-racist in every single way that they can. Again, this is a long fight, and it’s going to take all of us to shape a better future.  

Fatimah was interviewed by IKKIVI. For updates on her future projects and strirring writings, follow her here.


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