Intricately embroidered landscapes, portraits and messages on mental health. Five artistes who kickstarted their love for the art form this lockdown
In the last few months, you might have perfected your grandmother’s rich chocolate cake recipe, mastered the push up and perhaps even completed that long list of ‘must-read’ books lying on your shelf for ages. But here’s a group of people, some newbies and others who have quietly revisited the art of embroidery this lockdown. Like actor-writer Twinkle Khanna, who had learnt to crochet and embroider as a child, and has been spending time making hoops with her children. If Google trends are anything to go by, terms like ‘embroidery’, ‘paraffle embroidery’, ‘embroidery frame’, among others, have been receiving an tremendous increase in searches not just in India, but worldwide. We take a look at five individuals who have gone a step further and turned their art into a lucrative business.
Empowered, with mum: Aditya Lavanya of Thaiyal, Nagercoil
Floral wreaths, a boat in a lily pond, vibrant butterflies and several intricately hand-embroidered landscapes are the speciality of this mother-daughter duo. Thaiyal (with a dual meaning in Tamil — stitching or a beautiful, empowered woman), was kickstarted during the lockdown by Aditya Lavanya, 23, who wanted to kill boredom with art. “Lockdown has taken a mental toll on everyone and art is our escape,” says the architect, who learnt embroidery from her mother, Meera Bai P, a professional artiste. Today, they spend close to eight hours a day working on orders and they’ve also crafted an adjustable hoop stand in-house. “We draw inspiration from nature and photographs, use fabrics like net and organza and techniques such as the fly stitch, French knot or spider stitch,” says Lavanya, who has sent out nearly 40 orders so far. Starting at ₹950 for a 6” hoop and ₹2,500 upwards for a 12” hoop. Stand costs ₹600. Details: @thaiyal.by.aa
Documenting the everyday: Manvi Gandotra, Bengaluru
A few months ago, the photographer and new mother revisited embroidery and started documenting everyday things with the art form: flower vases, a cycle and even a broom and mop. Soon, she started embellishing her nine-month-old daughter’s dresses with colourful flowers and fishes. “I’ve created over 50 hoops ranging from three to 12 inches. I embroidered the cover of my favourite book (Anne of Green Gables), a flower seller at Kashmir’s Dal Lake, and more,” says Gandotra, who also designed an embroidered poster (on Covid-19) for Jaipur’s Nila House. She is now hosting online workshops (₹1,500- ₹2,500) for beginners. “They are sent a starter kit and a two-hour online session covers basic stitches and to complete an art piece by themselves,” says Gandotra who is hosting an embroidered tote bag workshop on September 6. Hoops at ₹4,000 upwards on Instagram @manvigandotra.
Fighting stereotypes: Naushin Kaipally, founder, Baari, Kerala
Smashing stigmas through embroidery is the forte of this textile designer and artist. A NIFT graduate, who was first introduced to embroidery during college, returned to the hoop in April this year “to cope with the anxiety caused by the rapidly changing world”. Titled ‘Breaking Stereotypes, One Art at a Time’, her project spreads awareness on issues such as menstrual health, body positivity and the importance of mental well-being. “We weren’t born with these insecurities, they are given to us by the world we live in. I am using my art to turn people’s attention to such issues that need to be addressed. The media, modelling industry have shaped our minds into thinking that there’s something wrong with our body the way it is naturally. It’s time we set ourselves free from those thoughts,” says Kaipally, who also delicately embroiders on dry leaves, twigs and paper in her series, ‘Grow Unapologetically’. “It’s based on the belief that one should never stop growing and working on themselves no matter how bad the past was. The twigs are stitched onto paper,” says the artiste who spends 10-15 hours on a hoop and also customises embroidered portraits. From ₹399 to ₹2,499. To register for her hand embroidery workshops (held every Saturday) log on to naushinkaipally.com.
Drawing from nature: Rabari Artisans at Okhai, Ahmedabad
“Hoops used as art is a new concept for traditional Rabari artisans, from Gujarat’s Okhamandal region, as this is usually a tool they work with and are not the end product,” says Kirti Poonia, who heads the craft platform that cashed in on the popularity and started retailing hoops a few months ago. With designs of cactus plants and bright blue skies, it is evident the artistes draw inspiration from nature. “It is what the world is craving right now. We want to bring home the scenery we are craving,” she says, adding that if embroidered non-stop, one woman can design a hoop in two hours. “However, embroidery is always done like meditation, in small sittings of 10 minutes or as a break in between household chores.” Raw materials are provided to the artisans at home and hoops are priced between ₹550 and ₹700. On okhai.org
Picture perfect: Sandhya Radhakrishnan, Sandy’s Craft World, Kerala
The former HR professional decided to use her days in lockdown to turn her love for art into a profitable venture. “I started with bottle art and soon transitioned to embroidery hoops. Since I knew stitching and the basics of embroidery, it was easy to learn,” says Radhakrishnan, who looked up YouTube tutorials to perfect her technique. When a follower on Facebook requested her for a portrait, similar orders started coming in and this helped her find her niche in embroidered portraits. “They are usually done using black thread, but I decided to use coloured ones. Even though embroidery is traditionally done on poplin cloth, I have been experimenting with canvas and collar canvas.” She works with 10”,12” and 14” hoops. ₹1,000 onwards. Sandys Craft World on Facebook