Do you still use quilts as blankets? Several women artists have woven their way to fame and have transformed old-style quilts into something new, creative, and thought-provoking.
By Shalu Chowrasia,
Bengaluru: About 40-50 women at Bilal Bagh are weaving a quilt to send it to Shaheen Bagh. The women call it ‘Aman Ki Chadar’ and have been sewing it since March 3. Zia Nomani, an activist who has been a part of the anti-CAA protests at Bilal Bagh, said, “All the ladies came together to sew the quilt with love, compassion, and inquilab on their minds.”
While the women at Bilal Bagh quilt to protest, Kalindi Gambhir, a quilt artist from Pune with 20 years of hands-on experience, earns her living by organizing and supervising workshops on quilting. Quilt artists, including Gambhir, are hopeful for their business as more and more people are willing to buy customized quilts today.
Vatsala Kamat, the owner of Tsala Studios, which takes bulk order for quilts in Bangalore, describes quilt as a three-layered fabric. “You put a quilt top, then you do batting or wadding, the material for it can be polyester or cotton, then you have a packing fabric; these three are sandwiched together. The decorative stitches on the top of it are called quilting,” she explained.
India held its first Quilting Festival in February 2019 which had over 4000 visitors. It aimed at the revival of Quilting in India by promoting Quilting as an art form and a commercially viable craft. It provided a common platform for Quilters in India, brought Indian Quilting to the International scene and brought quilting suppliers closer to the buyers.
Gambhir, who is a renowned face in the quilting community, told The Softcopy that although the literal meaning of a quilt is a warm bedcover, with modern technique and creativity, it has now become something new. She says that people have started recognizing quilt art as a part of their home decor. It is being used as an aesthetic alternative to the usual paintings and wall hangings.
Vatsala Kamat also emphasized on the scope of quilting. “Cushion covers, table cloths, mats, bedspreads, totes, and sling bags, people are buying them all. Once you quilt it, you can make it into a bag, a pouch, anything. Earlier, a quilt just had the purpose of a blanket. Now, it has taken a different shape where people have started decorating their houses with quilt art, like a quilt table runner. People also prefer quilt art as a gifting option. It is a long way from here but hopefully, our business will keep growing,” she said.
People unaware of the art are also interested in buying quilts if it is cost-effective for them. Aditi Alice Gunny, a 26-year-old, who has been living in Bangalore for over three years, did not know about quilt artists who take customized orders. She said that she would love to buy a quilt art for her house but will make sure that it is good in quality as well as cost-effective.
Kamat said that quilting is just to give a cushiony feeling. People used to put old clothes or saris to give that thickening. Then, the soft sponge replaced it and is still used as a raw material in the hotel industry quilts. She agrees that the recognized Indian quilt artists are all women and that men have not taken the initiative to be a part of the community yet.
“In the north, it is more of men who are into quilting but they do not recognize themselves as artists; they work hard during the winters. Down south it doesn’t get so cold, maybe that is why, people here have accepted the new form of quilts,” added Kamat.
She also points out that it is an expensive hobby. She says that she has taught about 100 ladies, out of which only one or two still practice it, by making quilts for their friends and family. She added, “Nobody that I have known has started their own business after learning from here. Our clientele is more of upper-middle-class; nobody really quilts to earn their bread and butter.”
However, Bishakha Raviraj, a Bangalore based artist, who identifies herself as a quilter and specializes in upcycling old rags, has a different story.
Quilt art has gained a lot of popularity in the last four years primarily because of the efforts the artists have been putting in to make their work recognized. India will host its second Quilting festival in Chennai in 2021.