We have just had our fourth meeting with the women. The second meeting was rather disorganised as everyone thought that they were coming for a 'meeting' at 4, rather than a sewing workshop at 2. So after some hurried phone calls quite a few of them turned up and we were able to get some work done. They all seemed to have completely forgotten that we had decided on 2pm at the first meeting. It was several weeks before so perhaps they can be forgiven.
I have employed an assistant to work with me on these workshops. Mehzabeen (Bubbly) was one of the artists with the previous project, Dekha Undekha. She turned out to be one of the best participants, incredibly creative and a wonderful embroiderer. So I thought that this would be a good opportunity for her to be the mentor artist and to help run a workshop (plus her Hindi is obviously much better than mine) For Dekha Undekha she made some fantastic artworks. One of them was a cupboard full of stuffed, embroidered emoticons, a vision of her inner turmoil. She wanted to make two-dimensional computer images as three-dimensional balls, each representing an emotion, crammed together into a small space. The cupboard was her body, but also her crowded home and the densely packed neighbourhood where whole families live in a space the size of an average western bathroom. Bubbly also made a fabulous embroidered and appliquéd portrait of a pregnant woman and some wonderfully creative cloth food, both healthy and unhealthy.
Bubbly and I got together after the first meeting and divided up the map and made enough sections for all the women to have a part to work on individually. We will then join them all together at the end. It is all a feat of organisation, keeping track of who is doing which section, especially as different women turn up each time. Yesterday at the fourth session we had 7 new participants, so lots of juggling with map pieces and trying to fit everyone in.
In the second workshop we had the women trace the main features of their area. And then we did some practice embroidery stitches.
Yesterday we finally got around to transferring their markings onto the fabric. I had brought along white carbon paper and a couple of tracing wheels. Everyone was most intrigued with them, no one had ever used a tracing wheel before. My white carbon paper was too pale and weak to show up on the denim, especially as a lot of the jeans are industrially bleached (a terrible process of pre-aging jeans that is very harmful to the workers and the environment. Whatever happened to lying in the bath with your new jeans on trying to soften them. And walking around with jeans that stand up by themselves they are so stiff. It used to be the aim to have aged jeans, but only through constant wear. Ah how lazy we have become says the old girl.)
Anyway, I digress. So we sent Sumit out to the shop (just opposite) to get us some blue carbon paper. That worked much better. The resulting patterns look interesting in themselves even without the embroidery and appliqué to come.
We then looked at the maps and chose a fabric to appliqué the larger buildings. We are trying to keep consistency across the map, so the larger permanent structures like schools are being appliquéd in a green cloth. The women chose different coloured threads and stitches to attach the pieces. We are doing the whole map in blues and greens so that the sites of domestic violence, which will be in reds and yellows, will show up against the cool background.
We do have several women in the group who are themselves survivors of domestic violence. One of the women was badly burnt by her inlaws, with whom she still lives. That is quite common for the survivor to remain with the perpetrators. She is badly scarred and only has one eye. So I thread her needles for her.
On a lighter note the women brought back their samplers that they had been working on at home. It was wonderful to see their embroideries, especially the women who had no skills last year and are now really competent and very creative. I will post some pictures next time.