Quilting: Why it needs to be established as an art form

Quilting is not new to India, but we often tend to box it up as a sustainable solution, only followed by our mothers and grandmothers, often overlooking its beauty

Ainee Nizami AhmediUpdated: Saturday, May 28, 2022, 06:49 PM IST
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Photo courtesy: Quilt Stories

When you think of quilting, one of the first things that come to mind is a blanket — a razai — that is probably passed on to you by your mother or grandmother. Usually made out of old saris and stuffed with cotton wool, it’s a comforting piece of clothing and an excellent accessory for those chilly winters.

Quilting is not new to India, but we often tend to box it up as a sustainable solution, only followed by our mothers and grandmothers, often overlooking its beauty. From intricate designs to multiple décor pieces, quilting has evolved in India.

At the forefront is the Quilt India Foundation, giving both the art and the artists the recognition they deserve. “One of our core objectives is to raise awareness of quilting as a textile art form. Globally there are multiple avenues for artists to showcase their work and learn from each other, but that wasn’t the case in India,” shares Varsha Sundararajan, Director — Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, Quilt India Foundation. The Foundation organises The India International Quilt Festival, which allows the community to get together and showcase their art form to the public. “Events like this give the artists confidence in their work that eventually allows them to expand their business,” explains Varsha.

Photo courtesy: Quilt Stories

Not a mere craft

Adding to Quilt India Foundation’s aim to shine the spotlight on the brilliance of the art form is Diptee Raut, Founder and Editor of Quilt Stories. One of the first quilt publications from India, the magazine aims to bring together the community and educate people about the art form. “I realised that we don’t have a magazine where people can share their experiences and expertise. People often look at quilting as a craft, but the idea is to have it recognised as an art form. While putting together the magazine, I ensure that we discover new artists, feature tutorials and help people understand that quilting goes beyond being a mere razai. It can be used for various décor items from runners, kitchenware, and even art pieces.”

For Saira, the founder of Lihaaf By Saira, quilting started as a hobby. “I stumbled upon some quilts on Facebook, and I borrowed a sewing machine from a friend, and that’s how it all began. Initially, it was a hobby, and I gifted everything I made to family and friends. They encouraged me to take orders and sell my products,” she shares.

Creating everything from bags, laptop sleeves, coats and home décor items, Saira feels that it is the need of the hour to have an art form that is so sustainable. “Quilting has been practised as a form of art and passed down from generations. Every corner of the country has its unique tradition of making quilts. The combination of

Photo courtesy: Quilt Stories

Indian textiles, fabrics and colours results in gorgeous creations that are appreciated worldwide. It’s the need of the hour that we reuse and recycle our clothing.”

Varsha adds that it is an art form that requires minimal tools and can be taken up by anyone.

Promote quilting

To keep the art relevant in today’s time, Varsha feels that the first thing consumers need to do is buy local. “Buy from creators and not resellers and avoid bargaining. You can also educate people about quilting by gifting quilt art to your friends and family. Or better yet, sign them up for a class and let them learn the art themselves.” Diptee adds, “I make quilts myself, and I often have people come up to me and ask why my prices are so high when Amazon sells it for much cheaper. People need to understand that a lot of effort goes into making quilts, As long as people recognise that there can be a great market for this art.”

Photo courtesy: Quilt Stories

Shivangi Pathak, founder of Jaipur Dremial adds, “Quilts are beautiful works of art that can be treasured for decades. I personally love quilts as they give me a sense of belonging (when I am around them I feel right at home). In Rajasthan and Gujarat, especially, the government is actively trying to promote the art form. Textiles play a major role in this industry and it also offers employment and generates foreign exchange for the country. At the end of the day, quilts are nostalgic and for that reason alone they should be preserved and loved.”

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