“What Matters Most,” an Art Quilt

We live in an unstable time. A period characterized by shifts and unpredictability. The climate is changing all around us, leading to massive extinctions, erratic weather, natural disasters and the spread of diseases. We ourselves are stirring social dissonance, starting wars, fighting petty fights. What seemed normal only a few years ago doesn’t feel normal any longer. In a few short years, our lives have changed drastically, possibly for good. The only thing we know for sure is that we can no longer take anything for granted.

Before the pandemic, many of us were constantly busy. There were things to do, places to go to, tasks to check off a list. There were constant distractions. We didn’t have time to pause and think. Then, in March 2020, Covid swept the world and everything changed. All of our plans got cancelled. We weren’t allowed to get out of the house. Important tasks didn’t seem that important anymore. Suddenly, we had time. A lot of it. We didn’t have other things that we had before. Our priorities shifted. Everything about our lives did, too. Our schedules, the way we dress, what we eat, how we spend our time and with who.

The world isn’t what it was just a short time ago. Our lives are not what they used to be. We ourselves have changed as a result. We experienced collective and personal hardships and grief. In the last two years alone, I personally learned many lessons. I bet you, and many other people, did as well. Amidst the calamities of the last couple of years, many of us realized what matters most, and in some cases it was not what we originally thought. 

The Idea

The quilts in my State of Human series usually start with an idea, which I then translate into fabric. But sometimes it can happen the other way around.

When I created Disillusions, I ordered a pack of silk sari ribbon to create the rubble pile. The pack, which arrived in the mail, looked quite small initially, but when I untied it I realized it had way more ribbon in it than I had expected. There was something very alluring about that ribbon. Made of straps of various ripped saris sewn together into one long band, it had visible signs of a past life. There were different textures. Various shades. Discolorations. Stains. I could tell these pieces of cloth went places, witnessed things. I was curious about the women who had worn them and the lives they lived.

I cut out the pieces I needed for Disillusions, and then put the rest of the bundle aside. When I later looked at it, I realized it had a life of its own. It had a vitality, a kind of energy.

The silk ribbon was looped in a circle with an opening at the center. Lying on the table, it reminded me of an open curtain. That gave me an idea.

The How

Once again I posed for a photoshoot, manipulated the photo and printed it out. Then, I began to play with the composition.

Once I knew what I wanted, I fused the human image in place, and painstakingly cut strips of the ribbon to make a layered curtain. I sewed each strip separately, a process that took a long time.

The Why

The silk-sari-ribbon curtain represents, to me, the many layers of distractions in our lives. I sewed the strips in slightly different directions, to give the curtain some movement. Because life tends to always draw us in different directions all at once, doesn’t it? I liked the variations of color, the worn bits, the stains. Life is messy, after all, even if we want it to be neat and perfect.

The events of the last couple of years allowed many us to push that busy curtain aside, and see the truly important things that lie beyond. The essence of what matters most is different from one person to the next, so I left the actual view of what lies beyond the curtain for the viewer to decide. 

I now know, more than ever, what matters most to me. What do you see, once you push that curtain aside?


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