When I first embarked upon this journey, examining the marks in my tea-cup and ruminating through thread, I worked with digitally printed images on fabric. In this way, I used the photographed images to trace the marks with thread. After about three years of doing it this way, I thought that I would create the marks on fabric using tea-leaves to make actual stains, rather than working with stains in the tea-cup that I had photographed.
I made and drank tea and saved the tea leaves and tea bags and would dump them ad hoc onto white muslin fabric and pour hot water over them, leaving them for a couple of hours to stain. If that was not enough I would put the fabric with the tea leaves and some water inside a hot oven to bake them as it were, often ‘cooking’ them until the fabric started to char.
I was careless. I really did not care how I made the marks. Actually, I had never done this before, so I tried this and that and bumbled along. I loved the marks that emerged. I felt a certain empathy with them. They were evocative of what I had endured through life, what I often felt like: Burned, torn, stained and so fragile that all I seemed capable of doing was trying to make sense of what my life was and why it had turned out this way.
The fabric is stained but not. colourful.The fabric is burned but not yet turned to ashes, there is still some life in her. At first I was quite excited working on the fabric as it was, but then realized that it really was too much to handle all that darkness in one go. No matter what I did to the fabric it seemed to depress me, as if one could never transcend it.
But I persisted; I added beads and metallic thread and then worked with copper wire, using it as thread - covering it partially with a hundreds of half hitch stitches. Actually I made it up as I went along. I used a needle and thread, doing my own version which was more like a button-hole stitch. My intention was to add colour to an otherwise drab landscape.
Maggie, a textile friend from Australia was visiting and when she took a look, felt there was too much going on. However, at that point [end of March 2013] I was enjoying playing with the various materials, so I thought why not go over the top and for a while it was fun, but then I found myself staring at the work for days without wanting to pick it up and realized that it really had become too much to handle.
There was very little charm left in speaking to her, engaging with her. She seemed so spent through the grueling process I have subjected her to, that she gave me nothing back when I tried to engage with her. The marks had no story they wanted me to tell. Or maybe there is just so much that it’s too intense for me to comprehend? It’s as if she can’t care to explain the marks: marks which I created with my carelessness. All she does is to lie pliant in my hands, in total surrender.
I gave up working on the piece, but she was constantly in my mind – at the back of everything else that I did. Often, I would just look at her and wonder how I would ever find a way to tackle the marks again.
About a month or so passed by and another couple of artist friends dropped by my studio. It was through my discussions with Kathryn, a painter, from the US and Manisha, a potter, who works in Delhi, that all those thoughts found some re-direction - a way forward and that is where this journal starts.