Saturday, November 15, 2014

Handmade Gifts: Table Linen

              As part of the handmade gift project ideas; here are some table linen that can be made using inexpensive canvas drop cloths, a stencil, some paints, and an afternoon. This project includes another one of my favorite things; culturally representative textiles that embody ethnic crafts and skills.

              This project was inspired by the traditional Tenango (literally meaning ‘stone neighborhood’) textiles hand embroidered by the Otomi Indians in Mexico. These motifs are believed to be inspired from ancient cave paintings and these creations narrate the history and everyday life of the people. Similar in look to the decorative and embroidered tribal textiles ‘Suzanis’ of Central Asian countries, the Tenango were textiles created specifically by the Otomi Tribe in Mexico.

              I personally love these textiles for the whimsical, magical, and quirky spirit it evokes. I love the saturated bright colors, the graphic plant and animal patterns, and the elaborate and intricate embroidery. I saw these textiles during my vacation to Mexico but did not buy any. But I am sure to try to pick up some of these textiles on my next visit.

             Wanting to recreate that look on a cheaper budget (till I can get my hands on the real deal); I purchased this stencil from the Etsy shop of OMGstencils. Using some canvas drop cloth which you can purchase cheaply at any home improvement store, I approximately measured out enough for a table runner. This is larger in size than a standard table runner but I wanted to use the entire stencil. I machine hemmed the edges and I was ready to paint. I chose bright and vivid colors and using a stenciling brush began painting. Be sure to mix in some fabric medium with your paints. That was it; simple! And the project went by quickly too. Instantly gratifying I must say. I also made a couple of napkins or these could be used as table mats and painted them in single colors. I love the larger size of this table linen and the bright colors will add to the cheery spirit at my holiday party.





                         My Inspiration: Traditional Hand embroidered Mexican Otomi textiles

              The modern translation of this traditional hand embroidery has been to develop these textiles using only one or two colors. This gives them a more contemporary look that melds well with current décor styles.

               Give this project a try. You can make pillow and cushion covers, table linen, floor rugs, wall hangings, cloth tote bags, and many more such easy things. Purchase any stencil you like from any craft and hobby store and make a handmade gift for someone or for yourself this holiday season. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Handmade Gifts: Coasters

You give but little of yourself when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give
                                                  ---Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

                 I cannot always express my emotions with handmade gifts. But sometimes I make a little extra special effort and a handmade gift to show how much I care. It is like a special gesture for your dear ones. The love and affection for the person is shown through the efforts taken to make the gift. The entire time I was making this gift, I was thinking of my friend and of what she means to me, I thought of what she might like and how she might use it, I thought of times spent together, and of times we will spend in the years ahead. As the years go by, I value how friends have becomes family especially as we stay away from our parents, siblings, and other family.

                 I like to give gifts that along with keeping in mind the receiver’s likes, also expresses me….kindof like a bit of me in the gift. A bit that represents my tastes, my skills, my interests, and my life.

                The festival and holiday season has begun rolling and we friends celebrate Diwali with a Diwali party, and I made this coaster set to give as a hostess gift to my friend.


            There are thousands of DIY instructions on the internet on how to make coasters, So I thought I would throw my bit in too  J. All you have to do is get some plain white tiles, cut some scrapbook paper to fit the tile and mod podge the whole thing a few times…and you are done! Did I make it just sound too easy?..…trust me it is actually that easy. 

Get a few inexpensive white tiles from the home store.

Cut some scrapbook paper to fit the top of the tile. My only tip for this would be to trace the outline of the tile on the paper and cut a little inside the lines. You want the paper to be a little bit smaller than the surface of the tile. I learnt the hard way that trying to fold the paper over the edges of the tile makes for a mess and not a very neat finish.


Then all you do is brush on several coats of mod podge over the tile and paper letting dry between coats.


It looks kindof milky when wet but don't worry it will dry clear.

Cut some cork roll to fit the bottom of the tile and glue that on. 

And you are done! An easy project that took only an hour.

The box was a lucky fit, so I mod podged that too. But the coasters gift-wrapped with some nice ribbon would be pretty too.

               It is not about how simple or elaborate your gift is that matters most, a heartfelt gift given always touches the heart. All through this holiday season, I plan to post little projects that can be made easily and given as gifts. I hope as you read these, it inspires you to give it a try even if you think you don’t have a single crafty bone in you. And that as you look at these blog posts you can think of someone it would be perfect for.
Happy Gifting!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Walking on Sunshine


              My friends and I are busy planning a tropical vacation for our families to take early next year. Thinking back on memories of my vacation to Puerto Rico and Mexico had me running to the albums to reminisce. Ah!....the sharp blues, the almost white sand beaches, the brightness as reflected by the water. Everything just seemed bluer, whiter, sharper, more color vivid.

             Inspired by that emotion, I painted this cabinet in shades of blue ‘Caribbean splash’ and ‘Bermuda’. And to denote the sand I used a textured paint in sand color called ‘Caribbean walk’ sprinkled in with some sparkles. How can you go wrong with color choices inspired from nature, right? Can you imagine yourself in a small thatched bungalow by the beach? Large doors and windows letting in the warm tropical breeze. White sheer curtains blowing in the breeze, lounging on the deck looking out to the ocean with a drink in hand that you just made at the bar that is housed in this beautiful blue cabinet. Well! That’s the picture I had in my head while making thisJ. Drawing inspiration from those vacations and the easy relaxed peaceful feeling that being in nature brings, I went with colors of the water and sand. The two shades of blue on the cabinet soothe and engage the viewer catching the subtle variations in shades of the water. The sand color with sparkles highlights and brightens the piece. All together I hope this piece reminds you of the exotic flowers and birds of the tropics, the lush saturated colors, and the surreal quality of the calm ocean.

             I like to think that my work is about relationships; the relationships of the colors, the art work, and the compositional details to one another; of the ideas and feelings that evoked it and what that in turn evokes; of me to the piece; and of you, the viewer’s reaction to all of it.

             My elderly neighbor gave me this bookshelf when she moved out. It had been hand built by someone in her husband’s family decades ago. In her memory and for sentimental reasons, I was reluctant to dispose this off. So it sat in my garage for almost 3 years. 

Here it is before:

             Finally I decided to change this into a cabinet of sorts with doors intending to use it as a bookcase. I had originally intended to put regular paneled doors and paint on it. But an inspired moment extended this into a learning project; Shaped Cutouts! I had been using a saw for regular cutting purposes only and with this project I decided to try cutting out shapes. So here’s a bird on a branch and an exotic hibiscus flower that I cut out using a saw, adding to the tropical look of the cabinet. I must say I am pretty proud of my first attempt. Can’t wait to try out other cut out projects. Though showcased as a bar, it is not very deep and would serve very well as a bookcase too.

I hope this piece encourages you to come take a closer look.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Udaan: To take flight, soar, to take off

Tundi-e- Baad-E-Mukhalif se na ghabra, ae Uqaab;
Yeh to chalti hai tujhe uncha udane ke liye.

                                                               ----Dr. Allama Iqbal

Translation: “You don’t get frightened of these furious, violent winds, Oh Eagle!  These blow only to make you fly higher.”

As Featured in the October issue of the Curated Magazine

DIY Table Makeover

Medium grit 80-120 grit sandpaper or sanding block
Latex paint color of choice, stain in color of choice
2” angled brush, stencil brushes, thin paint brushes, foam brushes if necessary
Stencil of choice
Antiquing medium
Acrylic paint in warm white and a dark brown color
Water based polyurethane
Rag cloths and paper towels
Painter’s tape
Temporary spray adhesive

How to:

1. Sand the furniture piece using a medium grit sandpaper following the direction of the grain of wood. Smooth out the surface and remove the varnish as completely as possible. Repair any scratches, damages, dents, and holes by sanding and using wood fillers as needed.
Tip: If the furniture piece is in fairly good condition and you intend to paint the piece, you can skip the sanding step. Just give the piece a light rub with a medium grit sand paper and clean the surface with a rag cloth. Then use a paint primer before painting with the latex paint in your choice of color.


2. I chose to paint the legs of this piece and stain the top. Using a 2” angled brush, paint the legs evenly following a single direction. It will take 2-3 coats to achieve a smooth even coverage of paint. Let dry completely between coats.

3. Before the staining step, tape off any painted surface to be protected using painter’s tape. Brush on the stain in the direction of the grain of the wood. Let dry completely.
Tip: The stain penetrates deeper and achieves a deep richer color depending on how long it sits on the piece. If you want a lighter color wipe off the excess stain with a soft rag cloth after a few minutes. Reapply if needed till color of choice is achieved.

4. Find the center of your piece or the place you want the stencil to be in. Lightly spray temporary adhesive on the back side of the stencil and position in place pressing down firmly. Dip the stencil brush in the warm white color acrylic paint and dab off the excess on a paper towel. Using a controlled up and down motion apply paint on the stencil. Repeat a second time if you want more coverage.
Tip: It is very important that the stencil brush be almost dry of paint. You do not want a brush loaded with paint as the paint will spread under the stencil. Do not rush this step and the results will be clear and neat.

5. For the antiquing process; mix equal parts acrylic antiquing medium with the dark brown color. Using a thin paint brush and apply this paste in the seams, grooves, joints, and any place that you want to draw attention to. Use a rag cloth to wipe away excess immediately. Work in small areas at a time.
Tip: If you like a very light antique look, use a wet rag cloth to wipe off as you apply. If you like a more aged look, use a dry cloth to wipe up after application. 

6. Using an angled brush apply two coats of a clear polyurethane to seal and protect all the work.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Jameela: Arabic; beautiful, graceful, lovely,
                   that which appeals to the senses, especially sight

I love ethnic designs and patterns, be it intricate hand embroidery from Netherlands, Balinese woodwork, Moroccan tiles, Spanish pottery, batik, Rajasthani mirror work, or innumerable other such precious heritage arts and crafts from all over the world.  The essence of a nation or its people can be felt in the art and crafts of that place.
In trying to explain my attraction for intricate, detailed, and meticulous patterns and design; I always feel like my genetic makeup, my roots, the energy and soul of the old world, and maybe even my past life conspire to feed my love for the old world, my attraction to saturated colors, my devotion for intricate patterns and striking architecture, and my craving for the ethnic.

This Moroccan inspired table was a perfect small dose to satisfy my longing and appreciation of the artistry and allure of the crafts from a place I hope to visit someday.
Jameela; a hand painted beauty, draws you into the deeply pigmented and patterned world of Morocco. In keeping with the distinctive trait of Moroccan décor, Jameela was completely hand painted.
Moroccan design is definitely not minimalist; the judicious layering, the strong influences of architectural shapes and repeating patterns, the divine finishes, and deep vivid colors indulge the extravagant and the desire for astonishing decor.
This table is meant to be inspiring; encouraging you to rethink, revamp, redo, and redesign an old piece to transport you to on an intriguing journey where richly decorated patterns and color abound. So here's Jameela, a little piece bringing the exotic world of Morocco into your home and life. 

closeup of the hand painted pattern

The before

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Look of Love

The look of love captured in the moment

              I was recently looking through my wallet and in there I have a picture of my maternal grandmother with her sister, both sisters looking at each other. The look of love that passes between them in that moment is something I can sense every single time I look at it. I wasn’t present when this picture was taken but this picture captures the love between them; it melts my heart, making it a touching moment for me, and it allows me see love a bit differently. Looking at that picture brings back memories of my grandmother’s gentle soul, her tenderness, and her resilient spirit.

             Looking at photos….nostalgia…the emotions….the connections….I could sit for days looking through photographs and reading old letters and cards. How lucky are we that what a photographer captured in a moment captures us over and over again allowing us to relive that moment from the past.

             Looking at that picture of my grandmother reminded me of another picture taken with my son, on my first Mother’s day. I still remember that moment; the look of love and shyness in his eyes as he saw me dressed up especially for the day and the emotion that I felt as I recognized his adoring eyes. I am specifically talking of those photos in which the photographer has captured the eye contact, a loving look, and the exchange of emotions between the subjects in the picture. I am talking of those photos that have caught a pure moment; a moment in which the eyes’ of the subjects sought each other’s, and openly expressed in the language of love and trust.

            As we go through the routines of life, remember to enjoy simple moments of love. Don’t wait for a perfect setting and time for love, every moment is perfect. So as the first anniversary of my blog approaches, which happens to be on Mother’s day; I want to celebrate my labor of love, I want to give thanks for the love and support of my family and friends, and I want to share some of my family pictures showing emotion captured in the moment…showing the love behind the emotions. In searching through my albums for photos that have captured the look of love in a purest moment, these hold a special place.

My ammamma and her younger sister

My son and I on our first Mother's Day

Amma, my son, and I at my home in India, on his first visit 

My daughter and I

            Please join me in recognizing photographs and memories that have successfully captured powerful and emotional moments, moments that convey those emotions and tell stories. Please share any photograph that is special to you and that has caught emotion, any kind of emotion, with a single camera click.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Shringar: (v); adorn, decorate, enrich, grace, ornament

Beautifully expressed in the eternal song
ThaaDe rahiiyo, o baa.nke yaar  from the film Pakeezah; Lata Mangeshkar, on Meena Kumari, sings:

mai.n to kar aauu.n solaah si.ngaar / (I will come, adorned with the sixteen embellishments)
ThaaDe rahiiyo, o baa.nke yaar / (Keep waiting, oh beautiful lover) 


               Shringar is a natural desire of a woman to enhance her appeal and attractiveness through the process of getting ready using clothing, makeup, jewelry, and accessories; adding a spark to her beauty. Shringar in an Indian woman alludes to the ritual of dressing up in which she embellishes her beauty from head to toe in adornments symbolizing femininity, fertility, and prosperity.

               Shringar in a traditional Indian woman is a reflection of her rich Indian culture, tradition, and heritage. A traditional Indian woman dresses up using components and accessories of beauty and attire that symbolize her faith, belief, culture, and value; and with her attire and accessories she symbolically carries with her well-wishes and blessings.

               Shringar for me is not about style and fashion, but about those things that add beauty and vibrancy to life.

               In this project I have tried to do just that, add a bit of spark to highlight the beauty in this piece of cabinetry. The merger of design and tradition in this piece was brought forth through simple ethnic Indian design, worked with a very fine tuned hand painted design. Just as an Indian woman with every step of shringar, adds to herself another aspect bringing out her inner beauty and charm; so did this piece with every brush stroke reveal its stunning beauty and wonder.

               In choosing my colors for the hand painting I drew from shringar of an Indian woman; the white color signifies purity, the red color is considered a sign of auspiciousness, joy, and happiness and the gold lends a touch of opulence and prosperity. The maharajah elephants add a sense of majesty to this piece. The richness of the final piece reflects all components of choices and decisions coming together.

               At the end of it all…no shringar compares to the beauty of a woman’s smile, reminding me that a woman’s beauty comes from more places than her outer appearance. The soft beauty, grace, elegance, and representation of cultural art in this piece serve to enhance its beauty in the admirer’s eyes. In working on this piece, along the journey, touching its depths with respect and admiration and appreciation for its beauty, I was rewarded with joy. Joy and pride and happiness.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mexican Arts and Crafts

             I am sharing with you a humble basic profile of some Mexican arts and crafts as gathered from my recent trip to Cancun, Mexico. The trip was a great experience overall—one filled with sun soaked days relaxing by the beach enjoying the stunning blues of the Atlantic, brisk water activities, a glimpse of the magnificent Mayan history at Chichen Itza, walks and interactions with local artisans and craftsmen, shopping at the local flea markets and bazaars, discovering tribal arts and crafts and the stories behind the work, excellent food and service, and of course many conversations with friends. And in this blog I would like to share some of those arts and crafts related cultural experiences with you and relive the vacation….sigh!

             One distinct symbol of Mexican arts and crafts is Mexican Talavera Pottery. This colorful form of ceramic art was introduced by Spain and was commonly called ‘Majolica’. The traditional blue and white designs show this old world legacy while the brightly colored floral and animal motifs in ceramics are classically Mexican.

              The resort I stayed at had offered a cultural experience to paint some Mexican pottery. They offered an opportunity to paint unpainted pottery pieces with a basic pattern already outlined on it. It was kind of like painting within the lines, which was then fired and glazed and returned to you the next day.


From this vast collection, I chose a small jewelry box of sorts.

I had so much fun with the jewelry box that I decided to paint a small fish bowl. I could have gone on painting pieces everyday…..

           After you finish painting, the guide then highlights and outlines the pottery with traditional patterns and designs. I asked my guide ‘Sebastian’ if I could do the highlighting in black. He quickly replied “I do, I do!” And grabbed the box from my hands surely not trusting me with that step.

           I am so glad he did that. His experience and heritage of making Mexican pottery and those steady black outlines and patterns lent it a touch of his culture and covered a multitude of my mistakes and made the entire piece pop giving it depth and dimension. 

            I am sharing with you all a picture album which along with pictures of the colorful pottery also has pictures of the other Mexican craft that fascinated me—the Mayan Masks. These masks are completely hand carved and painted or stained. The artists shared that it takes them about 2-3 days to complete one regular mask. Some of the larger ones take about a week long. The wood is soaked in water for a few days to soften it and then the labor intensive carving process begins. These hand carved masks portraying religious symbols and animals represent Mexican culture of the indigenous people. The local artists explained that there is no specific pattern or design to follow…the characteristics and shape of the wood suggest the direction of the final mask. The mask is then stained or colored using vegetable dyes. Skills are passed from generation to generation and the complexity and quality of the mask determines the price.

Hope you all enjoyed reading and browsing through my simple experiences of Mexican arts and crafts. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Comic Top Desk

I have been busy with my latest furniture project and I am soo excited to share this with you all. After dragging my feet on this piece for the longest time, I finally decided to just get to it.
I wanted a custom size desk in my son’s room and so I came up with this piece from scratch. Of course I didn’t build the cabinets! …but it’s as ‘from scratch’ as I could do at this point. J

The end result:

What I started with:

·       Unfinished stock kitchen base cabinets from Home Depot
·       High density MDF board

What I used:

·       Batman Comic Book
·       Mod podge in hard coat finish
·        ‘Gray Area’ color interior paint in satin finish
·       Knobs and drawer pulls

What I did:

·       Painted the cabinets
·       Cut hundreds of (felt like it at least) comic strips and images
·       Dry- laid out comic strips to satisfaction
·       Mod podged (don’t think that’s a word…but all crafters agree it should be) the strips one by one, layering the strips and images as appealing
·       Hard coated several layers for a hard smooth finish
·       Glued the top to the base cabinets
·       Attached the knobs and pulls

Important stuff to note:
This stock kitchen cabinet come in a standard size of 24x34.5x24. Though the width and depth are ideal for a desk, the height of 34.5" would make this too high for a desk. So I sawed off 4” off the base of the cabinet.  I also got the heavy high density board used for the top cut to the required size at Home depot itself.

Picture snapshot:

And with this comes the realization that the possibilities for applying this idea and technique are endless….