Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Zen Mandala Wall Art

“It is only in still waters that a reflection can be seen and with it comes clarity, peace, and understanding.” -----Ancient Zen saying

            My middle school and high school years, I had a mandated subject twice a week called S.U.P.W. The girls and boys were separated; the boys were taught by a male teacher and they got to try their hands at electrical circuitry, mechanical things, automotive models, carpentry, and other such stuff and we girls taught by a lady teacher got to try our hands at cooking, flower arrangement, sewing, stitchery and other home economics stuff. For this blog post I won’t even get into the gender stereotyping so obvious here as much as I want to rant on that! Arrr! Anyway….

            And all through my middle school years I never knew what S.U.P.W stood for and had somehow never asked to know either. Somewhere in the 9th grade I found out it stood for ‘Socially Useful Productive Work’. Honestly, in middle school I started out loving it; I learnt basic stitches, completed some linen work, learnt crochet, knitting, lace work and tatting, weaving etc. to name a few. And I have memories of the teacher letting us sit out in the hallway while we practiced our stitches and completed our pieces. And I was the teachers’ pet and good at all of it. Smug smile here. 

            In high school I changed schools and even though I still loved learning all of these crafts and skills, my time in that class wasn’t very ‘productive’. And it was here that we started calling that subject ‘Some Useful Period Wasted’. It was a combination of things; the teacher, the dynamics of the girls, the boring projects we were asked to do, and etc. Still I was the teachers’ pet and things came easy to me… a wider smug smile.

            The point I am trying to make is that early on itself we all get an inkling of our tastes and directions that call out to us. But very few of us recognize and acknowledge it. We all struggle so much trying to run after what we think would be good monetarily and of an acceptable social standard. Our experiences and interactions are a very important component of the decision making process in pursuing our calling. We rely on guidance and an outside opinion to reinforce our internal thoughts. It is not easy to reach that point of conviction where we know exactly what we want. Very few of us have a dream that we are very sure of. The rest of us are plagued by doubt every step of the way and an uncomfortable feeling where nothing else seems to make us happy. I am one of the latter. Again I am not going to get into the complexities of that thought. 

         I am very much at peace now having finally dared to recognize and acknowledge what makes me happy. How to make a living with it is a whole another matter. Digressing again….

           So a feeling of peace and satisfaction was most forefront in my mind and being the entire time I worked on this project. Mandalas elicit a sense of balance and peace, the basic image bringing a sense of goodness when gazed upon. The harmony and repetitive symmetry of the mandalas promote the self-reflection that brings the ‘ah ha!’ thought. As with every project I do; and in this case somewhere along the stitching of these patterns and the repetitive stabbing and pulling of the needle and thread through the canvas, all noise and clutter gets muted and honesty and truth of feelings and thoughts and ideas comes forth. Almost a meditative state for me.

            It is always a goal of mine to try to interpret skills and crafts in a new and modern way. This is an unique mandala stitchery on a large canvas. There are multiple mandalas existing in harmony; each significant and prominent on its own and also being part of the whole. The layering on this piece began by prepping the canvas with some luminescent paint for a neutral glow and sheen. For the next layer I stenciled some patterns using metallic paints. On top of that the mandalas were stitched, each one in hues of the same color shade. I added a few geometric mirrors for some positive reflection and also as a final layer of interest.

           I hope you see peace and clarity in this piece. I hope you feel peace and clarity when you see this piece.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Madhubani Lampshade

Madhubani Paintings

           Readers, I am thrilled to be sharing my latest project with you all! My personal exploration of madhubani paintings has been an absolute pleasure and I am very pleased with the way this project turned out.

           Madhubani paintings, also known as Mithila paintings literally translates into “forests of honey”. Forests of honey…how sweet does that sound! Actually I love how all the traditional arts and crafts translate into these beautiful phrases with so much meaning and depth…my previous project Gond painting….‘painted stories’ and madhubani art..…’forests of honey’. 

Here is my Madhubani project.... A neat little lampshade isn't it!

          I started out with a plain lampshade which was covered in a handmade paper sort of material. 

               Madhubani is a rural form developed by women from Mithila, an area in the state of Bihar, in India. Madhubani or Mithila Paintings as they are called, are said to have originated during the period of Ramayana, when King Janaka commissioned artists to do paintings during the wedding of his daughter, Sita to Lord Ram.

            A significant identifier of Madhubani paintings is the fact that there is hardly any space on the painting left uncovered. Another identifier is the double lines used. The outline is done with double lines; the gaps between the lines are sometimes filled with lines. Typically the paintings will also have a margin or a border, but this too will be embellished with geometrical patterns, or flowers or other motifs. The colors are bright, vibrant and eye catching. There is very little shading in the paintings.


              The coloring is of two styles- Kachni (hatching) and Bharni (shading). Kachni uses delicate fine lines to fill the painting and not much color is used. Bharni uses solid colors to shade and fill the pictures. It uses black outlines filled with vibrant colors. 

            These paintings traditionally based on mythological stories, folk themes, and religious symbolism depict events of birth, marriage, and cycles of life. These paintings of nature revolve around a central theme of love, valor, devotion, and fertility. You will find scenes of courtship, marriage, and symbols of fertility and prosperity like fish, parrot, elephant, turtle, sun, moon, trees, lotus, etc. in prominence. Hindu gods and goddesses are a common theme in madhubani paintings. 

            Almost anything can be used to paint them; finger, pens, twigs, matchsticks, and brushes.  Cloth, handmade paper, silk, canvas, and walls in houses were used as surfaces for these paintings. The Kobhar (walls of the nuptial room) were decorated with these paintings to bless the newlywed couple. The colors for the paintings are natural dyes derived from the vegetation found in the forest and other natural substances. Charcoal and soot is used for black and rice powder for white. Yellow color is extracted from turmeric, red from sandalwood, blue from indigo and so on. This painting style and the natural colors used give Madhubhani paintings a raw rural charm and makes this style so popular. 

Didn’t my project turn out great?!

It is important to note that:
A traditional art form passed down from one generation of women to another; very few of the painters consider themselves as artists. Madhubani paintings generally carry no mark of the creator. Sadly, several styles and schools of Madhubani painting have become extinct, as there are no practitioners of those styles anymore. Madhubani paintings began to receive national as well as international attention around the 1970s, with many Madhubani artists’ receiving national awards. National and international art markets began to recognize and create a demand for these vibrant and intricate paintings. Art Houses have developed in the state of Bihar, which mass produce Madhubani paintings to meet the demand for them. However, this business model does not recognize the individual artist and the focus is on the art house.

My reference and study for this write up and all the specific information on these paintings was sourced from:

Other web pages to peek at for some madhubani pieces:
google image search: madhubani paintings, madhubani art