Human Moods in Thread
Embroidery painter – Jaya V Chala
“Human moods in thread” was the name given to my art, by my best friend and late husband. Nothing could have been more apt, he was always good with words and creative concept, I am good at execution and together we nurtured my art. I started working on portraits when I was seventeen; I used to make flowers and floral patterns, before that. One day my brother challenged me to do a portrait. I took up the challenge and realized how much I loved working on it. Since then there has been no looking back, even after sixty years I still love to portray human moods in thread. The emotions, the expressions, relationships, age, experience, and much more, all reflected on the human face. To capture that in embroidery is my passion.
Since I have had no formal training in the arts, I am self taught artist using trial and error to learn. Back in those days, we did not have the internet and all the sources available to learn, as today. Thankfully I was married to a scientist, who had a deep passion for the arts… My art matured as I learnt to develop my creative eye, we would discuss about art for hours. In fact all my art books are his collections from all his travels. No matter how busy domestic life became, he would always push me to take out time for my embroidery. Thankfully my supportive family has always pushed me to be a better artist.
I embroider my art with cotton threads on cloth with help of an ordinary sewing machine. That sewing machine has worked for me for decades (fifty decades to be somewhat precise). Embroidery with sewing machine is not as easy as with hands, since you do not have control to move the stitches in a circular path. Skin has various hues of same colors and you have to keep changing the threads every minute, so patience and practice is the key. Sitting on the sewing machines for hours …and there is no eraser, so once the stitch is laid, it is permanent, you can’t remove it unlike hand stitched. A lot of people have asked me if my machine can do various fancy stitches – it is a very old machine and it was meant for a tailor to stitch clothes, nothing fancy. But I use it for embroidery. It is the most prized possession and I don’t let anyone use it, not even my kids.
I start out my work on a plain cloth, with a vision in my mind. I know what I am going to embroider, earlier I would sketch it on paper and keep it next to me. But now I don’t need it. I start with the eyes, so I have a focal point to work with and then the face, hair, clothes and the rest. It takes me easily 2-3 months to finish one embroidery painting.
For me this is not just an art form, it is the way to express myself. I love people and I have always loved to be surrounded by people. I try to look more into a face than what meets the eye, we all have a story and that one portrait is not a portrait about a face but about their story and somewhere we are all connected in this loop called life.
Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.
– Octavia E. Butler
Photography: Simi Jois.
Thank you Jaya V Chala Madam for sharing
your amazing experiences with us.
Special thanks to Simi Jois.
With Love & Passion
Smile Art Beats.