I recently had the pleasure of learning about Anu Raina’s textile designs thanks to a comment she left on this blog.
Diversity is what makes the fabric of our culture (if you'll excuse the pun) so rich and vibrant. Anu is a prime example of someone who has transformed adversity in her life into something constructive and beautiful, channeling painful experiences and memories to create luxurious textiles and innovative pieces.
Different materials such as paper, puff pigment, silk chiffon, India ink, wool, magazine clippings, staples, and even poetry have been juxtaposed in Anu’s work, thus mirroring the complexity of life.
Not surprisingly, Anu has won many awards and scholarships, including an artist in residence position at the prestigious Harbourfront Centre in Toronto with a six-month scholarship.
Enjoy the Q & A!
Your work is very personal, even emotional at times. Where do you get your inspiration?
That is true. While making work, my hands follow my heart and one can sense that connection in my work. My inspiration comes from real life experiences and a strong urge to give an expression to them.
How did you get started as a textile designer?
With a Degree in Biology from Delhi University, I jumped into Fashion and studied Fashion Design from London College of Fashion in 1997, (London, UK). But something was still lacking. I needed to express myself better and show more diversity in the media I was working with. The Textile Design program at Sheridan College (Oakville) did just that for me. It helped me re-discover myself and introduced me to the conceptual and art side of designing. It helped me understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. I graduated with High Honours and the top Medal awarded by the Board of Governors Sheridan College in June 2010.
How have your life in Kashmir and/or move to Canada impacted your work?
The forced exodus of the community which I come from in Kashmir in 1990 and the every single day struggle that followed in settling down again away from home, left a deep impact on me. Canada gave me a chance to re-establish myself and gave a new life to my work and creativity. Although I derive a lot of inspiration from the rich craft culture of Kashmir, there is definitely a dark undercurrent to my work.
Your designs are very intricate. What techniques do you use?
I work very intuitively in layers, both visually and conceptually. I am able to connect with my designs at a very emotional level using text, mark making with simple hand stitches, free hand drawing and various printing techniques that I learnt at Sheridan. I kinda know where to stop.
Whose work do you admire?
I'm in love with the work of Canadian Fibre Artist Dorothy Caldwell, there is so much depth in her work, it leaves me completely mesmerized. I also like the way Caitlin Erskine-Smith uses text in weaving her fabrics.
What direction would you like to give your work from here?
I want to make clothing and accessories that people can cherish for a long time for their originality, flair and simplicity and that do not die an untimely death of a six-month fashion cycle. I would like to be part of LG Fashion week in Toronto some day soon.
When asked what else she would like to add, Anu had this to say:
I am deeply thankful to this country for giving me another chance and all the beautiful people I have met here.
She feels she owes a lot to Canada but with contributions such as hers, we are the ones who should feel lucky and enriched by her presence here.
Here are more samples of her work.
The B2 Spirit Jacket was an impressive undertaking where over 10,000 staples were used in making it. Anu admits she went crazy stapling and actually sprained her wrist. Now, if that’s not dedication...
This cool hand bag is another variation on the staple theme.
I LIVE IN NY is fabric (as seen above) that is available by the yard and is composed of silk chiffon, puff pigment print, and bees wax resist. This exquisite detail is what made me fall in love with it.
Despite the dark undercurrent to many of her pieces, her work can also be quite witty at times. Love her Splattered Milk Unisex Kitchen Apron (designed for men), complete with a printed recipe for a Mushroom Hazelnut Salad and the words - "And you thought I was only good in bed" - printed in bold.