Tag Archives: inspiration

Hand-stitched style: All the rage!


In our age of machines, where IKEA rules and one-of-a-kind is a descriptor more often used for children’s refrigerator artwork than for home deco, it’s interesting to see that there is always an undercurrent of resistance. The insistence on handicraft in its truest sense, where every stitch really was made by a human…like the olden days.

But don’t call handicraft old fashioned! Hand-stitched is all the rage! Check out these artists, who have used their creativity to make a living, as our artisans do – one stitch at a time.

This pillow was hand-embroidered by Christine Dinsmore, of Plumed (who has been a guest on my column here). Because each pillow is handmade, Christine can replace the word “love” with a person’s name, or even the outline of your own children’s hands – you just have to send her a photo file to work with. $49 on Etsy.

Sam Gibson, from Northamptonshire, England, makes a variety of handmade “hangables,” including this wall plaque. “A lovely gift for the pretty thing in your life.” $45 on Etsy.

Check out this detail from “Empire State Building” by Peter Crawley! Crawley is another U K-based artist who has become known for creating hand-stitched illustrations with impeccable detail. And you’ll have to pay a pretty penny (er, pound) for it too: this one goes for £675.

The work of 25 year-old artist Inge Jacobsen focuses on the transformation of found images through embroidery, cutting and collage. “I started collecting fashion magazines knowing that I wanted to work with that sort of imagery, I just needed a way to intervene into them. I had found some embroidery pieces from my school days in Denmark when I was moving to university and thought that that would be a great method to use,” she says in an interview on her site. Prices vary but are also worth a pretty penny.



What does Sisterhood Mean to You?


I’ve never had a sister. When I was younger, I adopted friends and called them sisters, as I am sure many girls in the same situation do. “Love you like a sister,” I’d say — back when that was the cool thing to say. I wore necklaces and charm bracelets with half-heart pendants, the other half exchanged with love with one of my closest “sisters.” Sometimes I even argued with my friends as if we were really sisters, bickering over chapstick flavors and whether Ricky Martin was cuter than any of the Backstreet Boys.

Although I’ve grown out of both chapstick collections and charm bracelets (but never Ricky Martin!), I am still enamored with the idea of sisterhood. In fact, just this weekend I wrote a note and signed it, “love you like a sister,” without the faintest remembrance that “LYLAS” used to be all the rage.

When I stumbled upon this anecdote by Monica Gabriel, a young woman blessed to have five blood sisters, I felt a keen awareness of the potential universality of sisterhood.

In her blog post, reflections on fighting over a solitary bathroom quickly dissipate into memories of “whispered soul-baring after the lights were out.”

Then comes a word of hope for the sister-less; a bit of encouragement for me:

“And the most important thing [sisterhood] taught me is that this love can be shared. I have come to see how easily sisterly love can thrive within all of our female friendships.”

In the end, as if Ms. Gabriel were speaking to the Anchal sisterhood, she poses the very challenge that fuels this fall’s new line of scarves:

“Imagine if this sisterly love could be extended, even in its most basic form, to women we have less time to develop friendships with.”

Perhaps we don’t have the time, or the resources, to journey to India and meet our soul sisters. But, they are there. On the other side of the world our sisters are stitching scarves and quilts and pillows that will be sold here in the States just weeks from now. They are thinking of us, women they have never met, as their fingers move gracefully over the recycled sari material. They are extending their love, knowing that somewhere, across the Earth, someone will accept their offering and in some small way, adopt a sister.

Supporting the Anchal artisans is an act of love. I am so glad to be a part of this sisterhood!

Share your thoughts on what sisterhood means to you below.


5 Reasons We Love Pinterest

  1. Let’s you be creative. Create and name your own boards. Organize them in away that shows people who you are.
  2. Yummy eye-candy everywhere! Since it’s image-based, there are so many pretty and inspiring things to pin up; the possibilities are endless.
  3. You get to curate. Just like an art curator, you choose what’s relevant, worth showing, and how to present it. People can see your pinning taste and decide to follow you or not.
  4. It’s very easy to use. If you don’t have the mobile version, I highly recommend it. Finding stuff you love and pinning is as simple as 1-2-3.
  5. Great design, from visual to user experience. The Pinterest team has really mastered the art of delightful and easy pinning.
If you haven’t already, check us out on Pinterest
Happy pinning!

VOICE 4 Girls


While in India I had the pleasure of working with three lovely ladies who piloted the first fellowship the year before my co-hort. Allie Gross, Averil Spencer and Ilana Shushansky co-founded Camp VOICE after receiving a generous grant from the Nike Foundation.  The three women were struck by the large inequalities in opportunities for girls as compared to their male counterparts while working in low-income schools in Hyderabad, India. VOICE stands for Vital Opportunities in Creative Empowerment, and its goal is to improve the livelihood opportunities for girls from low-income communities by addressing common challenges girls face with regards to education and employment. VOICE is comprised of a 4-week summer camp for girls, and it blends learning with doing through an interactive program focused on communicative English and gender empowerment. The camp curriculum is designed to be replicable across developing countries where the need for female empowerment is great. 

Girls participate in a workshop.

VOICE provides an 18-unit workbook for counselors and campers. It was created after a pre-camp assessment of English and life skills knowledge of girls in grades 7-10. The book has English grammar lessons yet also highlights important like skills, such as safety, harassment and changes in body. Camp also consists of “enhancers,” such as medical check-ups and field trips to meet working women at institutions like Deloitte and Google.

Girls show off their mehndi, a temporary form of skin decoration that is tattoo-like yet not permanent.

In its first year alone VOICE reached 450 girls in Hyderabad. Eventually they want to expand to other developing countries outside of India.

In the words of one camper, “Girls are stronger than boys!”

To learn more about VOICE visit: www.voiceforgirls.orgwww.youtube.com


An Exclusive Interview with Indian Designer and Illustrator Shilo Shiv Suleman


“For Sex Workers, I Think Art Can Be Deeply Healing:”

We came across Shilo Shiv because one of our friends was shooting a documentary on her story and life. We were blown away. Shilo is wise beyond her years. At only 23, she’s given a TED talk with over 800, 000 views, illustrated a dozen children’s books (her first at the age of 16), and released her own interactive fantasy iPad app called Khoya.

In an exclusive interview with Anchal Project, she gives us a peek into her brilliant creative mind and her thoughts on design, art and magic in today’s world.

Q: How do you believe design and art can create social impact?

I think design and art impact society in two ways. The first is obvious: every campaign or social cause needs iconography around it that becomes it’s driving force through society and social media. I really felt the power of this when a poster I designed for a campaign against women in India being beaten up just because they wore jeans or drank a beer. It went completely viral and got over 70,000 people on that Facebook page.

When I was 18, I started a group called Artivism where we’d do pro bono graphic design work for NGOs we believed in. Art and its relation with the community is something that fascinates me as well. A few friends and I started a group called the Bangalore Wallflowers where we’d get together with non-artists over the simple act of painting a wall and reclaiming a community aesthetic. On one level, the wall was prettier and the neighborhood restored. On another level, however, a lot of people who were afraid of taking action, afraid of leaving a mark, afraid of paint on a blank wall could finally begin to get over their fears.

The second way is on the subtle level and I find it most interesting:

Beauty is as functional as breath. I’m starting to really feel like just creating beautiful objects that are true to us and our subtle nature is so important.  In a world where we’re driven by usability, functionality, fast food, cars and connections, I think there’s an increasing need for creators of beautiful things. We need more moments to appreciate things beyond their function, moments where beauty is both the means and the end.

Q: We work with sex workers from slum & red light districts areas. What role can magic play in marginalized and poor communities?

I was traveling through the salt deserts of Kutch district [Gujarat state of India] earlier this year. It really came as a bit of a revelation to me that in rural spaces like Kutch and Rajasthan [State of India], beauty and magic aren’t a luxury of higher classes, but is essential to life. Every house is painted, every skirt is stitched with love and care, every woman would weave her own dowry. And this was our wealth, our abundance: beautiful things. In villages, until late at night Satsangs [i.e., communal gatherings] go on, there are shadow puppets and dancers and it’s all just for the community itself. This too is magic.

When we move into cities somehow the poor/marginalized living in slums and surrounded by such a vast and vulgar display of economic disparities lose a little of that. I feel like urban setups make one constantly dissatisfied: beauty and magic become a luxury, movies are only really enjoyed if in fancy multiplexes. I find this quite sad.

I feel like we need to move back and disconnect magic and beauty from wealth and reclaim magic as a right.

Particularly in the context of sex workers though, I really think art can be deeply transforming and healing. Nothing has healed me, no “guru” has taught me, like my art has.

Q: Who is your greatest female mentor? How have they inspired you?

Apart from being one of the artistic inspirations in my life, my mother has also brought both me and my brother up on her own and through her art. I think that’s always been a pretty big encouragement to me, that a family can be run on pigment and pixel, that one can survive all hurdles as long as one’s love for one’s work keeps one going.  And that kind of trust in art and one’s love for it has really been the biggest influence.

“Let the Beauty of What you Love be What You Do,” said Rumi, and because of having my mother’s influence around me, I’ve learnt to trust that completely.

Thank you to Shilo for inspiring! Follow her incredible work:

Blog, Facebook, Twitter, TED talk


The Place Where Design Can Save the World: Thoughts from women in design


I’m working on a new project. I’d like to call it “Design Sponge.” But…that name is already taken. Really, though, the moniker perfectly encompasses my goal of reaching out to women in design and learning just what motivates them to become movers and shakers – not only in the design world, but in the world world. I am a sponge. Soaking it up…

“Start small,” Maria, my fellow Anchal contributor advised me. “Approach some women and just ask for a couple words of wisdom. Just one question, for example.”

I took Maria’s words to heart. Last week I got in touch with four inspiring women who have embraced social change as an integral part of their designs and I asked them one simple thing:

In two sentences or less, please paint a picture of what these words mean to you: Design + Social Change.

The responses I got were incredible! Give a designer constrictions (like a two sentence limit) and she’ll blow you out of the water. “Take that!” she’ll say as she whips up something amazing out of nothing.

I’m so glad to share the work of these four women with you. Here’s hoping you find inspiration in their words.

Cori Magee is a designer of graphics and interiors who shares her creative inspiration on her blog Pretty Haute Mess. Optimism spills onto the page of this lovely collection. As she puts it, she is “living a dream” – as in the kind that “we can wake up from and continue to experience in real life.”

When I asked her about design and social change, she said:

“I think social change happens when people are honest in expressing their beliefs. Design helps all of us learn how to express ourselves, unleashing creativity and progress.”


Christine Dinsmore is the owner and artiste-extraordinaire at Plumed,an online collection of adorable hand-stitched pillows.

I was immediately attracted to her blog, The Plumed Nest, because of the connection of hand-stitched textiles to our artisans’ work. When I wrote to Christine, I got a response that made hearing from her even more meaningful.

“Before I became a designer I was a director at a domestic violence shelter,” she replied. “We had a lot of immigrants in our shelter and I learned not only the dynamics of domestic and social violence in America, but around the world as well. Needless to say it is a cause close to my heart.”

Here are her thoughts on Design and Social Change:

“I think anytime we partake in the process of design, whether that be figuratively: redesigning ourselves, our lives or our way of thinking, or literally: designing organizations, products or art, we are partaking in social change. As with everything that we do, what we put into the world can have an impact on others. I find design has historically been, and continues to be, one of the most inspiring and creative ways to effect social change.”

Next up, a word from Kara Eschbach, Co-Founder, Editor in Chief, and Publisher of Verily Magazine. Kara comes from a business background, having worked for Credit Suisse’s secondary private equity fund and accruing experience in corporate finance, accounting, consulting, and investment banking before launching Verily Magazine.

Verily responds to the social narrative that would “manufacture” a certain cookie-cutter image of the modern woman. The magazine’s writers seek to “start a new conversation” especially for women who are looking for a “fresh take on life” – one that is “uplifting, affirming, and true.”

Be sure to check out the Verily blog, where you can learn more about the writers’ goals and subscribe to the print magazine. There is a full teaser issue online, with an article I found especially poignant for Anchal readers called Between Two Worlds, by Areej Hassan. Read it here.

Here’s Kara’s take on design and social change:

“Good design is elevating: from a simple but elegant engineering solution to breathtaking works of art, good design just makes life better and has the ability to reach people’s hearts. When that ability to communicate is harnessed, it can be a great catalyst for change: changes as big as providing jobs that allow women to leave exploitative work to something as small as making someone a little happier because the world is more beautiful.”

Finally, I spoke with Jeanette Nyberg, founder of Artchoo, a site dedicated to compiling resources for parents to find “wonderfully-designed products for their kids, art supplies and lesson plan ideas, and inspiration to make life with kids super-creative.”

In response to my email, she enthusiastically remarked that “I’ve never thought about design and social change in such depth before, so I am doubly fascinated by the whole concept now.”

She believes:
“Where design and social change intersect is where simply buying a lovely item for your home turns into helping to effect a positive shift in how people live and think. This is the place where design can save the world.”

Amen, sisters!


Investing in Survivors


‘We do not invest in victims, we invest in survivors…’

Those are the words from reporter Gayle Lemmon’s Tedx talk – words that match Anchal’s thinking and goals about the power of investing in women entrepreneurs all over the world.

“Gayle is the New York Times best-selling author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana and the deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program. Prior to joining the Council, Ms. Lemmon covered public policy and emerging markets for the global investment firm PIMCO, after working for nearly a decade as a journalist with the ABC News Political Unit and ‘This Week with George Stephanopoulos.’ Gayle has reported on entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict regions for the Financial Times, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, the Daily Beast, and Christian Science Monitor, along with Ms. Magazine, Bloomberg, Politico and the HuffingtonPost.”

To learn more, visit Gayle’s website here.
Tune in for these 13 minutes of inspiration.