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When I was home visiting my mother recently, she asked me if I would like to keep some of the petit-point embroidery that I did when I was a small girl.  Of course I would ! My mother was a talented seamstress, often going to charity bazaars to find special fabric – velvets, woollens and prints – to make clothing for me.   Princess collars and polka-dot dresses are etched in my memory.  Mom also taught me to bake, to stitch, and to wash dishes!  These petit-point pictures are not perfect, but they are special as Mom and I made them together.  Mom was my teacher, and a very talented one.  If I have a chance to show Surayia my petit-point, she would be very pleased, but she would probably make me redo many of the stitches.   She was, after all, a perfectionist teacher.

Working on the film and catalog of Surayia’s art, we were kindly put in touch with the members of the American Council for Southern Asian Art.  Many thanks to ACSAA for helping us to find more of Surayia’s designs around the world.   One of the Council’s members, Joanna Kirkpatrick,  has studied the art of Bangladesh rickshaws and we think that you will find her Ricksha Arts website of interest.   Rickshaw drivers in Bangladesh are very hard working, often providing transport for several people and their market purchases in the scorching heat or pouring rain.  Some of the women that Surayia trained to embroider had to supplement the income of their husbands who were rickshaw drivers because the work is not a particularly well-paying even in the best of times.  As difficult as this job is, rickshaws provide a critical and affordable means of transport, and the art portrayed on the rickshaws is often colourful and imaginative.

Copyright Joanna Kirkpatrick

Copyright Anil Advani

As I read the appeal from the Humanitarian Coalition when I opened my email this morning, it struck me for a number of reasons.  I live in Washington State where it rains a lot, but I cannot imagine having my home flooded up to the rooftop and having to carry what I could out on my head.  The resilience of people under such crises is incredible, with death around them, children in need, not knowing where the next comfort or food will be available.

What does this have to do with the documentary “Threads” you might wonder and why am I blogging on the crisis on this movie website?   This crisis is in Pakistan and not in Bangladesh where we are filming — however we are all connected, regardless of nationality, race or religion.  And seeing the scenes in Pakistan today reminds me of the resilient women with whom Surayia worked who, during the raging floods of 1988 in Bangladesh, preserved the tapestries on which they were working and brought them in pots on their heads – wading through the floods — into Dhaka.  Courage amidst despair, hope despite disaster.

I worked for CARE Canada in the early 1990s and thank them and all other organizations and individuals who are assisting in this crisis in Pakistan.  For those who can help the Pakistanis during this crisis in some way, let us be their threads of hope.

Over the next months, Len and I would like to share with you some of our experiences as new filmmakers.  Watch our blog for the ups and downs, the serendipity that we have experienced since we started this project and the joys of virtually meeting so many fine people connected with Surayia’s life.

How did we get into this, you ask?  It all started over a café conversation with a professor at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design – Lesley Armstrong  – who asked “What ever happened to that woman whose incredible tapestry was displayed during the exhibition of Bangladesh textiles you had in Halifax in 2005”?  We talked about our friend Surayia, how she had to give up her passion for creating art when her health failed, and how there was little documented about her fascinating life and art history.  Lesley looked me straight in the eye and said “You have to make a documentary about her.”  “I will find a filmmaker to make it,” I replied.  “No, you have to make it”.   And so began our journey…..

Let me introduce you to Lesley whose own artistry – handwoven drapery – was recently installed at the 32-storey TELUS Center in Toronto.


Are you a weaver?  If so, please let us know what interests you about this film, and what you would like to see in it.

More creativity in Santa Fe…..Thanks to Jilann and Hank of The Documentors for their webinars about documentary film making.  We regularly join them and others from around the world for their great virtual discussions.

From July 9-11, hundreds of folk artists from 52 countries will gather at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market to showcase and sell their special crafts.  How precious is something that is learned from one’s ancestors and unique and beautiful in the modern world!

Another “must-see” is the Museum of International Folk Art, where exhibits in the Gallery of Conscience will explore contemporary issues about folk art production and consumption in the 21st century.  The inaugural exhibit opens July 4th:  Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities. A better environment? A safe haven? A community bonded by art? A heritage preserved? An economic incentive?  What motivates these inspiring women?  “Now I can buy milk, pens and books and pay tuition for my children” Nepal “Give a woman money and watch the village grow” Swaziland “Art heals the helpless soul…Weaving is hope for tomorrow” Rwanda

Jessica Winter’s article in “O – The Oprah Magazine” this month captures the flavor of what is to come at the Art Market. We also look forward to Hand/Eye magazine’s reports from on-site.

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