One of my worst nightmares involves being stuck in a room with Ranjana Ma’am, my drawing teacher in school, and her weapons of mass destruction: scissors, glue, drawing books, pencils, crayons and paints. In the dream, I am struggling to draw a house and begging God to come and save me. Like most dreams, I always wake up just before the worst happens – Ranjana Ma’am hands me a report card with an F.
In reality, I never got an F in art-craft, but I never did better than a B. I celebrated completing the eighth standard at Natural’s ice-cream parlour in Juhu because ninth standard meant I’d never have to go to art and craft class again. Later, I realised that I’d still have to draw amoebas and quadrilaterals for the next two years. I told myself that it was better than still lifes and landscapes.
It was with these painful memories that I signed up for Simee Sayal’s classes in paper quilling, which is the art of rolling, moulding and sticking long, thin strips of paper into attractive patterns. Sayal, who heads Art Orbit, instantly turned me off by telling me I’d be using a quilling needle. My hatred of craft is only equalled by my fear of pins and needles. In school, my needlework homework was passed on to my mother and even today, I make my colleagues refill the stapler. Paper quilling was fast becoming a strong candidate for my nightmares.
The class began with Sayal handing me a quilling needle. It didn’t look as lethal as I had imagined. It even had a protective cover around the handle. The objective of the hour-long class was to create a floral pattern for the border of a picture frame.
I began by threading the needle with a 3mm-wide strip of coloured paper and then rolling it to make coils. It took me a good half hour to get the technique right – the needle shouldn’t slide around and hands should be kept loose. Sayal sensed my anxiety. “You should never get nervous,” she said, “It’s a mental block that you need to overcome.”
Like me, Sayal hadn’t enjoyed craft in school. “Half of the time teachers were just lazing around. It was like a free period,” she said. I wish I had had Sayal’s teacher. Later, Sayal taught herself craft by reading and following instructions she found on the internet. She added that many of her students saw therapeutic value in craft. “I have housewives, doctors and event managers who use it as a means to relax,” she said. “You take paper and suddenly you have created something.” I thought she was joking.
Sayal’s paper quilling course teaches participants to make dolls, animal figures and even human faces. The good thing is that apart from the needle, strips of paper and glue, not much else is needed. The fewer the WMDs, the better for me. Well into the class, Sayal noted that I was becoming comfortable with the needle and that my coils were in better shape than before. “It is one of the easiest activities to learn,” she said.
I discovered that threading the eye of a quilling needle is certainly easier than getting a rich man into heaven. But I still managed to hurt myself. I finished class with a lovely picture frame – and a tiny cut on my forefinger. A battle was won with a bruise to show.
Classes held at Art Orbit, Nutan Nagar, D-12, First Floor, near Bandra Talao, Bandra (W) (+91 98331 93380). Simee Sayal teaches such art-craft activities as one-stroke painting, punch craft, paper sculptures and pot painting. Paper quilling course covers 15 techniques taught across 15 sessions and is priced at R6,500.
By Suhani Singh on May 12 2011 6.30pm