When textile artist Khadija Sareshwala moved to Ashburn four years ago, she built a bridge to her home in India in the form of gorgeous wearable art.
Sareshwala, who grew up in the UK and Mumbai, is someone who moves easily between cultures. Now, she’s embracing her new home and blending the flora and fauna of Loudoun into her work.
“I’m very adaptable to different situations. I moved a lot when I was younger,” she said. “For me it’s just a matter of seeing people and absorbing the culture. I like to take what every place has in it and try to get that into my work.”
Sareshwala was making inroads on the DMV juried craft show scene when COVID hit, but she’s staying productive and building an online presence for her ethereal hand-painted scarves and decorative textile work. For Sareshwala, her work is a way to stay connected to her home and support the women artists who inspired her during her career with two Indian nonprofits.
Sareshwala’s mother is a ceramic artist and her first inspiration.
“I’d always see her work and textures. Her work is very 3D, so that was always an inspiration—I’ve grown up with that,” she said.
When Sareshwala went to art school in Mumbai, she initially thought she’d focus on digital art but found herself drawn to the textures and hands-on nature of textile work. Her passion for textiles was cemented by her work with the nonprofit Craftroots organization, which supports low-income urban and rural women in western India. Craftroots helps women generate income through traditional handicrafts by providing a platform for jewelry and textile sales.
“Their whole mission was to empower women and revive the dying art forms. It was a very eye-opening thing for me,” Sareshwala said. “I would just sit with [craftswomen] trying to absorb everything that I saw.”
Sareshwala continued her work in the Indian nonprofit sector, working for the trendy global Being Human clothing line, which supports the Being Human Foundation launched by Bollywood star Salman Khan. When Sareshwala married and moved to Ashburn four years ago, she turned her focus to her own art while continuing to support textile workers in India.
“I was like this is something interesting where I can bridge the gap of high fashion and my esthetic as an artist and also collaborate with artisans,” she said.
Sareshwala sources silk and cotton silk fabrics from India, and many of the fabric embellishments, like tassels and crochet work, are done by artisans in her home country. Sareshwala creates designs through traditional batik, block print and tie-dye techniques, experimenting with wax, salt, rubbing alcohol and other materials to create texture, while hand painting whimsical elements like butterflies, dragonflies, botanicals and florals.
“I just want to experiment and explore,” she said.
Before COVID hit, Sareshwala was getting her foot in the door in the local arts and crafts scene with a focus on juried shows. In her first years in Loudoun, her work was a hit at shows in Richmond and Hyattsville, and she made her local debut at spring and holiday craft shows at Ida Lee Recreation Center. Last spring, she earned a spot at the sprawling and popular Bizarre Bazaar in Richmond, but the show was canceled because of COVID.
Sareshwala is slowly dipping her toes back into the in-person craft show scene and has applied to the prestigious Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival in Reston, which has been pushed back to September 2021. For now, Sareshwala is focusing on building her online presence with an active Instagram page and a new website.
For textile artists, in-person connection is key, she says. But artists are adapting to the times.
“I know that everything is changing. I have to see a way to get my work online. But I do want to be able to meet my customers, explain the story behind everything,” Sareshwala said. “It’s a great feeling to see and show them what I’m working on.”
With her new website up and running and in-person craft shows slowly coming back online as COVID restrictions are relaxed, Sareshwala is focused on making beautiful work and forging connections in the Loudoun arts community.
“It’s been a good creative journey,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do next with it.”
Check out Ashburn artist Khadija Sareshwala’s wearable and decorative art on Instagram @khadijasareshwala and shop online at khadijabrand.com.