Madhura’s life journey interwoven with the shimmering colours of embroidery silks
Instead of going to art school – as suggested by my father, then Head of Graphics at Taunton Art School – I went to university to study philosophy but ended up in repertory theatre! Between theatre jobs, I worked as a temporary secretary and eventually ran a lighting business with my boyfriend for rock and roll tours. It was a very male world, and I was surrounded by butch roadies.
Then one day a quiet little inner voice said, “I’ve got to work with colour.” Well, I thought of painting – sort of flat, and on paper – then I thought of embroidery – colour and texture. Next day I went out and bought a transfer and some embroidery threads and got started, making up my own colour-ways and stitch combinations. Strange, because I had hated sewing at school.
Not long after that I became interested in meditation and spiritual philosophy and a year later was on a one-way ticket to India to visit Osho in his ashram in Pune. I had thought I might stay a month or two and then travel on to Australia, or something, but, unsurprisingly, like so many of us, I ended up staying with Osho for five years, working in the Press Office*, and the Theatre Group.
In India I discovered embroidery silks in the most mouth-watering range of shimmering colours, and Chinese embroidery – ‘painting with a needle’ – so wherever I went, travelling round India, meeting the world press, Indira Ghandi, Bernard Levin and Alan Wicker, organising touring craft fairs, and playing Titania in the ashram’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I took a piece of embroidery with me to work on. It was my meditation and kept me grounded.
When the commune moved to America, I did too. I lived on a boat on an island near Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. I cleaned houses to pay the mooring fees and feed me and my cat and was given the most extraordinary opportunities and encouragement to earn a further living from painting, embroidery and interior design. Many clients are still good friends. From a private meditation embroidery became a life-giving source of income.
Eventually, after seventeen years and creeping arthritis, it was time to come home. Here, the adventures and travels over, very much retired, disabled with arthritis, I am a happy hermit. I have time to pursue my love of colour and design, inspired by my love of Japanese art and Chinese and Zen philosophy. I am still looking, learning and experimenting – white-on-white embroidery, colourful appliqué, Japanese brush drawing….
As there are few sannyasin friends in my area, lovely visits are few and far between but I have recently, after much reluctance, acquired some adequate computer skills allowing me to join the sannyasin cyber world (firstname.lastname@example.org). Through Bhagawati, I have become involved with networking about the writing of a book on Laxmi and am now in regular contact with Veetmoha (Tony Kendrew) who is doing the actual writing. Other sannyasin friends I have reconnected with for this project are Garimo and Pratima in Australia and Yogananda in Ireland.
Recently too, I have found an extraordinary website – www.finecellwork.co.uk – about a registered charity that teaches needlework and embroidery to prison inmates and sells their products such as handmade cushion covers, bags, wall-hangings etc. I am so fired up and excited about their work – and the humanity of it all – that in the new year am hoping to get involved by offering designs and whatever help I can.
Two months ago I was asked to ‘show’ some of my embroidery at a Somerset Arts and Crafts exhibition. As a theme I chose to show the process whereby a finished article is produced, starting with the sketches on paper and translating the drawings into stitches so they are hand-drawn, stitch by stitch. The embroideries were well received and one has been ‘traded’ to give as a Christmas present.
I am now toying with stitched paintings (watch this space!).
So, although confined to one small place, unable to get out and about much, I find there is so much to explore and discover and enjoy! Finally Osho’s words are coming through to me: ‘Celebrate aloneness; celebrate your own true space.’