Friday, December 31, 2010

Giving and Sharing

I did these two variations of the greeting card that was sent out to supporters and friends of Sukriti Social Foundation, a disability service organization founded by my sister Sowmya Simhan. The text (in Tamil and Hindi) is a verse, in the form of fable, about giving and philanthropy. Roughly translated, the verse states: "When an elephant eats, the bits and pieces and pieces of food that fall of its mouth feed thousands of ants". The elephant being a large creature, eats a lot. The ants, being very tiny, need very little to survive. The barely noticed  little morsels of food that dribble out of the mouth of the elephant, provide sustenance to thousands of small creatures. 

As I was reading the verse, I was thinking of Bill Gates who has pledged millions of dollars for humanitarian causes. As the world's richest man, the money he is giving away is still pocket change for him, hardly likely to make a hole in his bank account. Yet, it is making a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people around the world. Of course, not every one is Bill Gates with millions to spare. But, whatever we give or choose to share, has the potential to make a difference in the life of at least one person. 

Happy new year and best wishes for a healthy, prosperous 2011.

Tamil verse by Kumara Gurupara Swamigal
Hindi verse by Kabirdas

Many thanks to L.N. Srinivasa Krishnan for locating both Tamil and Hindi texts.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Set of Decorative Boxes

I rather like these new boxes decorated with absolutely amazing handmade and Chiyogami papers.  I love Chiyogami papers. Some of the designs are so gorgeous, they give a stunning 3D look to the surface. Here are some of the boxes made with chiyogami paper, available at my Etsy shop.

Thanks for visiting. All these boxes are available for purchase in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's the Season

Being a Hindu I do not celebrate Christmas in the obvious ways. But, I have always loved the holiday season. The colors, lights, the shimmer and the sparkle make me happy and in some way or the other bring out the creative spirit in me. Here is my response to the Mixed Media Monday Challenge "It's the Season".

Happy Holidays and thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ma and Masi Together

Part of my ongoing exploration of South Asian literature, this mixed media artwork was inspired by Anita Desai's Winterscape, a masterpiece on cross-cultural minefields.

Sometimes,  I have the students in my Cross-Cultural Perspectives class read this story. It is a perfect case study of the infamous pronouncement of Kipling, "The East is east and the West is west and never the twain shall meet". In a span of 20+ pages, Desai lays out every cultural trope: our culture/their culture, our norm/their deviance, to name a few. Just when we assume that we know where the story is going, Desai being a master storyteller that she is, pulls the rug gently from under our feet. In the small act of taking a photo of Ma and Masi watching the snow together, she makes Beth cross a cultural border and, gives her a glimmer of understanding of how her Indian husband came to be raised by one sister while born to the other. It is an understanding that comes not from rational processing but from something deep, almost mystical. Beth's impulsive act to get it on the camera may have been as much to capture the moment as to remind herself that she understood.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yoga Art Veera Bhadrasana or Warrior III Pose

The Veerabhadrasana III or Warrior 3 as it is familiarly referred to is the most difficult of the three warrior poses. It is a dynamic pose requiring strength and balance. In this asana, the heel and toes of one leg are pressed down while the thigh muscles are pulled up. The other leg is stretching back strong while the two arms are lifting and stretching forward. The whole body rests on one leg for stability while the other leg and the arms are stretched for balance. There is pull and push, forward and backward movement between the arms and the legs. The interplay between the arms and the legs demand concentration and heightens the awareness of the body.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Today's Breakfast: Tomato Rasam and Baked Lijjat Papad

Since, I don't like cereals or eat eggs,  breakfast has always been a challenge for me. So, I am always looking for  healthy, filling and preferably spicy breakfast food. For a long time, I ate, like Punjabis, roti and vegetables for breakfast. Lately, I have started on tomato rasam and lijjat papad--the first one is a pure South Indian dish and the latter is a pure Punjabi delicacy. The combination is a 100 percent spicy dynamite! I am wondering why I did not think of it before.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Yoga Art Padmasana or the Lotus Pose

The lotus position (padmasana ) is a cross-legged sitting posture, most prominently used during meditation (dhyana). in which the feet are placed on the opposing thighs. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, "meditation does not make the mid dull. Rather, in meditation the mind is still but razor sharp, silent but vibrant with energy. But this state cannot be achieved without a firm, stable sitting posture, where the spine ascends and the mind descends and dissolves in the consciousness of the heart, where the true Self reveals itself". Lotus position keeps the body stable when sitting for a long period of time as in meditation. The stability of the body releases the mind to concentrate on breathing and brings about calmness of mind. 

The art above shows Lochanadevi in lotus position. More of my yoga art can be found in my Etsy and Artfire shops. 


There was an excellent article in the NY Times, a couple of days ago,  titled Sweet Potatoes Are Not Just for Thanksgiving Anymore chronicling the growing popularity of sweet potatoes. The basic message is, sweet potatoes are good for you because it is a vegetable that has protein, which is fairly unusual, but it also has complex carbohydrates that don’t spike insulin. Apparently, "sweet potatoes have become the darling of the diabetic and weight-loss set, a lifeline for parents whose children demand fries for nearly every meal and a boon for Southern farmers who are looking to replace tobacco". I must admit, I am very partial to the fries myself. Though, what I cook at home is more healthy since I do not know exactly how to fry them to get that mouth-watering crunchy texture. Sweet potatoes is a common vegetable in India ( I was pleased to find the wikipedia article on that vegetable including its Tamil and Hindi names). 

The popular variety of preparation in most parts of India is roasted slow over kitchen coals peeling, cubing and seasoning for a vegetable dish as part of the meal.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2011 Art Dairy

I had a lot of fun putting the covers on the diaries. I got the printing done at my campus print shop who did a very nice job. The covers are handmade papers from India, Nepal and of course, my favorite chiyogami. Looking forward to sharing these diaries with families and friends.

Spread out like that, I noticed that there are two covers with paisley designs. Both papers were made in India and Indians are partial to paisley!                        

This is the artwork I did for the diary.

 Another page from the diary

Here is the link to my previous post on the  diary project.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Without Borders

 Since the beginning of this year, I have been working on and off on creating artwork based on South Asian literature. Early in the year, I did this piece on Shakuntalam, Kalidasa's classical love story. This new piece, Without Borders, inspired by Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, is very post-modern. I was trying to respond to Melange team's November challenge "Home" and the idea came when I spent one whole Saturday morning hunting for documents to apply for Indian visa. I felt much like Ashima, a borderless nomad, straddling a 10,000 miles wide Asian Indian boat. The power of Lahiri's book lies in the fact that global themes of dislocation, loss, and the longing for roots are explored inside the particulars of one Bengali woman's immigrant experience. This point was most poignantly brought to me when my Brazilian born aerobic instructor asked me if I had read the book. Ashima, derived from the sanskrit word asima, means "without boundaries". The book may have well been about Miguela, Ivana, Habiba or even one Indira.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

 From the New York Times: A delectable collection of vegetarian dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mixed Media Challenge: Boxing Clever

This is my submission for Mixed Media November Challenge: Boxing Clever. The design on the top is based on South Indian kolam (rangoli) lotus pattern. Lotus is considered a sacred flower in the Eastern religious traditions and while kolam drawings are decorative, they also mark a sacred space. I added a finial on top to evoke the cupola of a monastery or a temple. A micro handmade accordion journal tied to the finial evokes the palm leaf bindings of ancient sanskrit and buddhist texts.

More details on this box can be found here

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Pageful of Craftgawker Submissions

May be I have a future in product photography! I now have a full page of photos in Craftgawker. Here is the link to my photo gallery Dharmakarmaarts Gallery. As you know, Craftgawker is a highly curated craft photography site and it is a challenge to take photos that are CG worthy. I take a lot of photos of my art ad craft items and whenever I find something that looks good I submit to Craftgawker. It is always a thrill when my photos get accepted. As of yesterday, I have a full page of accepted submisisons. Hopefully, the streak will continue.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Natural and Energy Giving (2)

In my last post, I wrote about the energy giving properties of copper and turquoise. Through many ages copper was considered the common person's metal. Richer folks opted for silver which, though having the same properties of copper, was considered a precious metal (along with gold) and therefore pricier.

Silver is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and therefore an excellent conduit for the energies of the gemstones with which it is paired. In and of itself, silver has long been regarded as having beneficial healing and anti-microbial properties.

Sometimes, good things come in small packages. The pair of earrings pictured above  is one of them. Turquoise beads, African "opal" stones, copper beads and brushed sterling silver rondelles are strung on a copper head pin and hang from a sterling silver ear wire. All the components of this pair of earrings are made of naturally occurring materials.

You wil find these earrings in my Etsy and Artfire stores.

Once again, thanks for visiting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Natural and Energy Giving

In my natural energy line of jewelry, the materials I use are not only naturally occurring but also have beneficial properties. From times immemorial, humans have looked to nature for physical and spiritual sustenance. Plants, minerals, stones, bones, shells were seen as possessing qualities to nurture and protect the mind, body and spirit. Humans have not always treated their generous protectors well-- that is a different story for a different time. But, nature in her infinite generosity has not stopped giving.

The necklace above is made of all natural components---rough hewn natural turquoise stones of various shapes and sizes, and copper beads of various shapes and designs.

Both copper and turquoise are natural materials with energy giving properties. Turquoise is considered a master stone in terms of the beneficial qualities it confers on the wearer. It is said to promote calmness, balance and self-awareness. Turquoise is considered good for strengthening the immune system.

Copper has been regarded from the ancient times as having body protecting qualities and it is an essential trace mineral for healthy bones, the heart, the skin and immune system. It is also an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and thus a superb conduit for the beneficial properties of the turquoise.

The necklace measures 17 1/2" and is finished with an antiqued copper clasp. It is available in my Etsy Store  and Artfire Studio

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gendered Flower Business

In Tamilnadu, flowers are ubiquitous and, an integral part of Tamilians' daily life. Girls and women wear them on their braided hair to school and to work. Images of gods at the temples and in the home shrines are adorned with flowers. Marriages are solemnized with the exhange of flower garlands between the bride and the bridegroom. Very important persons, whether politicians or movie stars, are welcomed with a garland on their neck and a shawl around their shoulders.

Tamilnadu, like rest of India, is also a place of sharp contrasts. These quotidian juxtapositions sometimes hide in plain sight. Till the camera accidentally captures them. Take a look at the pictures below. Do you see what I see?

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Dharmakarmaarts Giveway

The giveaway is over. Due to the popularity of the box, it is available for sale in My Etsy shop.

I am giving away this gorgeous hand decorated jewelry chest to one randomly drawn lucky winner.

Any of you who have visited my shop know that I love decorating wooden boxes. I don't know how to make these boxes, but I do not know how to decorate them! The one above is a little different from my usual style. I stained and painted it first, then decoupaged some lovely coordinating papers. I embellished the top with copper accents and finally distressed to give it a lovely rustic look.

The box measures 7"x6"x4". It has four drawers with pulls and stands on four balled feet.

To be considered please leave a comment here and heart my My Etsy Shop.  Please also leave your e-mail or any other information that will allow me to contact you if you win. The giveaway ends on October 27, 2010. The winner will be notified by e-mail.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Winter Solstice

These striking earrings are made with artisan crafted handmade lampworked glass beads that hang from a gracefully curved earwires. The beautiful orange glass is wrapped in a delicate slivered ivory glass lining.  I call this Winter Solstice because of the silvery lining over the orange orbs invoking the image of a wintery sun after a big snowfall.

It has an elegant sophistication which you can wear year round, but it can also be an out of the box choice for Halloween.

These earrings are available in my Artfire shop.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Enabling the Disabled

Beading and Stringing at the Workshop
During my trip to India in March 2010, I did a workshop on jewelry making to a group of physically challenged girls at the Andhra Mahila Sabha. These girls are victims of childhood polio, one of the last groups of children, before polio was officially eradicated in India a decade ago. 

These young women are not only physically challenged but also economically disadvantaged. Organizations such as the Andhra Women provide them with vocational training in book binding, sewing, computer software, which is their path to economic independence. Occasionally, someone like me will come along and teach them something that is fun. Which woman can say no to jewelry?

The workshop was sponsored by Sukriti Social Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by my sister, Sowmya Simhan, who too was stricken with polio at the age of two. She is highly educated with a career in accounting, and her foundation provides a wide range of services and programs to physically disabled men and women and, collaborates with other organizations that provide similar services.

Since I knew that these girls would not be able to buy the materials for jewelry, I took with me all of the materials from my personal stash. Sowmya felt that these girls could use some help in understanding the use of colors and design principles.  So, I made a color wheel for them. I also took several issues of Bead Style magazine with me.

I did the workshop for two evenings after their day class was over. About fifteen girls, ranging from age 12 to 18, participated. The girls were charming and were quick learners. I taught them to make the wrapped loop and showed them how to use the color wheel. I gave each one a kit for a pair of earrings and a necklace and they were quite thrilled when they found out that they get to keep what they had made. The chorus of “thank you auntie” at the end was touching. I donated a whole bag of beads, wire, the color wheel and a toolbox to the girls.

It is unlikely that the girls would ever be able to go into jewelry making business. They do not have the means. However, teaching them the techniques and, giving them the materials would enable them to make things to sell at craft shows. This condition applies to any skill they are taught. It is not enough to just teach them a skill. To enable them to use it gainfully, they also have to be provided the tools and the materials. Hence, organizations such as Sukriti, raise funds to buy them computers, sewing machines, school supplies and so on. I try to do my tiny bit. All proceeds from sales from my shop are donated to Sukriti Foundation.

More information about its work can be found at and  Facebook

Sowmya, the founder of Sukriti, is being honored with Ascendas Award for service

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Curry for the American Palate: Peanut Butter and Green Pepper

Whenever we have an international luncheon at work, I always struggle to come up with a dish that will appeal amidst all that meaty splendor spread on the buffet table. It was when I noticed Scott, my son-in-law, eating it with relish, that it occurred to me that I should make it for this year's international luncheon. Sure enough, every one liked it, wanted the recipe and here it is.

This is a variation on a Goan curry that is made with homemade ground peanut and coconut paste. One day, feeling lazy, I decided to substitute  peanut butter. I have not looked back since then :)


medium sized green, red bell peppers (capsicum)-- 2 or 3
medium sized red onion-- one (optional)
fresh ginger to taste (optional)
Chunky peanut butter--1-2 tablespoon
Olive oil-- 1-2 tablespoon
salt to taste
red chili powder (optional)
turmeric-- 1/2 teaspoon (optional)


1. After removing the core and the seeds chop the pepper into small chunks. (Cut the onion and the ginger also into small pieces, if you are using them.)

2. Heat olive oil in a skillet; add the onions and the ginger. (Note: I have also added black mustard seeds. That is the way I cook but you do not have to.)

3. Cook till the onions turn translucent.

4. Add the chopped bell peppers, spices and the salt.

5. Cook till the peppers turn soft.

6. Add peanut butter.

7. Mix it thoroughly into the cooked vegetables with a spatula till it is all melted and gooey.

You can eat this with nacho chips, pita bread, naan or roti. Any which way, it is finger lickin' good!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Three of a Kind!

As artists we are supposed to love every one of our creations, but , often , we love some more than the others. We tend to have preferences for certain colors, materials, textures and forms that we repeat over and over again. In my own work, I am inclined to use a lot of magenta, blues, oranges and other earthy colors.  This box below is a perfect example of what I mean. I have done three variations of the same color and materials but each one subtly different from the other. They also sell well at the craft shows, so I keep making more of them. I think there are more of these in my future :). You will find these in my Etsy shop and for other decorative boxes click here