I approached Humayrah Khan, having fallen head over heels in love with her instagram gallery. I am always astounded at the detail in the older beaded and embroidered pieces I discover from late 1800s – early 1900s but when I stumbled into Humayrahs gallery her work took my breath away. Her creations are simultaneously fresh and timeless, thoughtful, provoking and utterly beautiful. Her work is the antidote to fast fall apart fashion, each creation fills my heart with joy with her unique interpretation of ancient motifs and exquisite techniques and just this month she launched a beautiful Etsy store where she will sell her work, wonderful embroidery kits, specialised Goldwork threads and notions.
How did you start embroidering?
“I began embroidering at the age of 14 after seeing my grandma lovingly make crocheted gifts for friends and family. I have fond memories of spending my school holidays in her home, the duck egg blue walls, hand-dyed silk saris that neatly lined her wardrobe, even the soft floral scent of her saris are still fresh in my mind.
After studying fashion at university, I was blessed with the opportunity to study Hand Embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework, in Hampton Court Palace. During the 2 year course I developed my skills in traditional Hand Embroidery techniques like Goldwork and Silk Shading and it was here that I discovered my love and appreciation for exquisite craftsmanship.”
Is there anything that you cannot imagine parting with?
“There are very few things that I cannot imagine parting with. They probably are of no monetary value but knowing that these items once belonged to my grandmother and that she had once touched them, means a lot to me. The chiffon scarves she used to crochet for me, her Kohl applicator, her laces and trims, her rusty steel scissors are all very dear to me.”
How long do you ‘live’ with materials before you start working with them?
“Over the years I have collected many textiles and embroidery materials from my travels to India, Dubai, Tunisia and Thailand. I purchase them thinking that I will use them soon but cherish them for years in their pristine, untouched packaging without using them. But years later I will find a use for it and try to unearth it amongst all the other bits and pieces in my sewing room.
My favourite embroidery technique has to be Goldwork because of the way the metal threads vary in colour when seen in different lights and from different angles.”
Chatoyant (adj.) Varying in colour when seen in different lights or from different angles.
Who inspires you?
“I’ve always loved discovering beautiful things. My grandparent’s belongings, lost, old objects, things I stumble across on evening walks, all inspire me. I often wander through the woods near my home, where I gather leaves, twigs, feathers and other things I can find to bring back home and preserve. I also like to incorporate the treasures I find into my embroideries and with each piece I feel that a part of me has been embedded into my work. It is this part of me that I would like to share with others.”
Fuubutsushi (n.) the things-feelings, scents, images – that evoke memories or anticipation of a particular season.
“Unusual words with profound meanings also inspire me. My favourite word at the moment is ‘Kintsukuroi’, (n.) (v.phr.)”to repair with gold’; The art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken – Japanese. Usually the connection between words and embroidery is not apparent to anyone except me.”
Komorebi (n.) sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.
Where do you do your making?
“All my work is done in my room which is known by my friends and family as; The Olde Sewing Room. I am currently working on an embroidered piece inspired by calligraphy and a thought provoking word; Sonder (n.).
The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”
Do you ever get creative block, what are your tips on dealing with it? I know for me I have days when nothing seems to work, it’s like I forget how to make…
“I abhor those days! On these days I simply have to step away and seek help through patience and prayer. Chocolate also helps me on days like these!”
Where are your favourite places (market/online) for sourcing materials?
“I enjoy going to flee markets and local souks when I am travelling where I can be inspired by local textiles and culture.”
Kintsukuroi (n.) (v.phr.) “to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
Where are you happiest?
“My home is a sanctuary to me. It is where I feel my most authentic self and is where I am happiest…especially when I am alongside Mary my mannequin.”
How do you sell your embroidery work?
“I supply specialised Goldwork threads to the Royal School Of Needlework and have recently began selling my work on Etsy (The Olde Sewing Room). I also sell my work privately through personal connections and Instagram.”
What is your favourite corner in your house?
“My room has to be my favourite place in my home. It is where I can escape from the chaotic world, it is my prayer room, a room to get together with family and friends and The Olde Sewing Room.”
How has social media changed the way you create / connect with other creatives?
“I feel social media has changed me by enabling me to express emotions and thoughts through embroidery. It has also allowed me to make some lifelong connections with artists from across the world. I find it incredible that people who live on opposite sides of the world can be brought together through a mutual love for art.”
Antiscians (n.) People who live on opposite sides of the world, “whose shadows at noon are cast in opposite directions”