AT HOME: With Nikita Sheth, Sydney
I was standing at the Crows Nest Early Childhood Health Centre, sleep deprived and slightly deranged, waiting to have Clementine weighed. I noticed the cool mama I was standing next to had the same pram as me. “Nice wheels!” I exclaimed, with a tired wink. The cool mama said, “Thanks!” and returned the compliment. We parted ways, no numbers exchanged.
Fast forward a few months and the cool mama is sitting in my lounge room, with her darling bubba Allira, explaining why she loves weaving on her lap loom. It turns out that cool mama is Nikita Sheth. A kindred spirit I was destined to meet. Our new friendship has been founded on a random love of textiles. Nikita is a copywriter and marketing strategist who has worked at rug company Armadillo&Co and Indesign Group (amazing!!) but even more intriguing is the fact that she taught herself to weave (while recovering from a broken heart) and uses the process to tell a story.
As part of our Kasbah: At Home series, I chatted with Nikita about her creative life, moving into motherhood and why she avoids perfect symmetry.
LET'S CHAT NIKITA
You've said weaving has always been in your blood, but you didn't realise this until you started. Did you have a calling? Did you just know? Can you explain what happened?
I know this sounds completely cliché - but I feel like weaving 'found me'. I have been surrounded by art my whole life - my mum is an abstract artist - so as children my sisters and I would frequently visit art galleries and would always be encouraged to express our creativity. I remember spending hours at a Plaster Fun House or doing random craft activities at home.
In my early 20s, I had come out of a break-up and was a bit heartbroken, and I wanted to find something positive to put my energy into. I was surfing Etsy and somehow landed on a lap loom. I had no idea how to use it, but I felt compelled to order it. And since then...I haven't really stopped weaving. I taught myself - but it all seemed so natural. I then found out (from my Papahi - grandfather), that our ancestors were all weavers from Gujurat. I feel like the Universe presented weaving to me at a time when I needed it most. Weaving is my way of switching off and slowing down. When I don't get time to weave now, I get edgy and frustrated.
Do you have a creative process? Or are you more freestyle and spur of the moment?
All my work is completely intuitive. I never plan a design. I avoid symmetry. I usually just choose a basic colour palette (but even that changes as I weave). Stories, memories and emotions are woven into each piece. As feelings and memories arise - I respond through creating different shapes or colours.
Has becoming a mum altered your creative ways?
Yes! I really have to properly set aside time to weave now, otherwise I find it very difficult to sit down. Weaving requires you to be completely present (which is why I love it). Your fingers can't be typing, swiping or tapping. Your eyes can't be watching a little bubba crawl across the floor either. I've always believed creativity is a muscle, and I am learning to get better and turning it on and off. When I weave - I momentarily get to forget about the meals that need to be cooked, the piles of washing that need to be done - it's like a little vacation from being a mother. For this, since becoming a mother I am definitely more grateful for my creative ways - it is something that is completely mine. It is my little sanctuary where I can still identify with being myself as an individual and not solely as a mother.
Who/what inspires you?
Imperfection. I see beauty in flaws. A lot of my inspiration comes from old, worn textiles. I love all types of old cloth (functional or decorative). I am drawn to the holes, fraying threads etc. They are all sites of beauty. I believe that old cloth can hold energy - it's essential 'living'. It absorbs sounds and can even hold the essence of a person (i.e. when a person passes, it can feel like their garments are still inhabited by them - ie in the stains, smells etc).
I am also inspired by rituals. I love watching documentaries and hearing personal stories of the various rituals people weave into their lives - whether it be religious, spiritual or even just personal – like the tiny rituals we do each day without taking notice - getting into bed, lighting incense, making a cup of coffee.
Alternatively, what makes you really, really angry?
The exploitation of traditional weavers in villages across the world. Increasingly so many companies exploit their culturally significant and often sacred patterns - they copy them and then use them for their own commercial purposes.
How does your perfect day look?
I like the simple days. The slow ones where I am not running around or governed by time. My perfect day would be spent with my family (eating my mum's food and drinking from my dad's wine collection). I have been blessed with a very warm, playful and loving family. Oh, and maybe sneak away for an hour or two at the loom.
What lesson has taken you the longest to learn?
To stop trying to please people. I can't be everything to everyone.... it’s still not something I have mastered...but I am getting there.
Is the life you're living the one you imagined as a child?
Yes. I just hope I can give my daughter the same free-spirited and enriching childhood that I had.
What has motherhood taught you?
To put my phone away. To turn off Netflix. And to enjoy simply playing. I love the way motherhood gives you access to reliving certain parts of your childhood - like playing. I love just playing. Making weird noises. Dancing to Beyoncé. There is no end goal. It's spontaneous. And it makes all the chores, sleepless nights etc. worth it.
And finally, what are you dreaming about for the future?
It would be my dream to live for an extended time in a weaving village in Kuutch, Bhuj (Gujurat). And learn from the weaving masters!
Thank you, dear Nikita. I’m so glad we randomly met each other, that fine (sleep-deprived) day.