Is it a painting? Is it a photograph? No! It is an embroidered portrait that has been made using a million metres of silk threads and one manual sewing machine.
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From the design of the ornaments and the effortless amalgamation of shades to the raw emotions of the woman with a sling around her waist—the monochrome tapestry of a mother and child on a cloth is detailed to perfection.
The artist behind the stunning portrait is Patiala’s Arun Kumar Bajaj, who goes by the name ‘Needleman’ and is probably the only sewing artist in the world!
He has single-handedly crafted over 250 threaded pieces or tapestries that are being sold all over the world, from the United States to Russia.
For his unique skill, Arun has received several accolades including certificates from the Limca Book of Records and the India Book of Records. He even applied for the Guinness World Record, but his application was unfortunately rejected as his work failed to find a category.
How It All Started
It is difficult to believe, but Arun initially dismissed the idea of sitting on a sewing machine and stitching clothes for people.
“My father had a tailoring business, and growing up, I found the profession very uncool. It irritated me when my friends called me a ‘darzi ka beta’ (tailor’s son),” he mentions.
However, his father taught him the basics of stitching and embroidering, while assuring him that he would not be forced to make this his career.
But destiny had other plans.
Arun was 16 when his father passed away and to support his family he got into the tailoring business.
“I really wanted to pursue a different profession, one in which I would earn money and fame. One that would be ‘modern’. Initially, I used to dread going to my shop. I knew getting rid of it was not an option, so I changed my perspective. I wondered how could I make tailoring a fancy profession and one that would excite me,” shares Arun.
It was a dream, four years later, that signalled him to combine his passion for painting and profession.
“I saw myself making a portrait of Guru Nanakji on my sewing machine. Call it my faith or the just the fact how beautiful the portrait looked, the dream pushed me to try my hand at it,” he explains.
Turning Hatred to Love: Honing The Craft
The next morning after the dream, Arun did not take any stitching orders in his shop. He drew a portrait of the Sikh Guru on paper, gathered different coloured threads and started stitching, thread by thread. It took him almost 15 days and several failures before he came up with the final work.
This is how Arun found his forté in a profession that he detested all his life.
Embroidered tapestries are usually done by hand, but Arun does it with a sewing machine. He spends between 15 days to six months per tapestry, depending on the size.
It also took him years of practice to hone the shading part of the tapestry.
“In painting, usually, the shade is given by putting one colour onto the other. Over-stitching makes the work look shabby, so I complete it in a single layer. I have to be very careful as there is no room for undoing the work,” he mentions.
One of Arun’s most challenging portrait was that of a tiger, which took him over two years to finish. That was before he started to work on Lord Krishna’s portrait, which took him three years to complete, and is currently priced at a whopping one crore!
Despite all the recognition and appreciation for his art, Arun still sits in the same tailoring shop started by his father.
“I am immensely grateful to my father for pushing to join the tailoring business. My dissatisfaction was what drove me to perform better and look for ways to go beyond being called a ‘darzi’. It took me years of hard work, patience and dedication to reach where I am now. If I could turn my destiny in my favour, I believe everyone can. One only needs to have an intention,” he adds.
Here’s a look at his incredible artwork:
Watch him make the artwork:
All images are sourced from Arun Kumar Bajaj/Facebook
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)