Interview with the Tapestry Project Artists: Husna Lohiya, Zuleika Lebow, Kerri Jefferis
Q: Why did you decide to create a tapestry?
Zuleika: I was reading a book about Jerusalem around the time the Romans invaded. It talked about how women from different Jewish communities would weave and talk together in the town square. We began thinking about commenting on how we, as modern women, band together, gossip, and create a community.
Kerri: We also talked about the importance of creating objects and ritualistic beliefs, and the idea of the weave: things can be physically bound, which wouldn’t necessarily be seen together.
Husna: There was just so much we wanted to include, and this was the best process to include so many of these aspects.
Z: We didn’t want it to just be about the three main religions, but also about random, secular and cultural ideals. We incorporated elements that aren’t necessarily religious, but that are beliefs nonetheless.
Q: How did you go about exploring that in the tapestry?
K: It started with conversations and looking at different artworks. At the British Museum we found an artist who had made tapestries from different consumerist objects such as tin cans or bottles. Around the same time the Grayson Perry exhibition explored ideals of taste, which was particularly interesting as it showcased the contemporary viewpoint of a tapestry.
Ours was more geared towards objects. We wanted people to donate objects to incorporate.
Q: Did you find any stories in the objects?
K: It was emotional. A woman came to my house to give me a box full of personal things, like a diary about her own voyage to Jerusalem. She sent me an email explaining about all the different things she had given me.
Z: A neighbour gave me a lot of things, which were interesting as he was originally from a Jewish background, but converted to Islam.He gave me a Koran and a really cool prayer mat.
H: One of the things I was given was a badge that had been worn throughout secondary school: it had ‘question authority’ written on it and lots of scratches, showing its wear and tear, and history.
K: It also scared people off. We asked different businesses and organisations about their beliefs and they just shut down. We met an interesting man in a bookshop who has written chronicles on money and control. Although it won’t feature in the tapestry, it was still really interesting to see how he connected money, belief and control. An antiques dealer also told us about his shop and how people absolutely love it.
H: Speaking to all these people mirrored our project, showing that there still is community, even in London.
Q: You touched upon how speaking about faith and religion can scare people. Why do you think people react that way?
Z: Some people were cautious because they don’t have a religion or belief. But then everyone has something that involves rituals, whether it’s a T-shirt they wear all the time, or favourite music. Atheists might put their trust in evolutionary theory, and that’s just as relevant.
Q: It sounds like you really tried to incorporate everyone. What about yourselves? Have your faiths and beliefs played a part in the tapestry?
Z: All doors were broken down; we had the opportunity as friends to ask. If you want to know something, it is better to have an understanding than to be ignorant.
K: I certainly learnt a lot about myself. If I was to have a religion, I would maybe gear towards one or the other, or take certain aspects from each. It was interesting during the research to see how many of these symbols looked similar.
H: It drifted into single ideas, and slotted back together again half-way. Things were passed on; we would finish or sew on top of someone else’s part.
K: We had all these different elements and it was a case of putting it all together. It really was like one of these blank patterns that all of a sudden it clicks and you would see how it all fits.
Q: Would you like to continue with the project, or a similar project. What are you going to do next?
Z: We have invested a lot, physically, emotionally and time-wise. It’s nice to come away as individuals but still maintain a common tread together. For instance, I might take a piece I did on the tapestry further, but I will always know it started here.
K: The bond we have made is obviously very different to when we started together. We spent a lot of time together, every day we had long conservations and now the project is finished, it’s going to be a bit lonely!
Q: Finally, were there any particular challenges?
H: It’s always difficult to start when you don’t know what it will be like when it’s finished. But if it wasn’t such a long procedure, we wouldn’t have had so many experiences and stories that added to the whole process.
Join us for Urban Dialogues 2012 at the RED Gallery in Shoreditch, 21 November – 1 December. The exhibition is open daily 2-7pm and admission is FREE. Find out more here.