Pellon: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Samarra Khaja: It can come from just about anywhere. I love taking standards and putting a new twist on them. Or I like to dig up nostalgic childhood memories (a toy, a party favor, whatever) and turn that seemingly old thing into something new.
P: What does your creative process entail?
SK: Everything starts with a lot of mulling over. I try to visualize my ideas and think about if they can happen practically. If I’m sure, I go ahead and create them; if I’m not so sure but feel like the idea has potential, I’ll give it a trial run. Sometimes things end up going no further than that, but when something does pan out the way I had it in my head, I’m happy.
P: Why do you enjoy sewing/crafting/quilting?
SK: I love the variety of things I can make and the power to be autonomously in charge of something from beginning to end (with the occasional kiddo interruption). And the practical component of many projects makes me happy too, like sewing up pairs of pants for my kids to wear; it makes the cycle complete and I enjoy seeing things get used and loved. And being a textile designer, it’s a nice excuse to use my fabrics in projects, making them even more personal.
P: Do you create mainly for satisfaction, gifts, art or another reason?
SK: I’m usually spurred on by something external like a gift, art show, contest or something with a hard deadline, because I’m terrible about finishing things for myself with open-ended time. Satisfaction is always a nice bonus and when I get to give whatever it is to someone, that giving part is always a fun rush too.
P: What tips or tricks learned through experience can you share?
SK: I can get incredibly frustrated when I mess up a sewing project and that dastardly seam ripper has to come out. So for me, once I see I’ve sewn something that needs to be unpicked, I put it all down, turn off the sewing machine and leave the scene of the crime completely. If, when I come back to it later, I approach it knowing that my sole task is to pick out the stitching, I feel much more relaxed and less likely to have steam shooting out of my ears. I learned the hard way that I just can’t mess up, unpick and then attempt to resew something without being a major crab the entire time. And that’s not a fun sewing experience at all.
P: When and why did you start sewing/quilting/crafting?
SK: I’ve been making things since I was a little kid, but I mainly remember making my own bed quilt when I was 11 with my mom’s help. I still have it. Does that make me a hoarder? Guilty as charged!
P: What inspires you to start a project?
SK: Usually wanting to mentally shift from having done 2D work (or staring at a computer too long) and wanting to have that tactile third dimension as a change of scene. I love to have a variety of things going at the same time, so I start a lot of projects. It’s finishing them all that’s the key!