Osei-Duro is always looking for new ways to use our production textile offcuts (scraps, informally) and when Gul reached out in 2021 we were struck by the high quality of Wenlin's products, and easily found an exciting opportunity to work together.
The Wenlin Studio x Osei-Duro collabo combines cotton offcuts from Osei-Duro's production with the traditional hand embroidery techniques done by women artisans in Lahore, Pakistan and sewn in to pouches in the same region by a group of skilled sewers.
Wenlin Studio is a London based company started by Gul and Ubaid in 2017. They design and produce hand embroidered textile products in Pakistan and the UK, with a blend of contemporary aesthetic and traditional ways of artisanal workmanship. Their studio is working to preserve old methods of embellishing textiles that are vanishing due to the onslaught of synthetic materials and mass production. Their vision is to empower communities around the world by adding value to their craft.
The combination of our batik patterns with Wenlin Studio's hand embroidery has created a truly unique and versatile little bag.
We've asked Gul a few questions about her work and life in this short interview, please find her thoughtful responses below along with some images of the process and finished products:
An Important Note:
We have been closely following the climate disaster devastating Pakistan right now with millions of lives being affected by extreme flooding, leaving roughing 1/3 of the country under water. In response to the floods, we will donate 10% of the proceeds from sales of the pouches to Akhuwat, @akhuwatofficial.
We will also be holding a raffle for one free pouch for those who have recently donated to an organization. To enter the raffle:
1. You must show proof of a donation made to an organization helping on the ground in Pakistan from any time after September 14.
2. Forward a screen capture or receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On to the interview:
What is your relationship to Osei-Duro? How did we meet?
I came across Osei-Duro during online research in 2012 when I was working for an American company in Shanghai. I remember the inspiration I felt after seeing Osei-Duro’s process of using traditional batik art with modern designs and how different it was from my work at that time (designing and getting fast fashion accessories produced in hundreds of thousands of pieces, if not millions). From those formative years, until I became clear of my direction; to revive the traditional art of hand embroidery with a contemporary aesthetic and a sustainable approach, I think an unconscious influence from Osei-Duro has always been with me. I reached out to Molly in 2021 and as we discussed ideas that we are passionate about, the idea of a collaboration project emerged.
What do you do, and how did you get started?
At Wenlin Studio, I pursue the revival of traditional arts in a meaningful way, working with communities of artisans. I moved to Shanghai right after completing my textile design graduation. You can find China to be a place brimming with thousands of years of tradition and culture or remarkably devoid of it, depending on how you want to look at it. The way I started, my design career has been full of contradictions, about which I keep on educating myself.
What do you love most about your work?
Many things, but especially: painting and design work, finding sustainable materials, participating in exhibitions, and interacting with artisans.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature, cities, natural materials, stationery/art supply stores, and any random object in my surroundings, in that order 😊
What does a typical day look like for you?
Things change when you become a parent. So, a large part of my day is for my 2-year-old son. You will find me sketching during his nap time though 😊
Describe your perfect day off.
Waking up at early dawn. Brewing the aromatic hongcha and painting for 2-3 hours quietly before everyone wakes up. Taking a random walk. Popping into a museum for an exhibition. A surprise meeting with an old acquaintance in the city. Browsing my favourite charity shops. Walking all day long and getting inspired by the doors and windows of different houses.
What advice do you have to offer someone who is just starting out?
Go out of your comfort zone as much as possible. Learn the most foreign language that you can. Gather experiences. Be non-judgmental and unbiased - Go to China!
Where do you live and how does the landscape or cityscape influence your creativity?
London is my base since 2018 and I must say, there would have been no Wenlin Studio if I didn’t have a chance to move here. But it's not just London, other cities where I have lived and traveled, are also highly influential to me. My next stop is Lisbon (Portugal). I am looking forward to experiencing life in the Latin world now. I really like to keep the element of surprise alive. Whether it is the sparkling bangles of the Anarkali Bazaar, the flowing melody of Erhu being played by a street musician in Shanghai, someone making hand pulled noodles at a street corner, or the sound of the thirty languages that you get to hear on any given day in the streets of London. The subject matter never stays the same. Even after painting flowers a thousand different times, your surroundings will keep on showing you new angles that you have never imagined before, and you will always be ready for one more painting session.
What are the top 3 places we should check out in your area?
There is a “Parkland Walk” in and around the London Borough of Islington where I live. It’s an old railway line converted into a natural reserve in the city. Don't go there on a rainy day though :) Then there is a “Hole in the Wall” family run Colombian diner in the Seven Sisters Indoor Market. If you go there, you will be teleported to Colombia, and you can sample some of their authentic wholesome food. Lastly, check out the Holloway N7 car boot sale market. It is a great little non-touristy and understated market where you can source actual antiques without the antique prices. Not only it’s good for bargain hunting, but it’s also a great way to socialize with the locals over the weekend. Also, I would have suggested checking out the Frank G. Bowen police auction house. But sadly, it's closed now. This company was operating since 1922. It’s funny how you start meeting the same people at the car boot market and the auction house and then you realize you are looking at a real, non-touristy side of London.
Check out this article:
What music are you loving right now?
Mornings = Anouar Brahem. His song “The Astounding Eyes of Rita” sounds quite relaxing:
Also, a couple of albums from The National and Beirut. I quite like Manu Chao, especially his Radio Bamba album. His old band Mano Negra was also great. Gogol Bordello is amazing too.
You’re hosting the dinner party of your dreams. Who is invited (anyone, dead or alive) and what’s for dinner?
The guest list includes Malala Yousafzai, Marie Kondo, James Corden, Trevor Noah, Harry Styles, and Bob Odenkirk.
And for food, without a doubt, Lanzhou Lamian. Along with my favourite board game: Through the Ages.
Recommend something to us!
I would recommend everyone explore the world of natural dyes and their application in textiles. I have always been inspired by the use of natural dyes on Ajrakh cloth by the artisans of the Sindh province of Pakistan. I would also suggest checking the works of Mel Sweetnam to dig a bit deeper into the science of natural dyeing:
Anything else you want to share?
The NEOJIBA program. What a great initiative. They have created this orchestra of children from vulnerable backgrounds in Brazil. It's not easy to come up with creative solutions for complex social problems. Hats off to them for they are trying. I am always moved when I see this performance: