Project Paisley Q&A with lead artist Saj Fareed / by lucy jefferies

Saj Fareed, Project Paisley

Saj Fareed, Project Paisley

With Project Paisley now in full swing and workshops taking place across Camden in libraries and community settings, we caught up with lead artists for the project, Saj Fareed. In this Q&A we find out about Saj’s practice, her approach to delivering workshops and the significance of Paisley for Camden communities.

What’s your personal connection with Paisley?
I have grown up with paisley designs through the traditional Pakistani garments my family wear. I hadn't really noticed that until I started to think about it for Project Paisley and in particular Spot the Paisley. In fact my sister loves this design and has an abundance of clothing and other items adorning it.

Tell us a bit more about your involvement with Project Paisley and your own practice...
I was contacted by Lucy Jefferies from Quiet Down There, who was in the initial stages of developing a programme if activities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of independence of India for Camden Arts. I was keen to get involved as the lead artist and loved the idea of paisley as the main source/starting point for creative activities. My practice is very much based on colour being the focal point for exploration with an aim to play with your sense of perception. I love using everyday materials that can be deconstructed and reconstructed to create artworks. I do this in my own practice as well as when developing activities for participants. I'm interested in processes that are levelling, that can hopefully be used for all ages and abilities. Hence why project paisley was ideal for me working with families and all ages in drop in sessions.

What's happening in the workshops?
We are using a process that I call sellotape painting, I have used this technique on a number of occasions but in different ways. In this situation it is similar to collage work but using sellotape as the sticking agent for tissue paper onto coloured transparent paisley shapes. The aim is to create your own linear designs directly into these transparent paisleys. The designs could represent participants’ own identity, where they live or things they like. Once complete with the sellotape painting technique, they are transformed into a stained glass window effect. Especially once the designs are up against the window or another light source.

Has anything unexpected happened?
It was lovely that some people wanted to carry on with their designs or make more at home. I was happy to give pointers to help achieve this. One family loved it so much they came back to another session. Another person came specifically on their day off work and spent a good 1.5 hours creating the paisleys. She thoroughly enjoyed the process and found it incredibly relaxing. Many found the technique very relaxing.

What would you like people to take away from the workshops?
The fact you can buy the materials very cheaply to continue making their own designs. Accessibility is so important to me, the idea you can create fantastic works with inexpensive materials. A chance to learn about the history and origins of paisley - I think people were really fascinated about the many links paisley had in so many cultures and periods of time.

Are there any memorable designs or stories from the workshops so far?
There were some amazing intricate patterns created. A lovely lady knew a lot about the history of paisley and wondered if the paisley shapes represented tears. Another spoke about her Gujarati wedding that had paisley designs as the main theme which she loves. In Gujarati paisley means Keri. A young girl mentioned tyres as what she thinks represents where she lives in Camden. Not the pollution but the fact they live in an urban area. That made me think of an urban paisley.

What do you think a Camden Paisley might look like or symbolise?
I have been thinking of an urban paisley. Also through conversations how multicultural Camden is. A bit like a kaleidoscope of communities

You're responding to the varied designs made in the workshops to make a unique artwork for a Camden library, tell us a bit more about your plans for this so far?
Through the workshops and conversations I have been thinking about what ideas I may develop for a final art piece for Swiss Cottage Library. I have now decided that I will be using the sellotape painting technique. It will be a suspended piece that will hopefully have a lot if light flooding through from the windows. Kaleidoscope comes to mind, thinking about the rich diversity of communities. The work will definitely be rich in colour and vibrancy. I hope it will have a glass effect. As yet I'm still playing with shapes.

Project Paisley as part of Camden Kala, Camden’s annual arts programme which this year celebrates the UK / India year of cultural, highlighting exchange between India and beyond.

Project Paisley invites communities and visitors of all ages to take part in designing a unique Paisley pattern for Camden. Saj’s Camden Paisley will be on show in Swiss Cottage Library from 30th September.

To find out more about Project Paisley visit:

Follow Saj Fareed on Instagram @PullandPin and check out our grid @QuietDownThere