Tina Katwal – Owner@ The Square Inch

Tina Katwal – ‘Mompreneur’ | Owner of TSI (The Square Inch) | DESIGNER and Creator of Quilts | Mentor | Traveller.

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She came down the hills and embraced the sea. A true blue Pahadan, Tina Katwal blended in the classical ethos of Chennai just as easily as the Ganges merges with the Sea. The first time I met Tina, she gave me the warmest hug any two strangers could ever share and  I felt at home. Her creativity, her finesse, her hard work is all summed up in her beautiful studio @The Square Inch in Chennai where she lives with her family. Tina very plainly and honestly told me she had no stories of crisis to share except for her love and passion for sewing and creating new things. I told her that that was enough. Read on. And trust me, you are bound to fall in love with her vivacity and honesty as much as I have.

  1. Start from the very beginning, Tina. 
I exist. Therefore I am. Borrowed words, but that’s the story. I am just a person constantly trying to be the best version of myself. And on this journey of constant evolution, I find myself donning many roles – of a mother, wife, daughter, friend, seeker, leader, helper, traveller, student, mentor, visionary, entrepreneur, quilter. I am like an excited kid finding wonderment in everything ! In the current chapter of my life, I am mom to my 2 daughters and a dog, aged 20,15 and 5 respectively, running a household that is half Himachali-half Tamil, and a fabric & fiber art studio in Chennai called ‘The Square Inch’.
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I am a self taught quilter who also dabbles in other threadcrafts, greatly helped by the World Wide Web. In this highly interconnected digital age where knowledge is available literally at your fingertips, it would be a shame to not use that resource to upgrade your skills to pursue your passion and instead choose to stay ignorant citing the lack of a teacher nearby as an excuse. In the pre-digital era, we relied on books for the same. But art and craft books were hard to get and those available were way out of budget for a young person. I remember scouring old book shops and flea markets always looking for any kind of book related to fabric or fibre. I had been gifted a self-healing mat and rotary cutter by an Aunt from the USA, but they were put away for years as I had no clue what they were or how to use them ! Until I came across a quilting book that had pictures of them! And that’s when I pulled them out from storage and started my experiments in quilting and patchwork.
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2. How did you start quilting since you mentioned that you are self taught?
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I should tell you the story of my first quilt experiment. I used to sew my own clothes and naturally ended up with  room full of scraps. So, one day, I cut up  bunch of them into 5″ squares, scooped them up in my palms and tossed them over my head. Then, believe it or not, I sewed them back in whatever order they had fallen on the floor. And thus my first quilt was born ! This was almost 6 years back. Then for a year, I used my family and friends as lab rats in my quilting experiments. Needless to say, I was firmly hooked ! Around the same time, I discovered the online quilting fraternity on Facebook and the daily interactions there with my quilting buddies kept me on track with my hobby. My Facebook group ‘Desi Quilters’ is now 4500 member strong and we strive to keep it a place for sharing our work, drawing inspiration, inspiring and hand-holding. It is a strong and helpful community built around our common passion for patchwork and quilting.
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I think it was my machine, my Bernina, that actually made me a quilter. From the time I first test drove a Bernina and immediately acquired it, I have spent countless hours of pure joy on it. An artist needs good tools, tools that help translate the artist’s vision into something tangible; tools that work like they are supposed to work without causing frustration; and my Bernina is exactly that. When the opportunity to open a Bernina showroom in Chennai came my way, I grabbed it with both hands and that is how ‘The Square Inch’ came into being. The showroom-studio was created as a happy and positive space to provide a creative and fulfilling experience to the customer/visitor, the main ingredients being creative energy and positive vibes. Business happens by itself.
3. Tell me that incident that was your breaking point, that moment when your head and heart both went, “This is it?”
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The ‘Making point’ you mean :-). In my travels around the world (and via YouTube) I’ve been fascinated by quilt stores were one could shop, order personalised stuff, and even take classes. It was while attending a screen printing workshop at ‘The Print Journal’, Bangalore, that the seed to have a studio of my own was sown in my heart. The artist, Suhana Medappa’s studio model really appealed to me and I was amazed that it was indeed possible to viably run an enterprise based on your passion for an art or craft. Perfect blend of the head and heart ! And when the Bernina dealership came up, it was only natural that I combine my passion for the quilting arts along with the business.

 

4. Who was that that inspired you? 

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There have been many that have knowingly or unknowingly shaped me into who I am today. From my father who always asked us to focus on the effort and not the reward, practise forgiveness and maintain integrity, to friends who asked me to ‘Go Big’. From that cousin who taught me by example that its never too late to learn something new, to my MIL who taught me of grit and acceptance. From my children who showed me beauty through their eyes, to random strangers who taught me of kindness and bravery. There have been many.

5. What was your “Yay, I can do it or I want to do it” moment?

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The day I realised that thoughts DO indeed manifest. I was in school and for some reason, I wanted a baby-pink salwar suit. Remember, those were the days li’l girls wore frocks, not salwar suits, and you bought new clothes only for Diwali or your birthday, neither of which was around the corner.  I knew the exact colour I wanted and I could feel the fabric in my mind and imagine how I looked in it. A few days later, some unexpected guests drop in all the way from up North and they have gifts for all of us. Yes, they brought me a baby-pink salwar suit ! That was my first time. The years that followed only strengthened my belief in the ‘Ásk and you shall receive’ funda. This was way before ‘The Secret’ and ‘Laws of attraction’ and all that. I discovered the secret on my own :-).

6. What is the most impactful thing about owning this studio and creating all these quilts of love and teaching so many people to learn this art and skill?

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The joy and happiness that I have witnessed my students/visitors experience at the studio is something precious to me. The way their eyes light up and their hearts open up is priceless. Everyone tells me there is a very positive vibe in the air at the studio. I don’t want to be remembered. That would be pure vanity. I just want to be missed, I guess. Missed çoz I made a difference in somebody’s life. Touching lives is important. It is what makes us ‘Human’ – the capacity to touch lives.

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7. How do you manage the balancing act? And yes, I know you will tell me that we should ask this question to men too 🙂

 

Men also SHOULD get to answer this question. Family is family. Its the reason for everything else. Maybe The secret is to understand that you are as important as everybody else in the family, and by that logic, sometimes, you and your work may take precedence over something else. Just as it would for the other members of the family. EVERYONE is important…yes, including you. EVERYONE needs to juggle..yes, including the spouse and kids and the extended family.

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Sometimes it means an overflowing laundry hamper and just soup for dinner, and sometimes it means hubby has to cancel office meetings to attend school meetings. Sometimes it means your child is being taken to the doc by your sister-in-law and sometimes its the mother-in-law buying you the groceries. Its the same you would do for them when they need you. We all try to be the support system for each other. Idea is, focus on the big picture, don’t let the minutae of life bog you down. Stop trying to control everything. Stop trying to do everything. Stop trying to be picture perfect. Enjoy your time and relationship with your family, instead of stressing about a hundred trivial things..things that don’t even matter in the long run.

8. You are a self starter, an Entrepreneur. How do you think or rather what would you do or say to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs?

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Most women I have seen, even the smart ones, keep waiting for some ‘right time’ to get down to doing their own thing, whether its starting their own business or pursuing their passion or even living their life. There is never going to be a ‘perfect time’ ! We are all given finite number of days to live on this Earth. Why are we wasting them? What are we waiting for?  Get down to it and take that first step. And then the next step. And then the next. The longest of journeys is started with the first step. Just do it, and believe me, everything will fall into place. Thats the way of the Universe.

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9. What is your take on Self Affirmation? Do you think it is underrated? Do you think it is quintessential for success?

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Well, yeah. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? I always tell my daughters to think and say only positive things. Who is the one person who is listening to your words the most? YOU !!  You are your thoughts. You are what you believe you are. You are enough. You are beautiful. You matter. And you can do it. The more you say it to yourself, the more you believe it. The more you believe it, the more you are.

10. What is your Soul Workout?

 

Live, Love, Laugh, Create, Repeat.

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11. Give me that one quote you live by… not someone elses’, but yours.

Haha..There are many :-). Some choice examples:
-Give no shit; take no shit.
-Evolve.
-Stay cool but do not freeze.
-Keep a circle of positive people. Let the circle start with you.
-If you never ask, you will never know.
-Give gracefully. Receive gracefully. Age gracefully.
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9 thoughts on “Tina Katwal – Owner@ The Square Inch

Add yours

  1. Hello Tina
    Saraswathi from trivandrum.beautiful write up!Congratulations for all the choicest blessings you have in life.I wish you all the best for the coming Quilt fest!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very true!!! I love her for all her beauty, arts and quilts .Enjoy her classes and the meet even though I am not able to make it up for my distance and health.

    Like

  3. So simple yet so impressive . Loved the positive attitude towards life. So much to learn from you.
    Best wishes for your further achievements n keeping smiling as ever. God bless you dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had the opportunity to visit The Square Inch with my aunt, an avid quilter for the last 45 years, this last December. The place is an art and crafts person’s paradise. If only it was there when I was living in Chennai. Who knows where my craft skills would have reached! Thanks Tina. Wishing you the very best.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel inspired to read about u-Tina.looking forward to visiting ‘the square inch’ when I am in Chennai next.wishing u all the very best in your creative efforts.

    Like

  6. Wow, what an inspirational write-up… When you are at a state where you want to do something and not able to judge ur own capacity,I came across this page Bossgirldotin… In that perticularly this blog cuz I’m also a quilter,carfter, painting….:)
    World needs such people to inspire us…. congratulations and Good luck.

    Like

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