From Passion to Purpose: Proceeds from Classes and Sales to Support Charitable Causes

Apr 28 2023.

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There are few things as fulfilling as using your skills and talents to make a positive impact on the world. For one woman, embracing her love for cloth art has led to not only personal fulfilment but also a way to help others in need.

Nazly Zuhyle stumbled upon cloth art inadvertently. An acquaintance from Canada had returned to Sri Lanka on a visit, and she spoke of cloth art that she had learned at a senior citizen’s group back in Canada. “She was so excited to teach my mother and kept asking my mother to come and learn it, but my mother was not interested in learning a new art”. So in order to please both of them, an uninterested Nazly decided she would go and learn cloth art. 

But as fate would have it, a half-hearted attempt at learning the craft would one day become a passion project for Nazly. “She taught it to me and I completely forgot about it. 15 years later, now my granddaughter is 11 and she is quite interested in handwork, so I sat her down and pulled out this stuff to do with her. After we made one picture she lost interest, but I derived a lot of pleasure from doing it. I had lots of scrap material at home so I continued doing it. I was working with colours, so I was in a very happy mood. I felt like it was a stress reliever for me." Nazly was so enthralled by it that she went on to make more cloth art pieces.

Subsequently, she visited a friend in Gampaha who made hand-embroidered cards for Hallmark. “She saw the pictures and said they looked very pretty, but they don't look complete. The lady who taught me how to do it didn't teach me how to do the background, which meant that the rigifoam was exposed. So my friend in Gampaha gave me the idea to cover the rigifoam and complete the picture fully. So I completed my pics, and they looked much nicer."

Nazly also happened to show her work to a friend who did crocheting and knitting. The friend shared that her granddaughter was interested in handwork, and asked if Nazly could teach her how to make cloth art. The very same night after the first lesson, the mother of the young girl sent her a message thanking her for teaching her daughter "cloth art," a term that Nazly adopted to describe her craft.

Nazly’s technique involves tracing pictures onto rigifoam and using scrap material to create art. She would carve into the designs on the rigifoam with a penknife, and tuck in the scrap material to create colourful art. Her art is inspired by the artist's travels. "I can't draw, but I trace images onto the rigifoam. If you're good at drawing, you can do it yourself." She continued to dedicate herself to learning everything she could about cloth art; she practised tirelessly, honing her skills and experimenting with different fabrics and techniques. As she grew more confident in her abilities, she began to think about how she could use her newfound passion to make a positive impact on the world. It didn't take long for Nazly to come up with an idea. A philanthropist by nature, she decided that she would use the proceeds from her classes to support various charities and causes that she cared about. 

She now teaches cloth art classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays and only one lesson is required to learn the craft. Students can choose a three-hour slot in either the morning or afternoon. The class costs Rs. 5,000, and materials cost Rs. 500. “If a student gets stuck later on while practising at home, they can walk in and I will be happy to help them out for free. They don’t need to pay again”. Nazly hopes that those who learn cloth art will benefit from the immense pleasure one can derive from it, but also use it as a means to become self-sufficient. “You can sell the cloth art you create or you can even teach it to others. It’s also an inexpensive hobby for those of any age”.

The cloth art classes are more than just a way to learn a new skill; they are also a place where people could come together, connect, and give back to their community. To join Nazly’s classes, contact 077 732 4676.



Rihaab Mowlana

Rihaab Mowlana is the Deputy Features Editor of Life Plus and a journalist with a passion for crafting captivating narratives. Her expertise lies in feature writing, where she brings a commitment to authenticity and a keen eye for unique perspectives. Follow Rihaab on Twitter & Instagram: @rihaabmowlana


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