My flight to Karachi had a 10-hour stopover in Chicago. Sadia Uqaili, a visual artist and printmaker who I met at OPEN Chicago, arranged to show me around Rush Children’s Hospital where she teaches art to sick children. And what an inspiring visit it turned out to be!

Sadia is Creative Director of Snow City Arts Foundation, which teaches hospitalized children creative writing, music, painting, photography and film-making. They operate at 3 hospitals in Chicago and bridge the gap for children who don’t have access to educational programs because of their illnesses.  I met the team Sadia heads at the hospital, and wandered around hallways decorated with beautiful art created by sick children.

A special collection showcased a photography project, with pictures taken by children at hospitals in Ghana, Pakistan, and Mexico, among other places. In Pakistan, a trip to the hospital meant a lot of waiting – a recurring theme in that collection.  The captions were playful: “Mary Carrying Food For Me” was taken by a 10-year old in Ghana. “Dayiray Mein Sabb” or “All In A Circle”, caught the legs and bare feet of children of various ages congregated in a tight circle.

Another eye-catching piece was a hand-woven quilt that took up an entire wall – Sadia had stitched this together with the children she taught.

Over lunch, Sadia and I talked about how each BLISS handbag is a piece of art, about its journey from the creation of the motifs to the actual embroidery to its finishing at professional workshops. We played with the idea of having a traveling exhibition of the bags at art galleries. Sadia has lived on five countries on two continents, and is a well of creativity. Moving forward, she will be part of our unofficial ‘creative jury’ – responsible for mercilessly critiquing the handbag designs.

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