Our Kantha-upholstered furniture was embroidered by none other than the eminent Master Craftswoman, Takdira Begum, herself. She was conferred the Shilp Guru National Award by the President of India in 2009, an award presented to a very select cadre of craftspeople in India whose contributions to art forms are invaluable services to the nation. Takdira Begum has single-handedly reinvented the simple Kantha stitch by taking it past generic asymmetric motifs to skillfully embroidered geometric patterns that are near-impossible to achieve by hand. As a result, she produces a limited amount of running material, which only allows us to create limited edition collections of her work. The precise symmetry and standardized stitch-count she has employed across all her fabric is nothing short of an artistic feat.
Takdira Begum – one of 2 women in India to be conferred the Shilp Guru National Award
THE RICH HISTORY OF KANTHA
Kantha, also known as Nashi Kantha, is an embroidery craft indigenous to Bengal. It is more than 2,500 years old and pre-dates the Vedas. The word “kantha” means, “throat” in Sanskrit, which is why Shiva is also known as “Neelakantha” or the Blue-Throated One. The Kantha stitch is the simplest running stitch to be used in embroidery. However, depending on the patterns and motifs embroidered on a fabric, kantha stitching can be extremely intricate and complex.
Products from Sihasn’s Limited Edition Kantha Collection
Kantha was originally the rural housewife’s pass-time, whereby she would patch quilts employing Kantha stitching with colourful yarn, or she would decorate her own saree. Eventually, some forms of Kantha became so grand and ornate as to become works of art. In Satgaon, the ancient capital of Bengal, Portuguese traders who were overawed by Kantha’s versatility, commissioned Kantha tapestries in silk yarn. Today, dextrously embroidered Kantha fabric is displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
While It May be the Simplest Running Stitch, Depending on Patterns and Symmetry of Motifs, Kantha Can be Extremely Complex
Despite the attention and patronage by foreign traders, over a few centuries, the tradition of Kantha began to fade and diminish. Rabindranath Tagore’s daughter-in-law, Pratima Devi, tried all means to revive it but was unable to make it a marketable product. It was not until the 1980s that Kantha came back to the scene with a big bang. British and American connoisseurs displayed Kantha quilts and sarees at exhibitions in some of the most upscale galleries in London and America. The surge in revival in Kantha has been far from superficial – all the fashion runways of India witness at least one Kantha-inspired or Kantha-employing collection. Today, Chanel, Pucci, Jean-Paul Gautier, Valentino, Armani, Luis Vuitton, and Dolce and Gabbana are only some of the many international labels who have set up camp in India exclusively to use Indian embroidery, Kantha included, on their haute-couture apparel.
People Typically Associate Kantha with the Poor Man’s Patchwork, But Some Forms of Kantha are So Stunning as to be Considered Veritable Works of Art Like Sihasn’s Collection