our artisans & process
The earliest and most basic kantha stitch is a simple, straight, running stitch, like the type used on our Kantha Sari Scarves. Over time, however, more elaborate patterns developed, which became known as "nakshi kantha".
Nakshi comes from the Bengali word, naksha, which refers to artistic patterns. Nakshi kantha is made up of motifs influenced by religion, culture and the lives of the women stitching them.
This most humble of cloths gave free reign to the imaginations of the women; kanthas told of folk beliefs and practicies, religious ideas, themes and characters from mythology and epics and the social and personal lives of the artisans; their dreams, hopes and every day village life.
Although there is no strict symmetry to nakshi kantha, the traditional design usually has a lotus as a focal point, with stylised birds, plants, fish, flowers and other scenes surrounding this.
Our artisan partners
Takdira Begum is a 60-something year old lady, hailing from a rural village of West Bengal is eastern India. Passing her in the street, you would never guess from her humble and unassuming manner that she was recipient of multiple national awards, including a Shilp Guru Award in 2009; an award conferred on master craftspeople for innovation in traditional craftsmanship, and recognising the highest level of aesthetic character, quality and skill.
Takdira was married at 19 years old and soon had three daughters. She had a burning desire to create something for herself and her children, but what opportunities are there for a woman in rural India in a conservative, highly patriarchal society?
Takdira possessed a skill which was shared by millions of women across the region: kantha embroidery. Her grandmother and mother had made kantha for their household use and passed the skills down to Takdira from when she was a young girl. Finishing her formal school studies at class 9, aged 14, she continued learning at art school for 2 years, studying all the different stitches, how to make new designs, and how to market her work.
Soon after marriage, Takdira started off by calling a few younger girls in their mid-teens from around her village. She trained them to improve their kantha skills, then hired them to start making kantha fabric for the local market. From the outset, Takdira avoided the most common form of kantha: straight stitches on recycled saris. Instead she embroidered elaborate and complex designs exclusively on hand woven tussar silk, creating new, unique and highly-valued products in her local market.