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She believed she could, so she did…

A lot goes on in an urban scenario on women empowerment, body shaming, women rights, feminism and the list is endless. These aspects are used quite optimally to build brand equities and dopomine rush. Ironically, the skilled women from the dust & the mud houses are oblivious to their mammoth contribution on a global scale. They could be held way beyond the above mentioned facades of gratifying oneself instantly or to mask anything for that matter. Its a desirable spot to be in. There are individuals & institutions who endeavour and get as closer as they can to the ground level & empower villagers organically. I would say, two different worlds that are indispensable i.e. urban world to market & create that demand. The rural world to deliver.

This blog is about the humble lives of Kantha embroiders in Birbhum district, West Bengal and their efficiency to show case their best to the industry.

There have been several blogs where the inception of Kantha has been elaborated innumerable times. By the virtue of which we all know that a basic kantha is all about bringing & layering the domestic old rags together which are then covered with straight running stitches. Sometimes motifs are embroidered on the layered fabric for some sense of grandeur and craftiness in a humble way. An excellent way to recycle. Isn’t it?

In the current scheme of things, kantha embroidery can be made bespoke to an extent an individual is willing to let her horizon travel to. It can be as simple and shallow as a plain running stitch or as intricate and deep where the entire folk lore can be embroidered on a 6 yard fabric. There are fine and average embroiders. An eye for details to know the difference in the quality of work is key.

One is free to design as many patterns as desired. There are many quintessential Kantha patterns which are amalgamated with new designs making the finished product supremely crafty and contemporary. For example, a pattern pronounced as ” Baugh” which is a bengali pronunciation of the letter B in English or “Buh” in Hindi. The pattern looks like the Bengali letter Baugh. Refer images below) The next and the most commonly used pattern is the running stitches. There are pretty and minute variations on that as well. ” Cheli ” is another pattern which looks like an array of arrows flowing in one direction. There are variations in Cheli as well. This can go on.

Some forms of Kantha embroideries which many craftsmen delve deep into are the folk lore, floral, leafy, mythological patterns etc to show case their artistic might. These work of art once embroidered, have the capability to stimulate ones senses through the usage of innumerable colours of threads. Did you know that the quality of threads used in Kantha embroidery has a substantial part to play while determining the final price points? This aspect of threads apply irrespective of the craftsmanship.

The most important and the fundamental aspect of kantha embroidery is the patterns that are drawn on the tracing paper. Tiny holes are meticulously punched on the patterns drawn & placed on the final fabric. Black or white colours are dissolved in kerosne. An old piece of rag is crumpled & dipped in the solution & rinsed. It is then rubbed softly on the punched tracing paper for the design to get printed on the fabric. This part of the whole process is key, without which the embroiders could go completely wrong. Just like the embroiders, there are skilled & average artists & tracers too.

Kantha stories can be endless and the above was just a glimpse. The women featured below are some of the few innumerable craftswomen without whom the industry would fall apart. I express my gratitude towards them for their seamless contribution to the entire Kantha fraternity both locally and globally.

Comments (2)

  • Craftsmanship of any kind is much more valuable than acquired skills.
    Love the subtlety in the blog with which you’ve highlighted the incredible contribution of these women to the industry. Thanks to people like you who take the time and effort to put them on a pedestal. 👍🏼

    • Thank you so much Ramya!!! Much love as always….

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