Turning off a bustling street in Kolkata, on to a dirt road, we were suddenly transported into a quiet village where the noise of the city was silenced. Children ran along the dirt roads and adults talked amongst themselves in the streets, while open fires warmed a late afternoon snack of samosas. We were led through a metal gate and down a grassy path. We then entered a workshop full of cotton, silk and thread.
It was here that we met the women of the Panchannagram Mahila Samity workshop where, 32 years ago, they formed their workshop and started to stitch beautiful stories through fabric and the traditional Kantha stitch.
The women in the workshop originated from Bangladesh and settled in Kolkata after the countries separated. Many of them learned the fine art of the Kantha stitch from their mothers as it was passed down from generation to generation.
Kantha stitching is traditionally done on clothing and blankets, and usually depicts stories. This workshop, however, took storytelling to a whole new level.
Inspired by a bedcover designed for a show, the women worked with Sasha Exports to develop a piece of art that depicts modern day Kolkata – things the women see every day – from beautiful temples and traditional saris to modern bridges, buses and cell phones.
|Grounded by a detailed centre medallion, the stories of new and old Kolkata are interwoven on this bedcover.|
Below is an example of how we worked with the artisan group to create a brand new Kantha stitched cushion using aspects of the bedcover. From cars to fish, this beautiful design depicts many of the common sights around Kolkata.
It takes an artisan 10 days to stitch this extraordinary cushion. It will retail for $67 at select stores and online.
|Sometimes the designs are created over a tracing, acting like a stencil. In other cases, they are produced freehand and from memory.|
|Stiches can be extremely tiny and close together, leaving little room for error.|
Although the details of the Kantha stitching are fine and delicate in Ten Thousand Villages’ new cushion, Kantha can also be a straight basic stitch, similar to the ones used on our two other new cushions, and on our recycled sari scarf from CRC in India (see products below).
The women work both alone at home and together at a workshop. Stitching is their passion – so much so that they often don’t even have time to wear their own beautiful work!
Many of their children have been able to get an education and are not pursuing Kantha. But the women believe Kantha is something you’re born with and can always do.
We’re excited to showcase the incredible talent of the women who draw on their rich cultural and artistic tradition to create these masterpieces.
|Sunrise Blossoms Cushion Cover||Kantha Recycled Sari Scarf||Midnight Blossoms Cushion Cover|