Una paloma blanca,
I’m just a bird in the sky,
Una paloma blanca,
Over the mountains I fly,
No one can take my freedom away…….
-by George Baker (Dutch musician)
It feels like yesterday, when I started jotting down my quirky, traditional and contemporary finds. First year was the most exciting as I visited many to write only about a few and yet had the fire in my belly to visit someone each day. Looking around for creativity in any form gave me a high, specially if it wasn’t written about earlier. From this year, I am taking on a loftier mission of mapping the Indian sub-continent with more oeuvre.
Kantha is Bengali embroidery done on ‘muslin’ or silk, practiced by Bangladeshi, Bengali and Odissi women. Recently, I learnt how the traditional embroidery of each region, through its types of stitches and designs, revealed caste identities, status and the village of its origin. The Hindu kantha makers chose their religious motifs, ‘alpanas’, conch shells, various birds and beasts like peacock, parrots, elephants, lion, tiger and signs from primitive art like sun, the swirling cosmos and tree of life. But the Muslim women were restricted to geometrical designs of plants and flowers.
In early days it was done only on a white background accented with red, blue and black embroidery but with time more colors were added to make it commercially appealing for the poor artisans. No two pieces were the same as the craft was practiced by women of all rural classes during their leisure time. These designs were embroidered to tightly bind the layers of their soft ‘dhotis’ which were recycled and passed down generations, as heirlooms.
Late last year, I discovered Payal Jaggi’s upcycled handmade kantha jackets, at few design-oriented exhibitions. Being an eclectic fashion addict, the combination of a vintage fabric and an ‘iron’ lady’s name for each jacket added value to its edgy cuts, with aplomb. The thinner kantha quilts, handpicked from a buyer in Kolkata, were chosen for structured jackets while the thicker ones remained so.
Big on upcycling, eco-friendly, pure fabrics and socially responsible, is this former design student and ex-Singapore airline airhostess. She likes to give due credit for her creativity to the significant cultural aesthetics, her daily dose of aphrodisiac. Years of travel and related exposure has also shaped her career in interior designing, fashion styling and geeky stuff.
Being a feminist, Payal rested her case by letting me in on an open secret – “a percentage of Kinche’s sale proceeds go to AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) for providing the underprivileged women stents during their heart treatments”.