Kurma – Maneet Kaur‘s baby, based outside Dehradun takes a cue from the interior trends of 2017 and charms one with jewel tone biota motifs on muted colours. Specializing in screen and block printing by hand on fabric, this small design outfit has designed a smart range of organic cotton stationery, accessories, home furnishings and more.
Its organic raw cotton is sourced from Punjab and then carded, handspun and woven all by hand in Dehradun, by an organisation which rehabilitates cured lepers by teaching them such activities. Kurma also works as a social enterprise which helps the disadvantaged members of society e.g. training the hearing impaired women as seamstresses.
For Maneet, its a business with a heart that generates work for the local communities and individual artisans.
Read on to know Maneet’s heart and mind behind her endeavor.
MD: Why did you name the label Kurma?
MK: Kurma is the name of the second avatar of Lord Vishnu which is a turtle. And previously the Kumaon hills (the west side of state Uttarakhand) were called Kurmanchal – the land of the Kurma avatar.
MD: What is your design background?
MK: For specialization in Textile Craft Design I went to the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur. There for my graduation project I worked with the Bhotia tribes of Uttarakhand. They weave traditional woolen blankets called Thulma & Chutka.
On returning to my hometown- Dehradun, my first professional role was working with a women empowerment programme called Purkal Stree Shakti. Here women are upskilled in patchwork and quilting for home furnishing products. As a Designer and Production Manager I learnt a lot in 4 years, there. But a yearning to explore further never died, so I set up my own studio – Kurma.
MD: What have been your creative childhood influences?
MK: As a child I was surrounded by creative people at home and many from the family went onto becoming design professionals. My mother used to make clothes for me and my sister.
As kids we enjoyed working together on creative projects, such as making greeting cards for friends and family or clothes for my toys. I liked beautifying my own clothes with colourful buttons and beads and could happily spend hours drawing and painting.
MD: What process of your business do you look forward to the most?
MK: I enjoy developing new products the most, often working with one or two women who share my love for these skills. There is nothing quite like the first print we do with a new block. Up until that point so much work has gone into the initial design…. its iterations, exacting the size and then sending it to the block maker. Even once we receive the block, it sits in oil for a few days for the wood to get seasoned. So by the time our first print is out there is a lot of excitement and a good amount of anxiety to see it’s colour and texture.
MD: Your motifs are unique, is there a theme you follow?
MK: I spent a lot of time in the beginning trying to find a theme but there was much else which needed my attention in this set-up, so Kurma became all about block printing.
After our first range – a series of dinosaur themed product line for children, I truly began to think about Kurma’s real inspiration, which was just a glance away from the window; a view of the Himalayan foothills, where I was born and brought up. We’re surrounded by abundant natural beauty which now strongly influences my designs. So the subsequent range, featured birds I would see every day in my garden – sparrows, whistling thrushes, hornbills etc. This collection led me to the one with trees, plants and flowers of the region.
MD: Noticed there’s a bit of home, table and bed linen. So are you planning to take it forward for kids and adults separately?
MK: My original intent was to do things for kids as I love designing for them using bright colours. I had created quilts, dohars, cushion covers, buntings and pajama bags before moving onto merchandise for adults. I do have more for kids but for now, toeing the line, we’ll use the flora and fauna in a more light-hearted way.
Kurma is still young, so am toying with the idea of a separate Kurma Kids.