Recently at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Textile India 2017 shed light on ‘Make in India’ initiative. So, without digressing much, I’d like to highlight ‘Made by an Indian’ who chooses to use these very same rich woven fabrics on foreign soil.
Ekta Kaul is trained in Fashion at India’s premier design school, the National Institute of Design (NID, Ahmedabad). She won the Charles Wallace and British Council scholarships to pursue MA Textiles in the UK. There the young lady developed a unique creative voice assimilating cultural influences from both countries. Having set shop in 2008, her work attracts a discerning clientele which values design, integrity of materials and provenance. You can find it stocked at select stores and galleries in the UK including Contemporary Applied Arts, Designers Guild store, Ruthin Craft Centre and Museum of Arts and Design in New York, among others. She has received awards from the Crafts and the Arts Council, England and was nominated for the Arts Foundation Fellowship in 2010. And has her studio currently at Cockpit Arts (an award winning business incubator for creative businesses with a vibrant community of 150 design-makers) in Bloomsbury, Central London.
What’s fascinating for me is her intent in creating luxury 3.0 which infuses an experiential quality in all her products. Going for her workshop of exploring maps through embroidery, picking up handmade scarves, cushion covers and thin quilts that are in bold colours with graphic illustrations depicting stories from India and UK, would be an ideal day out for a design enthusiast, like me.
To know more about it I quizzed her via email:
MD: Tell me a bit about your handiwork?
EK: I specialise in luxurious handmade textiles. My merchandise is very modern, with a trimmed-down aesthetic focusing on craftsmanship and timeless design. There are two two threads to my practice – bespoke embroidered map quilts that map “personal narratives” and small editions of accessories in hand-woven cashmeres, silks and fine wools. While attention to detail and use of natural materials are my hallmarks. I stitch in a contemporary manner but use traditional textile techniques including hand and machine embroidery along with block printing. With just a glance you can notice my affinity for strong colours, graphic compositions and minimalism. My pride is in associating with fair trade organisations in India and social enterprises in the UK.
MD: You have till now used cashmere, silk and fine wool. Is there any other material that you are eager to experiment with and why?
EK: I love working with natural fabrics and embellishing them with hand-processes like embroidery, print or dye. Natural fibres are beautiful to live with and kinder to the environment. I think Khadi is what I would love to experiment with, next. As the world grows more digital each day, when a fabric is handspun and handwoven, you know you have supported livelihoods and been a part of their story, which is very heartening.
Delhi Taxi Cushion Cover
Delhi Map Cushion Cover
How do you see your work evolve in the near future?
I dream of making new large scale maps based on memories, identities and personal histories. Let’s see where it leads!
You have created bespoke quilts based on city maps and small editions of accessories. Which has been your most interesting commission till now?
I love working on map commissions. One becomes a storyteller of someone’s life through maps. I recently worked on a commission for a collector who asked me to embroider a map of London with locations/architectural icons that were important to his family like where they got married, where their daughter was born etc. Another one was embroidering a map of Riga with old synagogues that existed before the world war. These were some interesting projects that I have worked on, in the past.
London Map Quilt
Who are the people you admire from the design industry or anyone you’vee looked up to for their design sensibilities?
So many!!! Charles and Ray Eames on whose design manifesto my alma mater NID is founded. Scandinavian design with its minimal aesthetic and use of natural materials is a huge influence. I love Marimekko, Margaret Howell, Rae Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons. Also, centuries old textile traditions of India have fascinates me always. My mother is my style icon in the real sense as I truly admire her collection of handwoven saris from all over India. Basically, good design inspires whether in architecture, fashion or typography. But for me nature is the ultimate designer.
Ekta’s last statement “This squiggly print is my signature. It is inspired by handwriting. I have used the print in subtle stripes and checks”…..somewhat nailed my quest for the day, as I always seek for the mundane to look more alluring.
+44 (0) 777 0415496
instagram : @ekta_kaul