Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Story-Teller Surayia Rahman: Magic In Kantha Embroidery

Kantha embroidery of Bengal is really unique as they showcase simple elements of nature and scenes from our day-to-day lives. Kantha embroideries are now found at almost every exhibition in various Indian states, unfortunately some are not of very high quality. Recently I came across the works of   artiste Surayia Rahman, who spent her younger days in India and settled in Bangladesh after her marriage. Her nakshi (derived from naksha meaning designs or motifs) kantha embroidered pieces are amazing pieces of art and showcase the daily lives of Bengali women and their involvement in household chores. Any woman would be able to identify herself with these activities like kitchen chores, chatting with friends, getting dressed, etc.

Now Surayia has started an organization called Arshi, where hundreds of women do the embroidery work under her guidance, to sustain her families.

Surayia Rahman, a self-taught painter, started kantha embroidery to give flights to her creative talent. Read here about her journey and how she got initiated into kantha embroidery in erstwhile Calcutta, that later helped her transformthe lives of scores of women in Bangladesh. Her tapestries are on display at several museums across the globe.

A Kind and Smiling Face


Suraiya guiding Women of Arshi. Pic: Anil Advani

Woman in Waiting

Conch Shells

Women in Blue


Kitchen Scene


Elephant Ride

Life in Bengal

Colonial Times

Women Busy in Household Activities

Women Engaged in Kantha Work

Boat Race
Oil Painting by Surayia
A documentary and website on the life of Surayia Rahman are in the making. To support or sponsor the project or to locate Surayia’s work around the world, please contact cathy@kanthathreads.com or refer to www.kanthathreads.com.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Vibrant collection of Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell

Bibi Russell is a Bangladeshi fashion designer of repute and is involved in reviving the dying textile art of her nation. She herself is a fashion icon and draws attention with her individualistic, a bit bohemian, style of dressing.

With her vibrant colours, array of blings, including bangles and nose ring, her embroidered and tassled tribal bags, spectacles with multi-coloured frame, a gamchha-style checkered turban or stole-- she evokes strong reactions wherever she goes.  "Colours are part of Bengali life. They are our richness", she declares proudly. 

Bibi Russell in her younger days

What really strikes me about Bibi is her down-to-earth style, sans make-up or fancy hair-styles, despite several years of hobnobbing in the world of high-fashion.
Bibi Russell creation

She was a supermodel and had bagged modelling contracts from the house of international designers like Yves Saint Laurrent,  Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and also with Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Bibi was the first woman from Bangladesh to pursue her studies at the London School of Fashion way back in the '70s. And while modelling her collection at the graduation event, she was spotted by the designer houses and offered the contracts.

A model in Bibi Russell creations

Bibi Russell's Gamchha collection

Since then Bibi Russell has made lots of friends and contacts and later made her passion into her vocation and got involved with Bangladesh crafts persons to promote textiles and handicrafts of the nation to the world.

Vivacious Bibi Russell

Her collections are bold in their hues 

She also designed these bright bangles made of water hyacinth

Supermodel-turned designer

5'10'' tall Bibi, during her modelling career spanning from 1986-1992, had walked down the ramp alongside Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer as well as was the face for high-profile brands like Chanel, BMW, Toyota, Kodak etc. on the pages of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar and others. 

Bibi at a fashion show

Later, on a mission to revive the dying art of Bangladesh, Bibi expanded her work to India, Cambodia and Vietnam. Whether it's her sarees or ready-to-wear collection-- her catch-phrase are natural fibre and vibrant colours. Her collection also includes bags, shoes, stoles and bangles. She first showcased her collection at Kolkata Fashion Week in 2009.

Though brought up on the other side of the Indian border, she says, “I grew up with the culture of Tagore and the philosophy of Gandhi; I grew up with my feet rooted firmly in the subcontinent and I saw beyond the poverty.”

Bibi is currently promoting Bangladeshi fabrics and handicrafts for domestic and international markets under the slogans ‘Fashion for Development and Positive Bangladesh’. So far she has provided employment to thousands of weavers and artisans and has presented exhibitions in Europe, most of which were supported by UNESCO.

She says that all her fabrics are hand-woven and natural. "I do not use synthetic materials. The fabrics I use are khade, cotton, silk, gamchha (Bengali check-designed washcloth), jute, tribal textiles, recycled fabric and the opulent Jamdani, once used by the royalty.

She has gained international recognition and has been honoured with `Honorary Fellowship' of London Institute in 1999, title of ‘Designer for Development’ by the UNESCO in 1999, the title ‘Artist for Peace’ by the UNESCO in 2001 and the Peace Prize 2004 by the United Nations Associations of Spain.

She, alongwith the director's wife Nilanjana, recently designed the costumes for Goutam Ghosh's bengali film "Maner Manush" based on the life of Lalan Fakir.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Cornelia Goldsmith: Fine Jewellery

This is that time of the year when everyone is in a celebratory mood. And though gold prices have soared through the roof, there is no dearth of customers at Indian jewellery shops, who even stood in a long queue outside a shop to buy gold coins yesterday on the occasion of Dhanteras, considered an auspicious day in Hindu calender to buy gold. And then, from tomorrow we will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, when most Indian women love to bring out their heirloom gold pieces and matching saris and outfits in gold brocade to add sparkle to this festival.

So I also felt like showcasing the work of a talented artist Cornelia Goldsmith, a contemporary art jewellery designer, on this occasion. Born in Berlin, Germany, she moved to the US in 1985 and established herself as a designer of repute. Combining her sense of design with impeccable technique and a keen eye for detail, Cornelia creates jewellery pieces that are both exquisite and powerful. She has received several awards and her works have been widely covered by various prestigious US magazines. She is a member of the reputed American Jewelery Design Council.

I especially love her style as it has some similarity with Indian jewellery designs. She is based in Sausalito, California and displays her work at some exclusive fine art and craft shows in the US.





 You can see more of her creations here.