Day to day life was the biggest source of inspiration behind this craft. The motifs designed on clothes or bed spreads were of birds, animals, folk scenes, fishes and imagery that depicted different views of livelihood for the people living in Bengal. Reprocessing was another form of motivation, since initially women recycled their old clothes and turned them into something more practical, like covers for furniture, or blankets. Economical, practical and yet beautiful is what Kantha embroidery is all about.
For decades Kantha embroidery has been the source of income for the rural women living in West Bengal. However, the literal face behind the revival of this skill and technique is Shamlu Dudeja, who is a revolutionary and teacher, and more importantly the one who realized the importance of this craft work. She took great initiatives in the early 80s’ to empower the rural women of Bengal who practiced the art of Kantha embroidery and encouraged them to take it more seriously and professionally which then helped to lay a strong foundation in making this stitch work more popular and sought after.
Kantha embroidery has definitely taken the fashion industry by storm. Sharbari Datta, an Indian fashion designer, has displayed beautiful ensembles of Kantha work, along with other Indian traditional embroideries, in several of her fashion shows. She took the traditional Kantha embroidery and gave it a unique twist by including it on dhotis, kurtas, sherwanis and even hot pants! Moreover, Hillary Clinton, on one of her visits to India, was greatly impressed by the rich cultural display in Bengal, especially through its embroidery and handicraft. In one of the fashion shows she attended, she fell in love with the exquisite displays of Kantha embroidery. This kind of embroidery truly marks a flair for style in any individual who wears it, while maintaining the appeal of comfort and leisure.
Kantha work has been around for ages and has been favorite amongst those who love taking fashion and style to levels beyond the ordinary. Conventionally, the motifs used were of animals or birds, but now with modern-day designers, experiments in designs are also being done. One can see cave art, Egyptian murals, Hindu mythology and even pop art being illustrated through this fine stitch work.
The demand for this type of embroidery is not limited to India alone, but designers in UK and Japan have also reached out to local sellers and have used this embroidery in their designs as well. Kantha work is famous worldwide and Indian designers who use this embroidery to promote originality in their style helps make Kantha work accessible and more so likeable by many.
Kantha work has been around for centuries and still makes Indian fashion go around. With the current development in its technique and the different flavors of style that it brings to the table, Kantha embroidery has become a favorite form of stitch work with designers across the globe.
The best thing about Kantha work is that it can be an accessory in itself, and does not need any additional embellishment to make it look better. This is because it can be used in different forms and for different purposes. It can be a unique and fun looking table cover, and it can also be a funky border for a saree.
One can accessorize it, however, and not worry about going wrong since this kind of embroidery is adaptable to any occasion. Since Kantha embroidery can be found on all kinds of objects and garments, it can be molded to a specific use according to one’s needs and preferences. Daily wear clothes with Kantha work would make them suitable for any occasion – formal or otherwise.