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Sobihar Banu won the National Award for her Kantha embroidery. She was introduced to us by the members of AIM.

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Kantha Embroiderer Banoo

From where did you learn Kantha stitch?

-From my mother

Have you been doing this work since childhood?

-Yes, since my childhood.

Did your family used to do Kantha at home?

-Yes, but it was different from its present commercial status.

Is the design the same as before?

-No, the design has changed a little.

 Is the pattern of the stitching the same?

-Yes, obviously it is the same.

-We have the old designs at our home. Now we draw trees and birds, but in the old products the pattern of the bird was different.

Do you draw the designs before you stitch?

-Yes, at first we draw the outline, and then we do the stitches. The designs are drawn in paper; we copy it on the fabric, and then use the running stitch to make the outline. Then we fill those with more stitches.

Who draws the designs on paper?

-We do. Sometimes my son does.

The quilt is only one layer, so is it vulnerable to damage?

-Oh no, there is not any such chances.

What is it used for? Is it for any particular occasion?

-No, you can use it as a bed sheet or as a wrap.

How many people work on a saree?

-Only one.

Do the designs tell a story?

-No, no, not by each design. Now it is very rare. It is less now.

How long have you been selling Kantha?

-I started it when I was 16 to 17 years old.

 

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How did people use it before?

-As a wrap, wall hanging, pillow case…

Did you do Kantha on sarees before?

-Yes, but not in varieties. We did it only on cotton sarees.

Where do you sell it at present?

-Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata. We went to sell it in Milan. We took our work there.

-It is our main source of income. I do it most of the time of the day.

Why do you prefer Kantha?

-I love it. It is an art. You good and bad memories connect with it.

-Now it is only good memory. At first we face financial problems, but now that is over.

-Now we are trying to make a good market out of Kantha abroad. But for that we need a lot of money. Right now, I do not have that.

How do you sell it?

-Government gave me a National Award. So in India, all exhibition organizers give me orders. We do not sell to a shop.

-As she gets the National Award, the buyers of her products usually know her by name.

 

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-Sonali Madam and Gropal Da asked us to the craft fair where we met various people.

-You know unemployed girls do this work and earn 500 – 600 rupees (~20 USD) each month. So it resolves the unemployment problem.

What are the ages of the girls who work on Kantha?

-The age group is 15-16.

How much time do they spend on it?

-2 to 3 hours.

What do they learn from stitching?

-They learn to draw designs as well as stitching. It is a work of patience. So the junior groups do not continue it for a long time.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

-If I can work in America, that would be great.

-I want to do a workshop there. I want to teach them this art.

-A lady from Milan came to me for two days to learn it. I taught her.

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Another small business introduced to us by AIM that works with Kantha embroidery.

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I do not imitate the designers. I try to mix one with another and make a whole new one.

I had learned it from my elder sisters. There are six of us. I had learned this art only from them.

In the past, the designs were the same. Now the pattern is quite different. It is modern now. I also passed a course of stitching and drawing designs. Its duration was three years. First, I learned the craft properly, and then I started my business.

The two of us have totally different businesses. I make dress materials and he makes different types of bags. We keep all products in the same outlet though.

I generally make sarees, tapis, blouse pieces, salwar kameezes, and all.

I do this mainly for earning. In these circumstances, I united a self-help group.

Fair organizers give us orders. I went to Delhi, even to Poush Mela. There, the wholesellers gave us orders, and bought from us. They generally contact us.

DTIC referred us to Chennai. We went to various places. Now I am working with AWW, so I am not providing quality time in the business. We joined the Milan Mela in Kolkata. There, we can interact with the customers directly.

NGOs also contact us at fairs. Gropal Maidan Fair of Jamsedpur is very good. There, we sell a good quantity of our products. Generally women are attracted to these products. I always keep the products of attractive colors. I keep heavy design products as well as less design products. Mainly people like the variety in colors.

The cost depends upon the quality of the thread that I use and upon the designs themselves. But when we sell it to the wholesellers, then we have to keep the range the same for each product. Then we try limited designs for those very products.

Now, the market is not good. There is not much profit. I wish to send my works abroad. Purulia DIC helps us for that. I wish to work and get the National Award.

I went to work upon ‘Shakuntala.’

I do not plan for my future. Life is going on…

I am not very ambitious. I want to try Batik with it. Batik is cheaper than Kantha, but I do not have sufficient places for Batik products.

I earn from Kantha. I come to be in touch with new people.

It is a pleasure. When I was unemployed, I randomly participated at the fairs. There we made friendships even a relations like with families with our customers. Some of them even call me at present.

It is true love that makes the bond among people so deep. I love [Kantha] so I do it.