Category Archives: Art

The Timekeeper

Bela Shanghvi has been a well-known revivalist of handloom weaving techniques since the last 27 years. She received exposure in this field as her childhood as her father used to manufacture textile machinery. This 46 year-old has not received any formal education in textiles but learnt about textile and design from Charles Russolini under whom she served as a first assistant in USA.

“About 25 years ago, I spotted a collection of textiles dating back to the Moghul era in Washington D.C. When I came back, I realised that these textiles were not there is India,” says Shanghvi. “That is when I decided to revive textiles,” she adds.

Shanghvi has served as the President of the Crafts Council Maharashtra and is the national adviser to the Government of India on policy and design. She is currently working on a book on traditional techniques in textiles. Being familiar with about 300 – 400 different techniques, Shanghvi has helped to revive about 30 – 40 techniques which were dying. Additionally, she is also an honorary member of the World Craft Council

Shanghvi also runs Studio Aavartan – a firm that deals with marketing for handlooms and Purnakala that addresses the issues of craftsmen. “Through Purnakala, I can confidently say that I have touched the lives of more than 2000 craftsmen all over India,” informs Shanghvi.

The Patola and Asshawali are her specialties. Shanghvi has not only been training weavers, but has also been providing them with technical support, design inputs and marketing options in an effort to revive the Patola weaving tradition of Patan, in Gujarat. With improved techniques, she cut production time and labour cost.

The challenges she encounters in her quest to revive weaving techniques lies in the creating awareness among the consumers who are do not know about the different kinds of textiles and the effort that goes into making them. “Craftsmen all over the country face several problems ranging from poverty to unemployment and their welfare is very important,” informs Shanghvi.

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“We are not slaves of the colour, the colour is our slave”

The husband and wife duo Satyanarayan Lal Karn and Moti Karn Satyanarayan Lal Karn and Moti Karnare National Award winning Mithila artists. The couple were introduced to the art by their Mihila artist mothers at a very early age – Satyanarayan was nine and Moti was seven. Today Satyanarayan, 56 and Moti, 49 have mastered the art that their work has won international acclaim.

“We don’t use chemical paints and synthetic brushes. We prepare the paint ourselves by grinding flowers and leaves and use thin broom sticks as brushes. We never buy flowers and leaves or pluck them. We pick them when they have fallen naturally,” says Moti. “We are not slaves of the colour. The colour is our slave. We draw whatever comes to our mind,” adds Satyanarayan.

Mithila derives its name from the birthplace of Sita from the epic Ramayan. There are two categories of Mithila paintings – floor drawings or aripana and wall paintings or bhitti chitra. Floor drawings are done on special occasions like births, first hair cut, thread ceremony, marriage and death while wall drawings are done regularly.

The art is normally handed down from mother to daughter. Moti’s mother Karpoori Devi, is a National Merit Certificate winner while Satyanarayan’s mother is Padma Shree Jagdamba Devi. The couple have two children. “Our younger son is interested in the art. When he paints he uses modern themes but we use traditional themes,” says Moti.

Mithila art involves intricate workmanship. Generally, there are no blank spaces in the paintings. The couple usually concentrates on themes based on nature, society and religion. The Karns work together on every piece of art. They both start on either sides of painting and come together. They have mastered the art so well that it looks like one person has painted the entire piece. Each painting is unique and can never be replicated. The cost of each painting ranges from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 2,50,000.

Today, there are about 150 – 200 Mithila artists in the country. “The government does not promote the art. There is a Mithila art museum in Japan but not in India where it originated,” says Satyanarayan who works at National Bal Bhavan in Delhi where they train students in various art forms.

The couple is planning to start a Mithila academy in their hometown in Bihar where they have already bought land.

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Where History Meets the Arts

The thought of the East India Company surely brings back unpleasant memories of our freedom struggle. However, with the passage of time, the company just made it to History books. At present, the East India Company is owned by UK based Indian Sanjiv Mehta and the furniture division called the East India Company Home is owned by Anurag Kanoria.

Located in Byculla, just around the zoo in New Great Eastern Mills, stands a sprawling 9,000 square feet double-decked showroom known as the East India Company Home.

The East India Company is the oldest company in the world that was formed on 1st January 1600 when the East India Company started colonising India. During its existence from the year 1600, the East India Company specialised in the trade of several commodities such as jute, sugar, saltpetre, cotton, silk, indigo dye, opium and tea. This company even had the largest defence force. After the uprising of 1857 against the East India Company, the British monarch took away the assets of the East India Company in order to prevent the latter from becoming more powerful. About four years ago Sanjiv Mehta acquired a 100% share in the East India Company from the original heirs. The furniture division is owned by Anurag Kanoria.

Tucked away within the premises of a crumbling mill, where the wild grass and broken walls show no sign of activity, an eager client will find his way along the tar road. The East India Company Home today, boasts of elegant pieces of furniture with intricate works of art handmade by their own carpenters and craftsmen. “Each piece of furniture is made of rosewood, walnut wood or Burma teak which is of very good quality,” says Anurag Kanoria, the owner of East India Company Home.

The East India Company has its head office in London. The company showrooms are currently in Mumbai and in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The third showroom will open shortly in Thailand. By the end of next year, the company plans to open showrooms in London, New Zealand, Moscow and the United States of America.

Konoria holds a master’s degree in Aesthetics and doctorate in Literature with Aesthetics as a specialisation. Thus, giving him an edge in furniture design. Kanorias furniture company earlier specialised only in high end furniture and interiors. After taking over the furniture division of the East India Company, Kanoria began to stock premium antique furniture.

Every piece of furniture is crafted in a limited edition. “Since the clients pay a premium for our furniture, they expect exclusivity from us. Therefore, we do not repeat models. If it is single model furniture, we do not make more than 12 pieces. However, the higher the price of the furniture the lesser number of units are made,” says Kanoria. “Even if we do repeat the furniture, we ensure that it is well spread out and does remain in the same showroom. In this way, the chance of someone spotting an identical piece is negligible,” says Kanoria.

The store is not just unique for its furniture but also for its collection of crockery and panels. Right from dinner plates and side plates of 22 carat to glasses, candle stands and napkin rings; the store has it all. Each dinner plate is hand painted. Even the embroidery and crochet on the upholstery of the furniture has been completed manually.

The store also specialised in Art Nouveau style of furniture. “We are the only manufacturer of art nouveau style furniture in the world,” says Kanoria.

Wood being the core raw material for the furniture could pose as an environmental hazard. “We are an environment friendly company. We make use of recycled wood obtained from government authorised plantations,” says Kanoria. “90% of the wood that we use is obtained from the wood that has been used in buildings. There are many buildings built during the British rule, which are now being demolished. The quality of wood back then was very good. Our evaluators evaluate the wood and then recycle them for making furniture,” he adds. The variety of recycled wood is Burma teak.

The furniture sold by the company is very elaborate and given the fact that real estate prices are increasing at an alarming rate, people try their best to save every inch of space. “Our clients include industrialists, NRIs, expatriates and people across the world that has sprawling houses and spending power. We advise people to take crockery or just single unit furniture in case they have a space crunch,” says Kanoria. Since the company also deals with interiors, the company provides flooring, upholstery, curtains, lights and taps that would suit the theme of the furniture.

Kanoria feels very privileged to be associated with the East India Company. “The name of the company holds a lot of weight and depth. Not only does it carry along with it history and culture but also a feeling of nostalgia and worth,” says Kanoria. queens charterAs the owner of the East India Company Homes, Kanoria uses the symbol of the Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. Thus, on the first floor landing, there is a stained glass window with the imperial Coat of Arms of the East India Company with the words “originally established in 1600 by a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I”. In addition, Kanoria is one among the privileged few to have access to archives of the Royal family and of the East India Company in London. Sourced from the archives, hanging on the walls of the showroom are black and white photographs and maps of the East India colonies and books on the company history are placed on the tables kept on display.


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