Textiles - Kantha

Kantha is the centuries-old straight quilting stitch of Bengal. A nearly lost art that uses natural dyes and textiles, Kantha has recently experienced a revival. Today there is an effort in India to train young women in the art of Kantha embroidery, both in traditional and contemporary designs. The work is done in homes in the traditional manner, and rural artisans are creating stunning quilted pieces – some with village vignettes, flora and fauna, vahanas and deities, and scenes from the epics. Others carry geometric borders or decorative contemporary designs. The work is appreciated for its beauty and function, but also for the role it plays in helping young women in Bengal lead a dignified existence by creating income-generating opportunities. 

Kohler Foundation acquired a variety of contemporary pieces made by village women, including wearable garments, wall hangings, elaborate sari and scarves. The most impressive piece in the collection is an amazing room-sized canopy covered with intricate Kantha embroidery. The pieces were carefully cleaned, prepared and packed in archival storage under the guidance of a conservator. The collection was gifted in 2010 and 2011 to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.