Category

Home | Archive by category "History" (Page 2)

Category Archives: History

Faig Ahmed: Tradition Meets Progress with Azerbaijan Carpets

01-Faig-Ahmed-700x422

Faig Ahmed is an artist based in Baku, Azerbaijan. Using a mixed media approach and knowledge of traditional carpet weaving, he reworks the conventional structure of the rug by disassembling the threads and rearranging them. Ahmed superimposes digital imagery into the rug design which often creates optical illusion. He also uses geometric forms to transform the carpets into chic sculptures. Ahmed is not only creating new boundaries with his modern transformation of traditional art, he is creating a visual marriage of past, present and future, where contrasting aesthetics are crashed together and harmonize boldly, making something new. Many people view Ahmed’s work as a representation of the social and political change occurring throughout the East.

“Tradition is the main factor creating the society as a self-regulated system. Changes in the non-written rule happen under influence of global modern culture.” Faig Ahmed.

Faig-Ahmed-Foliocue-Art-460

About Faig Ahmed
– Ahmed graduated from the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Art in Baku in 2004 and works with various media including painting, video and installation.
– Most recently, he has been studying the history and aesthetic of traditional Azerbaijani carpets so he may reinterpret this cultural symbol with contemporary relevance.
– Ahmed superimposes digital patterns onto traditional compositions to create works with bold optical illusions and he applies these forms to sculptures and 2-dimensional works.

– He has been included in exhibitions at Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury in London, the 52nd Venice Biennale Pavilion representing Azerbaijan and The Islamic Art Festival in Sharjah, UAE.

faig_ahmed_beautiful_decay_04-565x261
Sculpture

“His works take what has traditionally been a two-dimensional craft and gives it new life in the third-dimension – stretching elements of his fiber based work into space, and transforming it into far more than a floor covering. Even though they are real, and made with traditional techniques, other examples of his work stretch traditional patterns horizontally, giving his flat pieces the look of digital reworking.” From Faig Ahmed’s Website

equalizer-1000x500-1-1

“The eastern culture is so very rich and saccharine. Putting the pieces of the carpet into the smooth as if a part of a car or of a glamorous and functional shape, I’m fashioning the carpet into a different meaning, a secondary one. It as if starts being an inner part of this minimalist form, gaining volume at the same time. As if all of the ornaments of the carpet acquire a prolongation inside the carpet.” Faig Ahmed

FAIG-AHMED1

“The carpet is a symbol of invincible tradition of the East, it’s a visualization of an undestroyable icon. In my art I see the culture differently. This is more of expectation of a reaction because it’s exactly the change of the points of view that changes the world.” Faig Ahmed

10-Faig-Ahmed-700x465
History of Azerbaijan Carpet Weaving
Azerbaijan has been well-known as an authority and center for arts and crafts since Ancient times. Archeological digs of this territory have discovered signs of highly developed agriculture, stock raising, metal working and ceramics, as well as carpet-weaving that date as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. Carpet weaving tools from the 4th and 3rd millenniums BC were discovered during the Gultapin excavations. Herodotus, Claudius Elian, Xenophont and other ancient historians all mentioned Azerbaijan carpets having spread by the time of the Bronze Age. During the Sassanid Dynasty (3rd-7th centuries) carpets made from gold, silver and silk threads and decorated with jewels began to appear and were greatly celebrated. In the 13th-14th centuries, Azerbaijan exported huge numbers of carpets to other countries.
Different occasions call for different carpets; Wedding ceremonies, birthing, medical treatment, mourning rituals, and prayer. Girls sit on special carpets to tell fortunes and sing traditional songs during the New Year Celebration. Carpet weaving in Southern and Northern Azerbaijan has been influenced by the many changes the territory has undergone, such as changes in religions, tribal cultures, and political states. The designs used in the carpets and the way they are applied reflect the daily life and customs of the communities who produce them. This is fitting because the carpet weaving originated in rural huts. Over time, the tradition and craft came to be amongst the most celebrated and important of the arts. The heads of state gave high value to the art of carpet weaving, and glorified the most talented weavers, as did the great poets. The carpet history is typically divided into the following four main periods:

• I – the early stage of the carpet development. The carpet ware is very simple, without any motifs and patterns. The first palas and djedjims appear.
• II – introduction of the kilim weaving practice by the intricate threading technique.
• III – weaving of shadda, verni, sumakh, zili. The period of simple and complex whipping techniques.
• IV – introduction of the knotted pile weaving. Both from the technical and artistic standpoints this stage can be considered the acme of the carpet making.

Azerbaijani carpets are divided into two general groups: pile and pileless. Within each group there are subdivisions and different styles of rug. The pileless category is associated with the early period of weaving and there are 8 main types: Palas, Dzhejim, lady, kilim, shedde, verni, zili, sumakh. These rugs are classified based on color, richness, composite structure and weaving style. Quba School, Baku or Absheron School, Shirvan School, Ganja School, Gazakh School, Karabakh School. These are the 7 different weaving schools is Azerbaijan. They are separated based on patterns, composition and technique.

Feng Shui Decorating Steps for Beginners

vieques3-1

Feng Shui translates to “wind and water” which equals health, peace and prosperity in the Chinese philosophy. It is an ancient art form and science which is believed to balance both emotional and physical energy. The goal of Feng Shui within interior design is to balance the positive and negative energies within your space as well as within yourself. This will bring harmony of the senses, tranquility and well-being.

It is a common misconception that Feng Shui decorating means creating a completely “Zen” environment. Decorating with Feng Shui actually means that you are catering your decor to support the best energy for whatever activities are intended to occur in a specific room or area. Following basic Feng Shui principles will help you to achieve a desired energy.

Chi means energy. In order to have good energy or “Seng chi”, the energy needs to flow through the home freely without being blocked. If the energy is stagnant or blocked it is bad, or “Si& Sha Chi”.

tumblr_n1jmn8dFGr1s8jpzpo1_500

Feng Shui looks at a house as one, complete being. You may have some rooms that have great energy, but other rooms that are out of control, or just confused and stuck. Many people tend to ignore these disaster areas by shutting the door, or they purposefully put things in the messy room when they don’t know what else to do with it, in order to keep the nice rooms clean. These spaces are like when children are told to clean their rooms and instead of actually cleaning they just shove all their belongings under the bed or into a closet. From a Feng Shui perspective, the messy room being ignored is affecting the energy of the entire house, and therefore the energy of the good rooms.

Though the principles of Feng Shui are extensive and complex, there are simple ways beginners can approach living in a more Feng Shui environment. Start by identifying problem areas, and make a plan for your house. Figure out what needs to change, and define the steps necessary for those changes to happen. Then just be persistent.

6 Feng Shui Decorating Steps

Step 1.Clear Clutter

In order to create good chi, you first must get rid of the old energy.If an area of your home has stuck energy, an area of your life will eventually become stuck. Clean out your garage, reorganize your storage areas. You want the goal to always be free-flowing space.

Step 2. Good quality air and light

A clutter free space with tons of natural light and clean air is like the canvas on which you will paint your Feng Shui masterpiece. These basics are necessary and without them, Feng Shui will only go so far.Lighting can also be used to alter the mood of any space. Light is the strongest manifestation of energy and as humans it is our number one nutrient. The harmful effects of fluorescent lighting on human behavior and the deficiency of sunlight or “Malillumination” according to light researcher Dr. John Ott, are widely documented. Lack of quality light can decrease your overall health, ability to learn and effect your behavior. Try to have at least three separate sources of light in every room.

PYD_CHN_026__23088.1386110480.1280.1280

Step 3. Define your Bagua

bagua

The Bagua is the energy map of your space that determines which areas of your home are connected to specific areas of your life. Bagua translates to “8 areas” because in ancient times people deemed that there are 8 areas of  life that are important for well being and health. Each area of your home is connected to a specific area of your life. Therefore by changing your home you can change your life.

You can use the bagua as a guide to tell you everything from how to arrange furniture to how to choose colors.

There is the Classical or Traditional Feng Shui school Bagua, and there is the BTB Western school Bagua. It is best to not use both in the same home.

Step 4. Choose Colors

Every color fits into one of the 5 Feng Shui elements.

Fire-Passion and High Energy
Colors-Red, Orange, Purple, Pink, Strong Yellow
Fire is the strongest Feng Shui element in South Bagua of your home. It can also be used in Northeast and Southwest Feng Shui areas.

Earth–Nourishment and Stability
Colors- Light Yellow, Beige/taupe, Earthy/sandy colors
This element is needed to promote inner balance and health, as well as protection of relationships.

Water-Ease and Abundance
Colors-Blue, Black
Water is the ancient symbol for abundance and a Fung Shui cure for wealth. This element brings energy of freshness, purity, and calm.
The north, east and south east bagua areas benefit from a strong water element.

Wood-Vitality and Growth
Colors-Brown, Green
This element is healing and promotes vibrancy, strong growth, as well as abundance. Wood is the main element ion south and southeast Bagua areas.

Metal-Preciseness and Clarity
Colors Gray, White
Metal is the dominant Feng Shui element of west and northwest bagua areas, and the north bagua also benefits. This presence promotes calm, precise, light and focused energy.

Step 5. Choose items

Define specific items that will add to the  Chi of your home. Feng Shui holds to the belief that energy is improved when living things are present. An easy way to achieve this is by incorporating plants, bonsai trees, flowers, fish and of course pets. A fountain is a great way to add water, a symbol of abundance. Selecting natural materials such as wood, stone and metals is another way to stick to the organic nature of Feng Shui.

Some examples of classic Feng Shui items are:
Fountains, Mirrors, Lucky Bamboo as a health cure, Images or statues of Buddha for harmony and spiritual growth.

42236__18800.1394821826.451.416

Step 6.Positioning

Understand how and where to position your decorating items and furniture to create the best energy for the space. Focus on the big picture, but also be able to zoom in on each specific area.Match elements to your map, or Bagua. If you want to put a fountain in your home, which is a water element, you need to put it in the Bagua areas that benefit from water, such as North, East and Southeast areas of your home.

Fun Fact: Elephants are part of Feng Shui!

42364__11304.1399910375.1280.1280

The elephant is associated with Buddha and Ganesh, who is an Indian deity. The elephant symbolizes Power, wisdom, strength, protection of the home, fertility and good luck and because of this elephants are often used in Feng Shui. Here are some of the areas an elephant symbol can be useful in.

Protection– To prevent the loss of Chi from the home, place an elephant facing outward.

Bringing Good luck– Place an elephant facing inwards, to draw good luck and blessings into the home.

Love and Fidelity– Place a pair of elephants in the bedroom to promote love within a relationship.

Fertility-Place an elephant beside the bed, or one elephant on each side of the bed.

Mother and Child-Place a statue of a mother and baby elephant in your living area or children’s room to strengthen the bond with your children.

Work- Place an elephant near the front door to attract power and protect the office from bad energy.

Management– Place an elephant on your work desk facing out. This represents caution, poise and strong leadership.

Good thing we have so many elephants around here!

collage-1

Beni Ourain Rugs: Tribal Tradition, Mid Century Modern

rugs

These incredibly soft and luxurious rugs are all the rage right now in modern design. In fact, they are in higher demand than ever due to a variety of different cultural factors. Beni Ourains are admired and sought after by designers and the masses alike. So what’s all the fuss about? What is a Beni Ourain rug, and what makes it so special?

Origins
The Beni Ourain are a group of Berber people from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco that is actually made up of 17 different tribes. They are traditionally shepherds and goat herders who move their herds from one grazing land to the next, high within the mountains. Although these tribes all produce rugs which are similar and known as Beni Ourains, there are subtle differences in design elements and colors – all natural dyes or no dye at all. A big factor when it comes to the quality of these rugs is the superior wool produced by the sheep in this region.

berber-tottoos-morocco-300x300

The Beni Ourain rugs are hand-woven by women and the skill and knowledge is passed from mother to daughter. The design elements used in the rugs are reflective of the weavers real life. Traditionally, the rugs record regular life events and represent major themes such as birth, fertility, nature, femininity, rural life and religious beliefs. Some people who weave the rugs believe the rugs themselves are barriers against evil spirits so they purposefully include lucky charm symbolism and tribal ceremonial symbolism. The detail and design of the rug is also used to tell the story of tribal ancestors or the life of the weaver combined with tribe superstitions which are a strong aspect of culture in these rural regions.

Morocco_MouhouBoussine

edit_

6.9″ x 9.7″ Moroccan style


Patterns
Patterns usually consist of brown and black lines or abstract shapes against a white or cream background. Other designs are the Ancient Berber alphabet, geometric designs similar to Navajo-Native American patterns. Most do not have a border. Some have fringe and others not, some have fringe on one side only. The rugs tend to last a lifetime or more.

Vintage-Moroccan-Rug-45302-HR-763x1024


Production
Though they are typically used as and known to be rugs, Beni Ourains were traditionally produced to be blankets or bedspreads and not floor coverings. Their loose structure is meant to conform to the body. They have thick, soft pile which is deep or shallow according to the purpose. Knots are tied in a very specific way. The rugs are woven without any pattern or diagram to follow, which is why they are all unique.

The originals were not mass-produced and no two are alike. Many of the new Beni Ourain rugs are not made in Morocco but they are referred to as “Moroccan style” rugs because they were created to mimic the original Beni Ourains. The older carpets however are softer and more detailed and varied in design. The “real” beni ourains were never made larger than 7 feet. A Beni Ourain larger than 7′ is most likely a reproduction, not made in Morocco and not old.

rkp37246__50855.1387568117.1280.12807.9″ x 9.6″ Moroccan style

Rise to fame
The Beni Ourain rugs were used by the most renowned mid-century modern designers such as Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ame Jacobsen, Alvar Allto, Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames. Shag carpets were extremely popular during this time, and the Beni Ourains were a step up from the average shag because of their sophisticated nature. History and cultural developments have made Beni Ourains so popular.

“It is a fascinating set of historical and cultural developments that have made Moroccan rugs as popular as they are today. The Beni Ourain – with a penchant for abstract symbolism and geometry as well as a steady supply of fine grade wool – happened to be weaving rugs and carpets that would be perfectly suited to the design aesthetics of the Western World in the decades following the end of the Second World War. Moroccan rugs by the Beni Ourain remain among the most desirable pieces today, and are sought after the world over, both by experts in antique Oriental rugs and everyday people who appreciate the lasting artistic value of such rugs.” Ubrandsbag

e76b0b716e8290d90f680fa0993ef532

A photo of an authentic Beni Ourain in the home of Frank Lloyd Wright

Songkran: Family, Renewal and Water Fights for the Thai New Year

tumblr_n3zfa0nWpP1sxb3k2o1_1280-2Sawadee Pee Mai! – That’s Thai for Happy New Year! In Thailand, the beginning of the New Year is celebrated in April, the hottest month of the year. The New Years celebration is called “Songkran festival”. The word Songkran means “to pass” or “to move into”. It is derived from the Sanskrit language and in the context of Thai New Year it refers to the passing and moving of the sun, moon, and other planets. The celebration typically lasts for three days, and consists most famously of people partying in the streets and throwing water at each other. Sounds like fun! This year, Songkran was celebrated From April 13 through 15.

tumblr_n3zfa0nWpP1sxb3k2o3_1280-4

Renewal

The festival taking place in the spring is significant as it represents the renewal of the earth after winter, as well as the beginning of the new year. To go along with this theme, people in Thailand clean their homes from top to bottom for the beginning of Sonkran.

Water

Water is representative of cleansing and purifying the self for the new year. Water is the trademark of the Sonkran celebrations, as it is known as “The Water Festival”. Basically, people walk around with water guns and buckets of water, splashing and soaking everyone around.

songkran-water-festival-1

While the water symbolizes a cleansing & rejuvenation for the new year, it is certainly nice to cool off! 

Buddha

Buddhists visit temples and water is poured onto images and statues of Buddha, and over the hands of monks to show respect.

tumblr_n3zfa0nWpP1sxb3k2o2_1280

songkran_p31

Family and Community 

Many Thai people travel to spend time with family during Songkran. The festivities of Songkran bring together all the different members of the family and society, and unite their relationships with each other, as well as with nature.

songkran-2013-s13-660x330

 Even the Elephants get in on the fun!  

Events and Traditions

The first day of the festival is called “Songkran Day”. All over the country there are parades and processions featuring images of Buddha. The water throwing also begins on this day.

songkran-queen

 The Songkran Queen

The second day of Songkran is called “Wan Nao”. This is the celebration of the old Thai New Years Eve. It takes place on the day when the sun travels between Pisces and Aires. Many Buddhists go to their homes this day to build Sand Chedis, which is a sand castle that looks like a Buddhist Temple.

The third day of Songkran is New Years Day. Offerings are left at temples this day, amongst other festivities.

Visiting

Many tourists plan their trips to Thailand around Songkran, as visitors are welcome to join in the festivities. In fact, if you are walking around during this time, it will be difficult to avoid getting soaked.

View more photos on our Tumblr!

In some cities, this centuries-old tradition includes a good smearing on passersby of colored talc as a symbol of good luck.

Architectural Wonders of India

We just received a large shipment of new treasures from India, adding to our beloved collection. We cannot get enough of Indian culture, aesthetic and history. Have a look below at some of our new (and old favorite) merchandise, and a couple of the architectural wonders they remind us of.

The Mandore Gardens-Mandore India

81207641

The Mandore Gardens contain a temple dedicated to 330 million Gods. The gardens themselves certainly do not fall short of equaling the temple’s magnitude. Other temples, chhatris and high rock terraces border large lawns and topiaries. There is also a governement museum, which is filled with artifacts from the bygone era, and also contains the previously mentioned temple dedicated to various Hindu Gods who are worshipped all over India. The Gardens are in the small town of Mandore, which is located about 6 miles from Jodpur. Mandur was the original capital of the Rajputana kingdom before Marwar. The town is known for the famous gardens, which were built around the red sandstone cenotaphs or Chhatris, made for the Rathore rulers. The Mandore fort is is also there, but has not been maintained well like the gardens have. Tourists mainly visit Mandore to see these two attractions.

dieties-of-the-mandore-gardens-1

mandore-garden-dewals

These rustic shelves are reminiscent of the Mandore Garden temples with thier muted hues and detailed arches. The figurines and ornate carvings seem like they were taken directly ot of a Mandore Temple. They are whimisicle in nature, and yet the faded colors and soft edges give a down to earth, organic quality.

42259__36272.1394821875.451.41642264


Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir,”The Red Temple”- New Delhi, India

Digambar_Jain_Lal_Mandir,_Chandni_Chowk,_Delhi

Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is the oldest and most well known Jain temple in New Delhi, built in 1656. It is red sandstone, and is known as the “Red Temple”. It is also known for a veterinary hospital in a second building behind the main temple, called the Jain Birds Hospital. The temple is located within the historical district of the city, on the main street Chandni Chowk. This area, referred to as “old city”, was founded by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658). Chandni Chowk Street was built in front of “The Red Fort”, which was the imperial residence. The Red Fort is directly across from the Red Temple. During this time, several financers were invited to come and settle in New Delhi and given land. They were of the Jain religion and permitted by the emperor to build a temporary structure for a Jain temple. During this period (Mughal period) it was illegal to build a sikhara (Sanskrit word’s literal translation of “mountain peak” refers to the rising tower in the Hindu temple architecture) for a temple. A sikhara was not built until after India’s independence, when the red temple was added to and rebuilt extensively.

Sri-Digambar-Jain-Lal-Mandir-hindu-temple-in-Red-Fort-New-Delhi-India

At the front of the red temple is a manastambha or “column of honor”. This is a traditional feature of Jain temples, and its size is intended to remove the pride of a person entering the temple. There is a small courtyard, surrounded by a colonnade. Across from the courtyard is a terrace, leading to the first floor of the temple, and the central area of prayer and devotion.

Within this area are many shrines, the most important being of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthanara of Jainism. He was born in 599 BC as a prince, but renounced all worldly possessions and went in search of Moksha or salvation. He reached “enlightenment”, and spent the rest of his life preaching. Other important shrines are of Lord Adinath, the first Tirthankara, and Lord Parasnath who was the predecessor of Mahavira. The people come to the red temple and leave offerings of fruit, grains and candles. The red temple is said to be popular due to its soothing ambience and for the shining of the gilded paint under the candles and lamps.

42348__84409.1394822048.1280.1280

42350__80245.1394822053.1280.1280

I am obsessed with the folding screens pictured above. They can be added to  room not only to add a burst of rich color and as a statement piece, but they are also so functional. A screen can be used to create a barrier where there is none, a divider between different areas in an open space, or my favorite, to conceal a mess. A unique & massive iron toran with individual tea light holders is pictured below.

42384__46675.1394822120.1280.1280

We will be back soon to discuss more of the new additions to our extensive Indian Collection and other beautiful places for you to read about.

India’s Sari: Origin, Myth and Beauty

sarigirls
Far and wide, the sari or saree has been a well-known symbol of the Indian female for 5000 years. In today’s India, there are 6.5 million people involved in the production of handloom saris. Although the structure of saris are mostly the same, Indian woman have much room for personal and creative expression in their dress.The sari exists in countless varieties of draping styles, patterns, colors and weaves.

The Sari is a garment made up of a piece of fabric usually 6-9 yards, wrapped around the waist and draped over one shoulder. The midriff is typically exposed, and often one arm is covered on the side the sari is draped over the shoulder. A petticoat is usually worn beneath the sari. This piece has many different names depending on region. In western India it is called chaniyo, parkar or ghagra, shaya in the east, pavadi or padava in the south, and lahanga or lehenga in the North. A blouse is also worn beneath the sari and is called either a choli or ravika. The choli is basically a crop top, with short sleeves and a low neck. Cholis are sometimes backless or halter style and when they are they tend to be more formal than the every day versions, with a lot of embroidery and embellishments. Many women who are in the armed forces wear a sari uniform, with a short sleeve shirt tucked into the waist.

Detail_of_a_leaf_with_the_birth_of_mahavira
Kalpasutra Manuscript-1375

The Sari originated within the Hindu culture. Hindus believe that stitched clothing is impure. Hindus also believe that the belly button is very important and is a source of life and creativity. This is why the Sari does not cover the midriff. Another reason for the bare stomach is the Ancient Indian ideals of beauty. They value, like many other cultures, the juxtaposition of a small waist with larger hips and bust line. The Sari exposes the waist but also adds width to the hips and bust, emphasizing and even exaggerating the female figure. This being said, the sari still maintains a woman’s modesty, as she is covered from head to toe with fabric, and it is only a small portion of her waist exposed. The first known depiction of the Sari is a statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a sari-like drape and dates back to 100 B.C. Sculptures from the 1st-6th century AD depict dancers and goddesses wearing dhoti wraps. Cave murals from the 5th century show women wearing full body saris. In the early 1500’s, a traveler from Portugal described women as wearing very thin cotton or silk garments that wrapped around their waist and shoulder, exposing the arm and shoulder. There are many Indian myths and legends involving saris. Most come from ancient manuscripts such as the Vedic Scripts, Mahabharata, Silappadhikaram, Kadambari and Natya Shastra. Scholars commonly believe that the earliest texts recording saris are 5000 years old.

draupadi
I find the most interesting aspect of saris to be how all women in India wear them, the way all men in America, or most, wear pants. While in some ways this could be thought of as hindering to a woman’s freedom of self, of expression and of movement. However, it could also be looked at from the other side. If you knew you were wearing a sari everyday, think of all the time and energy you would save, not worrying about clothing. The biggest advantage to this in my mind, is not having to think about finding clothes that fit all of the  figure flattering, current, matching with your personal style, affordable. For American woman, the biggest struggle is without a doubt finding clothes that are figure flattering. In our culture, it often seems that clothes were made with the attempt to sabotage your figure. With Saris, that is not a concern because the sari is literally draped around your own, actual body. It is designed to be a covering to the main point in the room-which is you-not your outfit. Weather you are a size 8 or you gain weight over the holidays and are now a size 10 doesn’t matter in the slightest. Your Sari will still look good on you because it exists in celebration of you.

Landowners+Wife+-+India+c1890sLand owner’s wife-1895

Women_in_Sarees

1912

Two+Indian+women+dressed+in+saris+-+1940

 1940

Air+India+Receptionist+in+Sari+-+1971

Receptionist for Air india-1971

bollywood-indian-movies-actresses-celebrities-stars-wear-beautiful-designers-saree-sari6

Actress Kangana Ranaut wearing designer Sabyasachi-2013

sari

         We have a beautiful selection of Sari Silk in our store currently. Come check it out!

Kantha Stitch: Traditional Embroidery of South East Asia

blankets

We have piles of these brilliantly patterned blankets. They are warm, but the floral motifs are perfect to get you ready for spring. Prices range from $95-$175.

Adding to our collection of beloved Indian furniture, rugs and textiles, we have packed our show room with all things Kantha. These chairs, benches, pillows and quilts are brightly colored and add a pow effect to any decor. Simultaneously, the often worn, faded fabric and white stitching tone down the bold factor, so these pieces are not overbearing, but have a soft, easy quality.

Kantha is a popular type of embroidery in eastern South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, West Bengal and Odisha. Sometimes the stitching is simple and sparse, creating only a border. In some of the most mesmerizing examples, running stitches cover the whole of the fabric, creating exquisite motifs of animals, birds, flowers, geometric shapes, and themes from every day life activities. The stitching makes the cloth appears slightly wavy and rumpled, creating a “used” effect. There are many forms of Kantha, with differences stemming from region, accessible materials, the use of the textile being created, and weather it is functional or meant for decorative purposes.

Nakshi Kantha is the term used for simple quilts which are made using Kantha stitching. In Bengal, women usually layer old saris and cloth with kantha stitch to create blankets and bedspreads. These are very popular among tourists in Bengal. In Odisha, women traditionally wear “Kantha Saris”. These saris are recycled when old to create bed cushions or to be used on top of cushions. They are layered on top of each other and stitched together.

quilt

An example of Nakshi Kantha found in our store.

In rural areas, Kantha has remained the most common form of embroidery. Traditionally, Kantha cloth was made by using soft dhotis and saris and placing a running stitch along the edges. These were known either as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha, depending on the use of the cloth. Some of these possible uses are women’s shawls, and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In modern times, Kantha stitch is used in wider variation, such as on shirts for both men and women, bedding and other furniture fabrics.

pillow_cabinet_

We have so many fluffy, soft pillows!

There is a book called Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, by Krishnadas Kaviraj written about 500 years ago. In this book is the first mention of a homemade Kantha, made by a mother for her son. However, Kanthas are believed to have existed for at least 1,000 years. This quote tells of the personal and often spiritual creation process of Kanthas:

“Kantha is like a personal diary, a letter one writes to a particular person, and is not meant to be ready by all. In East Bengal the Kantha was a personal expression, an art-craft that was made spontaneously, even whimsically. It was never commissioned by rulers, nor ordered by the landed gentry. No two pieces are the same. It was craft that was practiced by women of all rural classes, the rich landlord’s wife making her own elaborate embroidered quilt in her leisure time, and the tenant farmer’s wife making her own thrifty, coverlet, equal in beauty and skill. The Kantha is an invocation to the gods and spirits for the prosperity and protection of the family. A real Kantha is able to narrate a story, and is much more compact in design and it is made out of used materials. It has been passed on for generations, from mothers to daughters and is largely a “dowry” tradition.” – Krishnadas Kaviraj
Unknown

Types of Kantha

The Running Stitch Kantha is the traditional form. These are subdivided into “Nakshi-figured” and “par tola- patterned”. Nakshi Kanthas are further divided into either motif or scenic kanthas.

Lohori Kantha comes from the Persian word “lehr”, which means wave. These are further divided into “soja-straight or simple”. “Kautar khupi-triangle or pigeon coop”, or “borfi-diamond”. Lohori Kantha are especially popular in Rajshahi.

Lik or anarasi Kantha means Pineapple are found in the chapainawabgonj and Jessore areas. Variations are “lik tan, lik tile, lik jhumka, and lik lohori”.

Cross Stitch or Carpet Kanthas were brought to India by the English during the British Rule. The stitch used in these Kanthas is the cross stitch.

Sujni Kantha uses a popular motif of undulating floral and vine.4161541615-back

One really unique aspect of kantha is the combination of multiple fabrics, pulled together into one cohesive piece. The above images show the backside and front side of the same chair. Click here to view this chair in our online store.

4161941619-2

These two images demonstrate another chair with different fabrics on the front and back sides. This is a swivel chair and the exposed metal base and scoop shape give it a fresh, modern look, while maintaining vintage apeal through the Kantha fabric. Click here to view this chair in our online store.

Stitches

The most traditional stitch used in Kanthas is the running stitch, often called “phor” or “kantha stitch”. Other types of stitches used in Kanthas are The “Chatai” or pattern darning, “Kaitya” or bending stitch, weave running stitch, darning stitch, “Jessore” stitch, Threaded running stitch, Lik phor or anarasi or ghar hasia stitches.  The modern day Kantha stitches are the Kasmiri Stitch and the arrow head stitch. Occasionally, stitches such as the herringbone, satin, back and cross are used.

pillow

Uses of Kanthas

Quilt (lep in Bengali)

Large spread (Naksi Kantha in Bengali)
An embellished quilt embroidered in traditional motifs and innovative style

Puja floor spread (Ason in Bengali)

Cosmetic wrapper (Arshilota in Bengali)
A narrow embroidered wrapper to roll and store away a woman’s comb, mirror, eye kohl, vermilion, sandal paste, oil bottle, etc. Often, a tying string is used to bind the wrap, as in later day satches.

Wallet (Batwa thoiley in Bengali)

Cover for Quran (ghilaf in Arabic and Bengali)

Prayer mats (Jainamaz in Bengali)

Cover (Dhakni in Bengali)
Covering cloths of various shapes and sizes.

Ceremonial meal spread (Daster khan in Bengali)

Pillow cover (Balisher chapa or oshar in Bengali)

Handkerchief (Rumal)

Modern day articles
Today newer uses are found for nakshi kanthas, such as bedspreads, wall hangings, cushion covers, ladies purses, place mats, jewelry boxes, dress fronts, skirts border, shawls and sharees.

41466

Kantha Stitch Cushion. Click here to view this in our online store.

Chinese New Year: Evolution of The Spring Festival and Ancient Traditions

redandgold-1

If you celebrate New Years Eve marked by the calendar used in America, you are probably just now getting back into your regular routine of eating, sleeping and exercise, or perhaps you have just begun a new routine. If you live in China or are Chinese American, you are just getting ready to throw routine away for the duration of the two week celebration for Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar is dependent on the lunar calendar. The darkest day of the month is always the first day of the month. New Years festivities also usually begin on the first day of the month, and last until the brightest day, which is the 15th, or the day of the full moon. Chinese New Year is also called The Spring Festival, and is symbolic of the ending of Winter. It is traditional to clean your house and get a haircut before Chinese New Year, so that bad Chi form the previous year does not follow you into the New Year.


Legend
“In ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality.” 2014 is the year of the horse.

Fireworks
In Chinese culture, it is believed that fire can ward against bad luck. Because of this, many New Years traditions involve the color red, which is symbolic of fire. People wear red and decorate by writing poems on red paper. Children are given red envelopes containing “lucky money”. There are large firework displays. These symbolize fire, as well as an ancient custom of lighting Bamboo stalks so that the flames would scare away evil spirits.

fire


Family Feast

One of the strongest aspects of the Chinese New Year celebrations is spending time with family. Similar to many holidays around the world, families reunite and gather in each other’s homes to eat, drink and be merry. In America, the Family aspect of this tradition evolved, and became whole neighborhoods celebrating together. This is because when the Chinese originally immigrated to America, many people came alone, or without their families. These people turned to their neighbors for a sense of community and formed neighborhood associations to keep traditions alive. In modern day America many Chinese neighborhood associations host New Year festivities.

Most families cook more than enough food for their family parties on the eve of the New Year. The left over food symbolizes the hope for abundance and wealth in the year to come. Another common tradition is Chinese Nian Gao, which is a special cake. After dinner is over, people gather and wait for the New Year, and usually do not sleep that night.

chinese-new-year-food-dumplings_1389990443.jpg

new-year-food

Lanterns and Dragons
On the fifteenth night of the lunar month, which is the brightest night and the close of the New Year celebration, The Chinese have a lantern festival. Lanterns are hung in temples and people carry them to a nighttime parade. The lanterns are often exquisitely decorated, painted with scenes from histories, legends, zodiac signs, animals and birds. A well-known part of the lantern parade is the dragon dance. Silk paper and bamboo are used to make a dragon, often one hundred feet long. The dragon is held up over the arms and heads of young men who dance as they move the dragon through the parade.

dragondance

parade

Culture
It is common for people in China to take weeks off from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. However the New Years celebrations are shortened in America, and the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend, regardless of the moon. Many Chinese American communities also incorporate elements of typical American culture parades such as Marching bands and floats.

foodboston

In Boston

This year, The Chinese New Year Parade will take place on Sunday, Feburary 9, 2014. It will start at 10am  and end at 5pm. The parade takes place on Chinatown Main Street. Here are some other celebrations taking place in the city throughtought the Chinese New Year.

FREE Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts
Feb 8-465 Huntington – special events including a Lion dance, martial arts, Korean bowling and guided tours of the Asian Galleries.

Boston Children’s Museum
February 9 from 11am to 4pm – $14 – cultural and performances celebrating the New Year.

Chinese New Year in Harvard Square
February 23 from 1-3pm. Starts in Winthrop Park with a lion dance followed by the dance,firecrackers, hanging red lantersn and parade through Harvard Square.

The Mystery Surrounding Mamluk Carpets

History
The Mamluk Dynasty came to power in Egypt and Syria in the mid thirteenth century. By the 15th century, they had established a thriving carpet industry in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. These people originally came to the Middle East as slave soldiers from Turkic, Mongol and Circassian tribes in Central Asia. They were bought and trained by Arab rulers, converted to Islam, and turned into Elite palace soldiers. The word Mamluk actually translates to “owned”. Eventually, the Mamluks revolted and seized power for themselves, ruling for two centuries. They were warriors on a fierce level, and typically killed or replaced their own leaders every five years. Surprisingly or not, they were also huge patrons of art.

mamluk_sultan

Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri

The Mamluk era is often referred to as a “Renaissance of the Islamic Arts”. The rugs are thought to have a “sublime” quality and to be more than just fine carpets but sophisticated works of art symbolizing spiritual themes of unity. The geometric forms themselves are representational of simplicity and singularity, while the whole of the designs, many forms interconnected, are complex.

simonetti

This rug is named Simonetti after a former owner. It is one of the most famous Mamluk Carpets that exists, as well as one of the largest of its type. This rug has five medallions instead of the usual two or three. It also has a brighter color palette than most. It dates back to the year 1500, and is believed to have been made in Cairo, probably in a palace.

 double-field-mamluk
This rug has a double field with two medallion-like structures. One is eight-sided; the other eight-pointed. The “eight” theme appears in many Mamluks. 
In 1517, the Mamluk territories were conquered by the Ottomans. Mamluk carpet production continued after but the Mamluk people were commissioned by the Ottoman courts to produce rugs in the “Cairene” style which competed with the Persian rugs of that time. The Mamluk carpet production slowed quickly and eventually stopped altogether. There are only around 100 original Mamluk rugs left in the world. Only one remains in Cairo, and the rest are in museums. The museum pieces are not often displayed because it is feared that too much exposure to light will fade their colors. Today, rug makers all over the world seek to replicate and draw from the Mamluk style, particularly in Egypt, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Characteristics
Mamluk carpets are known for their lustrous wool, fine weave, and soft colors dominated by pale greens, yellows and reds. Their designs are distinctive-complex, large medallions made up of intersecting forms. These forms are based on the tradition of Islamic geometric ornament. The borders are made of oblong medallions or “cartouches”. A variation of the Mamluk called Paramamluk, features all over patterns of smaller hexagons, octagons and squares. These are often known as the “chessboard” carpets. The Paramamluk has been attributed to Damascus, which was a large center in the Syrian portion of the Mamluk realm. One instantly noticeable characteristic of the mamluk carpets is that they appear totally mathematical and at the same time, totally mystical, similar to the existence of the rugs themselves.

chess
Paramamluk or “Chessboard” Carpet, origin unknown, 15th century, Philadelphia Museum of Art Website
 

Visit our Harrison avenue showroom to see these and more amazing examples of the Mamluk design in a range of colors and sizes.

mamluk22

More mysterious facts about Original Mamluk Carpets

– Prior to the mamluk rugs, there was no pile-rug weaving in Egypt.

– No one knows where the rugs were originally woven. Egypt, Turkey and Spain are offered possibilities. One reason for so many places to be considered is that the rugs seemed to appear out of thin air.

– The wool is unlike the wool used in other Egyptian rugs of that time. However it is not clear that the wool is from somewhere other than Egypt.

– The wool is spun clockwise, and most carpet wools were spun counterclockwise.

– The red dye came from Indian insects known as Iac. Master weavers in Turkey and Iran were using pigment entirely different during this time period.

Tradition & Function: Living Bridges in India

crazy_bridge

Long ago in North Eastern India, the War-Khasis tribe of Meghalaya were way ahead of the green movement. They realized they could grow their own bridges! Meghalaya is known as “the wettest place in the world”, and once received 25 meters of rain in one year, making the world record. The southern Khasi and Jaintia hills are intersected by numerous, rapidly flowing rivers. Nearly all the rainfall occurs during the monsoon of the summer months, and the gentle rivers can  quickly become wild, raging and dangerous to cross. The people still had to cross these waterways, and discovered they could utilize their natural resources to benefit their lives in a beautiful way, while remaining harmonious with nature.

The only material needed for the creation of these bridges is a tree, known as Ficus Elastica. This is a species of rubber tree,that can grow to a size of 30-40 meters. These trees have a secondary root system, which causes the roots to grow outwards. The roots grow upwards, towards the upper part of the tree and are incredibly strong. The Ficus can comfortably and sturdily grow from the edges of huge boulders, as well as within the river beds themselves.

live_bridge2

Although the trees grow all on their own, people must use tools and frames to guide the growth of the trees in the desired direction. The trunks of betel nut trees are slices down the middle and hollowed out, and used as a guidance frame for the roots of the Ficus. This causes the new and therefore tender and thin roots to grow straight out, across the river, instead of spreading in all different directions like they would without help. When the roots grow long enough to reach the soil of the other side of the river, they take root. Over time, the roots grow deep into the earth, and provide a sturdy structure that spans from one side of the river to the other. People also choose places a bridge is needed, and plant a tree there. Then they must wait for the tree to grow strong and tall before cultivating a bridge. In this aspect, there is significant planning involved in growing root bridges, and serious patience.

smoking_guy

Dilligent attention must be paid to this process and it typically takes from 10-15 years for the bridge to be completed. Some of these bridges can hold the weight of 50 people and reach a length of over 100 feet. The most amazing thing about these bridges, is they actually get stronger with age. Through time, the wood of the roots obtain a strength of what is compared  to steel cables. In fact, it is the “alive” aspect of these structures that allows them to be so strong. Their constant growth adds to their durability. It is estimated that some of the “ancient” root bridges used daily by the people in this region are well over 500 years old. Talk about sustainable development.

One of the most astonishing and unique root bridges is believed to be the only one like it in the world. It is two bridges, one growing about 14 feet over the other one.  It is known as the “Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge”.

double_bridge

There is a lot of well deserved attention being paid to these wonders, because they were re-discovered by a man from the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort. Denis P Rayen wants to promote interest in the bridges. To prevent the  bridges from being destroyed or replaced with steel in favor of modernizing, the local people have been alerted to their value and potential. I think they were probably already aware. Currently, a new bridge is being grown, and should be finished within this decade.

In this video, a man teaches his daughter the knowledge and skills needed to complete the bridge he has been growing for over 30 years. He knows he will not live long enough to see it finished, and he wants to ensure his daughter will take his place and see it through. To me, this wisdom and knowledge being passed down from generation to generation is a striking parallel to the “living bridges” themselves. Each generation begins a bridge to the generations to come, by teaching their children these secrets. This a moving story of people living in humble awe of the miraculous earth around them, and the power of growing instead of cutting down.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oESC2iDZArI]