Saffronart Delhi hosts an exhibition of embroidered textiles from Nagaland & Bihar

Manjari Sihare shares snippets of an exhibition of embroidered textiles currently on view at Saffronart Delhi

New Delhi: Last week, an exhibition of embroidered textiles from Nagaland and Bihar opened in our Delhi gallery. Textiles from this exhibition are  featured in a curated collection on The Story. Learn more about the exquisite embroidery traditions of India in this blog post contributed by renowned craft connoisseur, Minhazz Mazumdar who also delivered a talk to mark this exhibition. Stay tuned for more exciting collections on the running stitch!

Here are some snippets from the show which runs until January 12, 2013.

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Subodh Gupta’s Praise of Doubt

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on Subodh Gupta’s works featured in the current exhibition at Francoise Pinault’s Punta della Dogana in Venice

Rome: The Punta della Dogana in Venice, a centre for contemporary art, has been showing parts of the Francoise Pinault collection since 2009. From April 2011 until the end of 2012 the exhibition ‘In Praise of Doubt’ presents the works of twenty international artists, of which half have never been exhibited before as part of the Pinault collection.

This exhibition, curated by Caroline Bourgeois, is a thematic journey through the strengths and weaknesses of the human condition. New artworks including some site-specific installations and historical pieces explore themes such as uncertainty and identity, and  discuss the relationship between the artwork space and the intimate space.

Among the twenty artists featured in the exhibition are Subodh Gupta, Maurizio Cattelan, Jeff Koons and Thomas Schutte.

In ‘Spooning’ and ‘Cosmos IX’ Gupta transcends accustomed meanings, taking created objects to another level and producing multiple readings which are not expected. In fact, the two stainless steel spoons in ‘Spooning’ actually manage to evoke feelings of love! On the other hand, ‘Et tu, Duchamp?’ is an homage to the great French artist who is an important source of inspiration for Gupta and his foundation in the understanding of western art.

Below is a slideshow of Subodh Gupta’s artworks on display in Venice. More information on the exhibition can be found here.

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Romance of the Running Stitch

In conjunction with the beautiful collection of textiles featured on The Story, Romance of the Running Stitch: Nagaland, guest blogger, Minhazz Majumdar shares some insights on the embroidery traditions of India

New Delhi: India has a long and enduring relationship with embroidered textiles and presents a dizzying array of embroidery traditions. The first needles discovered in the Indian sub-continent are from the Indus Valley civilization in Mohenjodaro and date back to 2000 BC. Examining the statuary and other material culture of that era, we can conclude that richly embroidered textiles were in vogue even then. By the 16th Century, the embroidery traditions of India were known as some of the finest in the world.

Dandelion Series I by Ajungla ImchenA silk stole embroidered using Kantha embroidery style77 x 20.5 in (195.5 x 52 cms)

Dandelion Series I (detail) by Ajungla Imchen
A silk stole embroidered using Kantha embroidery style
77 x 20.5 in (195.5 x 52 cms)
Image credit: Saffronart

Kantha  and Sujuni are embroidery traditions from eastern India from  the states of West Bengal and Bihar respectively . Both embroideries are based on the simple running or quilting stitch and are great expressions of women’s thrift as they originated as magical recreations of a beautiful new textile from old used fabrics.  The term Kantha refers to rags and alludes to the fact that worn out clothing such as old saris and dhotis were layered and stitched with running stitch to create anew. Colored threads painstakingly drawn from the borders were used for embroidery.  Some believe that the tradition of Kantha originated from the patched up robes of Buddhist monks as they went around seeking alms, their faith promoting austere habits and re-use.


Basket Series II (detail) by Ajungla Imchen
A silk stole embroidered using Kantha embroidery style
77 x 20.5 in (195.5 x 52 cms)
Image credit: Saffronart

Whatever be the origin, Kantha in the greater Bengal area (present day Bangladesh and West Bengal)  evolved into a women’s activity wherein the women magically transformed the old and discarded into new objects of beauty , creating wraps, quilts,  pillow-cases, bedspreads, book-covers, make-up bags, prayer mats and much more. The running stitch was used to great effect – by varying the length of the stitch and by either aligning (jod) or not aligning (bejod), different  effects and textures were created.  Themes in the Kanthas of yore where a mix of symbols ( the multi-petalled lotus drawn from the floor drawings alpona signifying the cosmos, the parrot, the messenger of the God of Love, peacocks for virility and so on) as well as scenes from daily life and historical facts such as British soldiers in their uniforms.

The Hunter and the Hunted by Archana Kumari An embroidered cotton panel with Sujuni embroidery

The Hunter and the Hunted by Archana Kumari
An embroidered cotton panel with Sujuni embroidery
Image credit: Saffronart

Women in the Bihar region have made Sujunis for quite a few centuries. As in Kantha old fabric were sewn together to make little quilts to place under small babies and to cover them.  In Sujuni, chain stitch is used for the outlines and running stitch for filling in the motifs.  In Sujuni, the ground or base on which the motifs appear is covered with running stitch done in straight lines while in Kantha, the ground may be covered in running stitch done more sinuously in circles, spirals, triangles etc as well as straight lines.

View the first collection of textiles Romance of the Running Stitch: Nagaland here.

Guest blogger, Minhazz Majumdar is a writer and curator of Indian art and a craft promoter. She is the co-founder of the Earth & Grass Workshop, an organization that promotes arts and crafts as livelihood.

A Conversation with Namrata & Dharmesh Kothari of SYNA Jewels

Mogul Black Spinel Short Tassel Pendant with Rubellite

Mogul Black Spinel Short Tassel Pendant with Rubellite

Manjari Sihare of Saffronart in a tête-à-tête with Namrata & Dharmesh Kothari of SYNA Jewels

New York: To mark the holiday season, The Story by Saffronart presents a collection of exquisite Mogul jewelry by renowned US based jewelry design firm SYNA, founded by Namrata & Dharmesh Kothari. Well known for curating private label collections for some of the world’s most esteemed jewelry houses, Namrata and Dharmesh launched their own designer label, SYNA, in 2003. Now in its tenth year, SYNA has made its way into most high-end stores across the United States. The designer couple talk to us about the simple, classic and timeless creations of SYNA, the materials, their use of age-old inlay and carving techniques and more in this exclusive interview.

Q. Please tell us about your brand ‘SYNA’?

SYNA was born in 2003 and excels in exquisitely crafted, luxurious jewelry using colored gemstones.  SYNA means “together” It comes from synergy. The name relates to our desire to partner with people, be it our retailers, our vendors, our jewelers or our employees. We believe people can achieve great things by respecting each other and pooling their talents and resources.

Q. SYNA jewelry stands out for its use of semi-precious gemstones? Please elaborate on your choice of materials and the design philosophy?

Our design philosophy has always been to keep it simple. A piece should have only what is needed, nothing too much, and not less. You will not see pieces from SYNA with too much going on. We’re always always stripping a design to its core. We want to show the heart out instantly, and in it’s purest form, without losing its inherent character.

We believe in using the best of gemstones, which we source from all across the world. We collect roughs of various gemstones and cut the shapes we need as we want. We utilize complex methods to showcase jewelry in its simplest form possible, we never lose the inherent character of the stones, letting the natural beauty of gemstones take center stage. Everything is about achieving the most effective color display and combination. The silhouettes are classic yet striking and can complement a daytime denim or underscore a perfect little black dress. The simplicity of a SYNA piece with a twist of modern elegance is what keeps it timelessly fresh yet versatile.

Q. Do you manufacture SYNA jewelry in the United States? Tell us a little about your sourcing and manufacturing?  

We make our jewelry in the United States using the most skilled jewelers in the industry. We cut and polish our gemstones in India. And our colored stone roughs are sourced from all across the world. We’re always in the search of exotic new materials and gemstones. Being hands on right from sourcing the raw materials to the finished product, there is no compromising at any stage.

Q. Could you talk to us about SYNA’s ‘Mogul Collection’ featured on The Story?


SYNA’s Mother of Pearl Earrings in their signature design, the intricately latticed windows inspired by Mughal architecture

Like I said, our design philosophy has always been to keep it simple. We have taken intricate traditional Mughal shapes and extracted their purest forms and used them in our collections in simple, modern ways. Our signature & symbol is inspired by intricately latticed windows from Mughal palaces, effortlessly merged into a medallion. We proudly call it the Mogul. Our little signature identifies our roots and our design philosophy.

Being the heart of the SYNA brand are the Mogul Drops. The outer shape of the Mogul drops is inspired by the traditional red tilak, a Hindu symbol of victory,

success and good fortune placed on the forehead. We call them “Mogul” drops as they reflect the larger-than-life sizes (some even go to more than a hundred carats each). Our Mogul drops celebrate the culmination of Hindu and Mughal art influences in most architecture in India.


SYNA Mogul Drops

Little antiques, a child’s drawing, architecture, a landscape, door knobs, a memory , a word from a friend on the phone. There are always little things everywhere that gets us excited and thinking, be it during our travels or from our backyard. We love seeing how one inspiration fuses into another all the time.

Q. What are some of the key pieces in this collection and why do they stand out from everything else?

Our large Mogul Drops!! Each large drop is a over a 100 carats, cut to perfection and embellished with 18k yellow gold and diamonds. These can be adorned on vintage leather cords, blackened silver chains and 18k yellow gold chains (and even interchangeably). Each look transforms this simple classic piece into a versatile, chic style. We absolutely love the magic we see in the eyes of our clients when they wear these. The Mogul drops come in various sizes (large, medium and small) and in a lot of different stone species (amethyst, blue topaz, black spinel, rose quartz, blue chalcedony, moon quartz, citrine, lemon quartz, smoky quartz, rock crystal and more) embellished with 18k yellow gold and champagne and black diamonds.

Q. Please share the retail history of SYNA?

SYNA was born in 2003, when we came to the US. It’s been quite a joyride ever since, with some highs and some lows (and some serious bumps!!)  Our first collections were taken by the big names in the industry. It helped us survive the giant leap we took from India then. Today, the SYNA brand is showcased in most high-end retail stores nation-wide including Neiman Marcus & Mitchells family of stores. We choose only the best in the business in each location.

Q. Where do you see SYNA in the next 5-10 years

The last ten years have been our foundation years, long and significant. These years were also some of the most exciting years of our lives. In the next five years, we’ll see a lot of “distribution” magic within SYNA. We’re here since the last ten years, but we’re yet discovering new places. We’re still touring each city, still discovering new store locations, we’re still meeting people, people whom we will work for a life-time. We are growing each day and we’re loving every moment. The next decade will be the most crucial years for Syna, and hopefully they will be path-breaking.

 Q. What kind of buyers does the brand cater to?

Our clients are drawn to our pieces for the purity of color and elegance. They are compelled to touch the stones and get a feeling of spirituality. They love simple, sophisticated styling with an understanding of natural gemstones and appreciate fine quality.  

Q. Your recommendations to build a classic SYNA Collection

Mogul Amethyst dangling drop chain earrings with Rubellite

Mogul Amethyst dangling drop chain earrings with Rubellite

A large or medium Mogul drop on a vintage cord. Some Baubles rings and bracelets. Simple modern Paris cobblestone earrings and a little SYNA bold chakra charm pendant is a good way to start with. From there on, one can build the collection with additional drop colors & sizes (for layering) and some more Baubles colors (to add more combinations to your existing look) and more earring styles. One will be amazed to see how they can use the same piece to create different looks all the time. Usually, we meet up our clients at various events with their existing jewelry (their SYNA pieces and their other pieces) and we create their jewelry looks right away. They always leave the event surprised and awakened on how some colors do so much magic on them than the others. It’s amazing how nature gives us these gems with such potent color, each of them providing us with the opportunity to create beautiful color stories.

Baubles diamond pave stacking rings

Baubles diamond pave stacking rings

Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Reflection on 2012

Amy Lin of Saffronart looks back on some of the highlights for Saffronart and the art world in 2012


New York: As 2012 winds down, we reflect upon the good, the bad and the peculiarities of the year. 2012 has been an exciting year for all of us here at Saffronart. We pursued uncharted territories and ventured in many new and different directions, Marco Polo style.

In February, we held our first Impressionist and Modern Art Auction, which also happened to be the first Western art auction in India. At the previews and talks in Mumbai and Delhi, collectors and enthusiasts got a chance to see and learn about original artworks by Van Gogh, Pissaro, Matisse, Picasso, Dufy, Cezanne, Dali, Miro and Warhol. Later, we shone a spotlight on India’s tribal communities and curated the world’s first Indian Folk and Tribal Auction. In November, we shared Pakistan’s rich artistic heritage with some beautifully detailed pieces dealing with gender and political issues among others. In jewelry and collectibles, our first Art Deco Sale was a big hit in Mumbai, and helped rediscover the city’s forgotten Art Deco past.

Our most recent project is The Story, a new website offering curated collections of unique objects for sale every day. These would make fine holiday presents for your girlfriend, grandmother and practically anyone else. Also, this very blog was launched in April, and what an incredible journey it has been. Thank you all for your support and appreciation! Last but not least, our new gallery in New York is finally open to the public after months of hard work and dedication. We welcome all of you to visit us here!

Our friends in the art world had a busy year as well. Here are some of my favorite stories, events and oddities from this year:

The Ecce Homo IncidentDoc1-page-001

This one needs no introduction. We all heard of the sweet but misguided little old Spanish lady who took it upon her herself to “restore” the Ecce Homo fresco at her church this August. Instead of being saluted as a fine work of art, Cecelia Gilmenz was accused of vandalism and creating a “Beast Jesus”, and sparked off an internet sensation across the world. Today, she is selling her art on Ebay!

Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor’s Gangnam Style

Our favorite contemporary artists come together to promote free speech. After Weiwei posted his parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style, Kapoor and other artists responded with a video of their own to advocate for freedom of expression around the world.

Kochi Biennale

Kochi is home to India’s first international biennale, which was kicked off this month with contributions from big names such as Ai Weiwei, Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta and others. Internationally renowned singer M.I.A. rocked the opening when she performed in the country for the very first time.

Vandalism for Art’s Sake

Vladimir Umanets vandalized Mark Rotho’s 1959 Black on Maroon painting at the Tate Modern in London in the name of Yellowism, a movement that deems all artistic expressions to be equal. He scribbled, “Vladimir Umanets ’12 / A Potential Piece of Yellowism” on the painting, worth several millions of dollars, and calmly walked out of the museum. Days later, he was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. Apparently, the judges did not see his act of vandalism as part of an art movement.

New York, New York

Finally, I have to tip my hat to this amazing city. Despite Hurricane Sandy, where close to half of the galleries in Chelsea sustained serious damaged, the city pulled together and remained strong and uncompromising as the art capital of the world. Artists and creative minds are still flocking to New York to discover all it has to offer. We wish them and all of you the best of luck in 2013 for the challenges ahead!

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