Published: 07th June 2021
Sonth side story: These three women use cloth and culture to redefine your Kashmiri stereotypes
Three youngsters from Kashmir decided to redefine what we have been fed as Kashmiri designs and make them a lot more rooted and simplistic to reflect the region more accurately. Check this out
Notebooks, calendars, published children's books and photo frames — there was so much Sonth had already done in terms of products that reflected the aesthetics of Kashmir. After all, this was the purpose behind the three women, Onaiza Drabu, Nusaibah Khan and Mahvash Masood, starting this initiative in the first place, back in 2018 - to stop populating the market with reductive motifs that supposedly reflect the traditional art and handicraft of Kashmir. Now, with their Sonth Jewellery Edit 2021, the trio has added beautiful bijoux to their collection.
Onaiza, Nusaibah and Mahvash
It was during the lockdown last year that the idea of offering jewellery made its way into their brainstorming sessions. They decided to explore three materials, namely, papier-mache, copper and walnut wood. "Mahvash is a designer and has worked with Kashmiri artisans before. She has already built a level of trust with them, so we tapped into the same network again for our products," says Onaiza. What they knew for sure is that instead of an avalanche of floral motifs, like one is expected to see in the stereotypical Kashmiri designs, they would use, say, one simple vine of flowers. Similarly, a pair of earrings beautifully depicts Kashmir's blue pottery design with a simplicity that seems characteristic to the whole collection as well. And that's where Sonth owns the game, by keeping everything minimalistic and simplistic.
Poshe Kul - Wooden panel pendant
When it comes to papier-mache, there are earrings made using the aforementioned technique with intricate design and varnish over them. "What's the smallest we can go, in terms of the design? That's one question that we asked ourselves at every step of the way," says the 31-year-old. It wasn't all smooth-sailing when it comes to the artisans though, like while working with copper, the team would give them sketches with absolute measurements and found that the finished product did not really resemble what was on paper. This is when they regrouped to understand what the artisans can deliver and utilise what they bring to the table first. "Our copper artisans were used to working with utensils or decorative pieces like lampshades. Imagine asking them to make small pieces like earrings and pendants," explains the youngster who is also an author. When it comes to working with wood, which involved filigree-like delicate patterns, the challenge was similar. "The biggest reason behind how we convinced the artisans to work and experiment with us was that they simply had no sales. Tourism was at a low and there were hardly any bulk orders as well. They are not sure how to sell online which is why they were open to working with us," she explains.
Kanguw - Wooden decorative comb
Whatever the reason might be, the results are as simple, beautiful and minimalistic, just like the trio imagined them to be. All thanks to their efforts and the four artisans they had enlisted for the work. Also, on offer are rings, a sweet decorative comb and earrings with motifs like Gul-e-Akhtab, pakh, mahtab and others. Orders take about 16-20 days to be delivered since they are handmade and the pandemic hasn’t exactly made the logistics any easier.
Papier-Mache Earrings - Porcelain blue
When it comes to their past products, it would be a grave injustice not to mention their 2019 calendar which features 12 inspirational Kashmiri women. This was designed and executed with a group of Kashmiri female artists who call themselves Kashmir Women's Collective. They even published children's books, one of which is called Okus-Bokus featuring a grandmother teaching her grandchildren Kashmiri words from A to Z to the children while connecting them with the traditions and culture of the religion.
For more on them check out sonth.shop