Today on the blog, we feature textile revivalist Janhavi Kulkarni, Founder of Kale Nele, based in Bangalore.
The Brand Kale Nele
Kale (meaning art) and Nele (meaning shelter) in Kannada put together, is a venture aiming to shelter, nurture and grow the demand for various fabrics and handicrafts that have been an integral part of the Indian culture and livelihoods for thousands of years which are sadly very rare and exclusive now.
With signature collections of Guledgudda or Khunn from the northern parts of Karnataka as well as a mix of other colorful weaves and hues, Kale Nele aspires to grow to adopt other forms of crafts from India and bring them to you in unique interpretations and contemporary designs to furnish your homes!
Kale Nele was started by Janhavi Kulkarni with a curated collection of her exclusively handcrafted items aiming at contributing to the betterment of the lives and livelihoods of the traditional weavers and artisans. A 1998 Gold medalist from SNDT Mumbai, Janhavi has always had a passion for textiles. Embroidery, patch work, applique, crochet, have all been her forte. Colours play and come alive in her ideas to create a plethora of designs that she brings forth in her unique products and collections.
Janhavi Kulkarni was born in Dharwad, the cultural capital of Northern Karnataka. A town that is famous for its Hindustani music stalwarts, educationists, poets and art forms very local to the households in that region. Art forms like the delicate yet highly technical embroidery technique Kasuti, vibrant weaves of Guledgudd, intricate bead, mirror, cowrie detailing of the Lambani’s, indigenous quilting of Kaudi that judiciously reuses fabric end bits, the quintessential Jamkhanas of Nurgund and many, many more traditions. It is this culturally rich milieu that shaped her sensibilities.
Born to parents who are both passionate physicists. Father an educationist who has been teaching religiously for the last 50 years and continues to inspire and guide students to this day at a college he runs. With both her parents having a science background, the general expectation was for her to go down the path of fundamental science/technology. But her calling was textiles. Delicate Embroideries, intricate patterns, vibrant hues always excited her. It brought out the best in her. Made her happy. This desire to make a career in Textiles took her to SNDT Mumbai, where she graduated with a Gold medal in 1998.
She started her career at an export house in Mumbai that creates high end products using Linen and Silk, the products differentiated by including different weaving techniques and use of intricate surface embellishments.
Products – Kale Nele:
Kale Nele offers a wide range of traditionally handcrafted yet unique cushion covers, table and bed runners, table accessories, bed sets, home accessories like torans and kite hangings, personal accessories like bags, batuas and jewellery, bespoke wedding trousseaus, corporate gifts and more!
The journey of Kale Nele is a true amalgamation of our love and respect for the art and techniques used by our weavers and kaarigars and that of the best wishes of our wonderful clientele. We hope and aim to not only showcase our products and collections here but to also bring the talent and hardwork of our weavers and artisans to the fore.
Birth of “Kale Nele”
The desire to provide an un-contested identity to the arts and crafts of Karnataka, particularly the Dharwad belt had always been a latent life goal. The confidence of a successful career, a happy family with two growing boys, a maturity one attains with what life teaches over the years and the experience of fully running a small-scale-enterprise for the associate finally triggered the decision to make a small beginning of her own. A decision that would define her identity to the world. A decision that would chart what she would do for the years to come.
She started Kale Nele in September 2012.
Kale Nele a shelter for all forms of arts and crafts is the literal meaning in the language Kannada. This is exactly what it espouses to be. Kale Nele is a humble effort to adopt a few traditional forms of craft, source indigenous fabrics from our hinterlands, provide a new interpretation to them, design products of lifestyle so that they can be made a part of our day-to-day lives to add that touch of color, and vibrancy.
Uniqueness of “Kale Nele”
The uniqueness of ‘Kale Nele’ is the ability to design contemporary products whose form and function fully cater to the core needs of the customer using a pallet of techniques very rooted to our traditions. A satisfied customer, collaborative vendor eco-system, a happy purposeful workplace, and a healthy financial prudence are all very important for ‘Kale Nele’.
A fabric that has always excited Janhavi is the Guledgudd Khunn. This is a fabric used to make bright choli of the women of Northern Karnataka. With very few takers for this fabric today, the looms are shutting down, a sad reality. Here at ‘Kale Nele’, this is reinterpreted to create a variety of products including Cushions, Runners, Torans, Hangings, Bags, Totes, iPad Covers, Sarees and Jewelry.
Other than the Khunn, Janhavi at Kale Nele has created a range of home furnishings with the Pasiely Brocades of Benaras, Maheshwaris, Mangalgiris and Chanderies, Lace fabric. Employing a variety of techniques including Appliqueing, Embroideries, soft-embellishments. The ability to dip into the richness of what this country in particular has to offer and yet present them in a manner that is refreshing and palatable for today’s market is a big differentiator.
Just as in a family, a sense of peace and happiness is very important in the work environment too. The work culture at ‘Kale Nele’ is positive, purposeful yet not over-bearing. It is very important to have the continuity of the ‘karigars’ and sourcing partners that we work with, which is only possible if the dealings are fair and transparent.
The joy of working with a fabric and form of art that is so resplendent in both its form and color, with its unmistakable grandeur, intricate weaving is truly an art to be treasured. However it is unfortunately slowly fading away. Janhavi at Kale Nele is giving a new interpretation to it, with a hope that this little endeavor will keep those looms alive with the creative spirit with which they once started. Some of the varied design techniques that are applied include:
Basket Weave: Strips of fabric of varying widths are finished. Fabric colors are carefully chosen. The fabric lengths are then woven to reveal a mish-mash of pattern. The lengths are then topstitched to ensure that the weaves remain in place. This technique has been applied to cushions and curtains.
Patch Puzzle: The beauty of patchwork is in its execution. Geometrical patterns of fabric; rectangles, squares, triangles, hexagons, arches, circles perfectly assembled like a jigsaw to create patterns that are one of the kinds. The color tones of fabric, and the direction of its cut are a studied decision made with the vision of how the complete product will look, feel and last after years of use.
Potlis – Stuffed Trinkets: Janhavi created a range of accents called as ‘Gubbi Play’. Here she gives a new interpretation to ‘Gubbi’s’. Gubbies or little sparrows were made of fabric and grouped together to make charms for babies. These adorned the cribs as dangling. The colorful Gubbies, transported the babies to the world of little birds keeping the baby entertained, and allowing the mother to cook the meal for the day!! Janhavi take these ‘Gubbies’ and plays them on the cushions!!
Kasuti: A very delicate form of embroidery. Motifs created by simple stitches, representing every objects; diyas, elephants, lanterns, chariots, birds. The technique if done properly; one would wonder which is the right side of the fabric.
Kasuti panels with motifs sandwiched into Guledgudd panels create the touch of elegant embellishment to the product.
Applique: Here the Guledgudd fabric is used as the base fabric. Patterns are embroidered on this. The fabric is carefully cut and then appliqued onto the cushion. The contrast of the applique and the base fabric adds to the drama.
End Bits Beauty: Janhavi in this technique repurposes left over Guledgudd fabric. The colorful yarn and end bits used to make the Guledgudd fabric has been spread across the desired pattern, evenly and then secured by the deft hands of the embroiderer.
For thousands of years Doddaballapur produced some of the finest silk. It is the count of the yarn they used to twist and make the thread used for weaving that set them apart. Added to this beauty was the imperfections of the slubs characteristics to the Indian Dupion. The slub in a silk dupion produced by using a fine thread in the warp and an uneven thread reeled from two or more entangled cocoons in the weft.
These looms that once made this town a heaven for silks have fallen quite today. Janhavi toured the heartlands of the state, visiting the farmers, reelers and weavers with him. Interacting with the ladies and their families made Janhavi’s resolve even stronger to work for them. Do her little bit to protect their livelihood in the secure moorings of their villages. To not force them out into the cities to only bear the brunt of sand and cement and help build yet another concrete structure.
Kale Nele is sourcing its fabrics directly from the weavers of this town. Creating exquisite products of a table runner, mats and a mysore-teak-tray. The rich jewel tones of the Indian dupion in the hands of the deft karigars form the patch mosaic. It is these colourful, vibrant, rich, fine silk products that dress your dining table and uplift your ambience and experience to a much greater heights.
The farmers that hatch the eggs, grow mulberry, feed and rear the cocoons to the fine fingers of the women that eek out fibers from the cocoons dancing in the boiling hot waters, to the reelers that then spin the yarn from these fibers to hand it over to the dyers, who again pass off the dyed yarns to the reelers that roll the yarn into bobbins and hand it off to the weavers who first lays the length of the weft allowing the artisan to weave in the warp and create the mesmerizing patterns to the fabric, this then is envisioned by a designer to make the products that are realized by the deft execution of a tailor. It is this eco-system that comes into play to create a piece of art. Little big contributions of a thousand actors. It is these livelihoods that we must protect. Allow them to do what they were born to do. Yet have a life that is beautiful, enriching and sustaining.
Beyond Home Furnishing, Janhavi has designed multiple products in the Accessories space. Accessories to add the touch of detail to both your-self and your home. A range of Personal Accessories and Home Accessories. Personal Accessories that include Handbags, clutches, wallets and Home Accessories such as Torans, Hangings, Tissue Box covers, Bottle Huggers, Coasters and Mats.
Torana – One interpretation to this in Hinduism is, ‘sacred gateway’. Torana also refers to the decorative door hangings. Most festival preparations begin by making hangings of Mango leaves that are folded delicately and strewn through coir. Torans are made using fabric too. Here Janhavi reinterprets them using the ‘Guledudd’ fabric. The vibrant color pallet of this fabric works beautifully for this product. Each leaf of the Toran is adorned with a ‘Rudraksha’ or a ‘Bell’.
Gujari Bells – Bells have been tied around the necks of livestock all around the world. The purpose being very simple, the animals have to be heard if they happen to go helter skelter. Civilizations around the world have improvised to make these bells look prettier by working intricate crochet, colorful coir, fabric, et all. The works getting so adorable that they started moving from the necks of cows and goats to the walls of our drawing rooms!! Here is Janhavi’s take on the ‘Gujari Bells’.
Chappali: Kolhapuri Chappal, our very own Indian leather footwear, created way back in the 13th century with buffolo hide and vegetable dyes has been a cherished possession for one and all to wear during the hot summers just before the impending monsoon.
Tumminkatti a handloom weaving town in Haveri district, North Karnataka was established in 1959. They have for generations reeled out pure cotton towels, bedsheets, kerchiefs and Devatha Vastra. The products created are 100% cotton, super absorbent, tough and last a lifetime.
The Kolhapuri Chappal and the Tumminkatti fabric are brought together in the product the shoe keeper, a utilitarian product from Kale Nele. A miniature Kolhapuri Chappal created by a National award winning artist from Kolhapur acts as the draw on the zipper fastner. A novel, functional, apt tassel. Tummikatti fabric based shoe/footwear keeper breaths and keeps the precious insides intact for a long time.
Sarees, Stoles and Duppatas
Sarees will never go out of vogue for Indians. Sari in so ingrained into our culture that this will continue to awe its patrons for generations to come. Khunn Sarees has been patronized by Janhavi. She relentlessly worked with the weavers of the region to specially create her designs. Designs that are refined, using colors that have a universal appeal and an aesthetic quality that is muted and sophisticated. Khunn and Ilkal sarees have effortlessly moved from the mandi’s and markets to the corporate board rooms.
Duppatta’s and Stoles created with Kasuti and ‘Gubbi’ embellishments is another emerging range.
The inspiration was a ‘Rudraksha Mala’ that a Sadhu would wear to chant and transcend from here to there. The need was that of a lady with a spirit that we would all envy. The setting was Goa. The celebration was her 40th birthday. The desire was to wear a flowing, supple white dress at the breezy beach party with just one striking piece of jewelry by her neck.
It is when such a requirement was presented to Janahvi that resulted in the creation of the range of Khunn Jewelry. The inspiration of ‘Rudraksha Mala’ was married with her muse, the Khunn fabric to create the stunning neckwear.
This range of Jewelry has been a rage with her customers, fueling further innovations.
Janhavi travelled all the ways to the “tandas’ of the Lambanis’ to source the indigenous metal pendants from these artists. These pendants are next embellished with intricate fabric work that is possible by karigars with close to 2 decades of tailoring experience. The result is a very unique offering of Jewelry.
“Punarapi Jananam, Punarapi Maranam’; a fundamental of the Hindu Mythology. Be it at home, or at work the deliberated use of resources, repurposing every end bit of fabric has been an innate value system for Janhavi. The need to repurpose and extract the maximum from every resource investment made has pushed the designer in Janhavi to create several products, embellishments. Be it the Gubbies as embellishments on an accent cushion, dupatta, saree, little Pillow Torans, fabric-flowers, embroidery with fabric-chindi and may more such innovative application.
It is taking this cause further and underscore the importance in today’s world that has been a driver to launch a separate vertical ‘Punarapi’. In this vertical, anything old that has served its purpose is given a new life, rejuvenated for a new purpose. A re-birth if you may.
This could be for an old sewing machine stand that is upcycled into a chic console table, and machine transformed into a corner Khunn light. An old bead-work panel housed in a LED lit teak side table. Jari’ bordered silk sarees that are more than 70 year old, re-in forced and fixed into a frame to adorn the living room walls.
Kale Nele continues to execute on its social responsibilities by making its small contribution in the form of a continuous association with CMCA by supplying finely executed products at cost price, working with several NGOs including an NGO based out of Belgaum that makes wire-bags all out of a workforce of blind men and women. By the start of this summer Janhavi will lend a percentage of her time weekly in the support of NGOs creating hand-finished products, by providing design inputs and market positioning rules.
Such are the initiatives that Janahvi continues to support and over the years their count will only increase.
Meet the Maker @
27th edition: By Hand From The Heart Makers Market
2 – 3 – August 2019 , Friday – Saturday | 10 a.m – 9 p.m
Hanu Reddy Residences, No. 41/19, Poes Garden, Chennai 600086, India.
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