From brass to bone china, the crockery in which you set the table helps you experience luxury in its most palpable form. Maybe that’s why it has always been treasured by the owner, royalty and clergy alike. And so, it continues to the present day. In India, as a quiet surge of independent tableware brands occurs, Kaunteya, an Indore-based tableware brand marks itself through its unique perspective on India’s rich traditional art forms.
Folk art inspired
Launched in June, this bone china brand from Indore elegantly carves the essence of Pichwai in its colours as well as recreates the intricate interplay of figures and patterns of Phad paintings. The brand name Kaunteya is an ode to Founder Sonal Jetha’s mother and mother-in-law and taken from their shared name – Kanta.
For advertising professional Jetha, Kaunteya was a project waiting to happen. Advertising and event management happened by luck. Fifteen years ago, Jetha started an ad agency with her husband but took an eight-year break to raise her sons. “And now, everything in my organisation has become automated. The whole team is capable of taking care of the daily chaos, and my inputs are needed only from time to time.” Jetha’s husband leads the agency with five offices across the country and her sons are also gentlemen-in-the-making. “They say that women relive after 40, and, so, six months ago I felt that it was the right time to start Kaunteya,” says Jetha.
Every time she travelled, she was captivated by the Indian art forms, architecture, culture and rituals. “I was particularly drawn to folk art forms like Gond, Madhubani, Phad. Pattachitra and Pichwai along with the rich heritage of miniature painting and murals,” she says.
India’s nature, wildlife, art, festivals, palaces and the humble village life was equally inspiring for the 44-year-old. “I wanted to do something about my love for art but tangibly. I wanted it to be expressed through a go-to medium, not like a once in a life time journey or a painting that only one person could hang on his/her walls. I wanted a medium that could reach people across the world, where everyone could own a piece of beautiful India,” she says, emphasizing that her grandfather’s royal crockery that she inherits was also a catalyst.
Her pursuit to sell luxury tableware took her to several parts of Russia and Europe, to understand the history of executing intricate designs with perfection. While researching the market back in India, Jetha realised that the luxury tableware segment’s consumers hadn’t seen a series based on paintings or an Indian festival or a design inspired by an Indian palace. “So, I believe that art was my inspiration. Whenever we start a collection, the first thing we do is to choose an art form.”
Inspiration for Jetha is not restricted to the traditional idea of art, though. “An Indian handwoven saree, which maybe 50 years old, can as easily inspire me as can an Indian monument.” To start with, Jetha carefully selected the folk arts — Phad, and Pichwai, and the architecture of the Mysore Palace as well as the Taj Mahal for her first four collections, Byah, Pichwai, Dasara and Jyamiti. “The colour combination of all four are different. What is common is the beauty, the tableware’s’ intricacy and fine goldwork,” she says.
The making process
At Kaunteya, the process of bringing out a collection is as meticulous as the design. Once the art form is finalised, it is roughly sketched and broken/ moulded into a story or a design that can be placed on the wares. These sketches are worked to the point of the final selection of an individual part of the design. The computer comes in when they decide the colour scheme. “We make sure that each step brings us closer to a series that can be proudly marked as ‘Make in India’ and can enchant the world of art connoisseurs,” adds Jetha.
Besides the design, execution goes a long way in lending the tag of ‘luxury’ to the tableware brand. Kaunteya ensures that they work with the best bone china, printing inks and gold. Even if it took a year to get the colour right on the ceramics, Jetha would wait that long to get the correct shade. She ensures that her designs are silk screen printed, hand decorated and finished with a touch of 24-carat pure gold.
Kaunteya uses, both, modern art software and artist-made works. Being from the advertising industry, creating an artists’ pool was easy. It consists of digital painters, sketch artists, graphics illustrators who together imprint the base design truest to its original art inspiration. “The traditional folk artisans work for us from their hometowns in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. And we are proud that we can help them keep their art forms alive.”
Selling through their online store (kaunteya.in) as well as Amazon global and Jaypore.com, the brand has been doing well. They also have bricks and mortar outlets selling tea sets, hi-tea sets and dinner sets at Leela Hotels’ properties. “I am a travel enthusiast. Living in a tier-II city has never deterred or encouraged my venture. In this online age, targeting the right clientele is a matter of expertise. We have participated in a few lifestyle exhibitions in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. The response to Kaunteya at these exhibitions was fantastic.”
The beautiful designs have been flying off their virtual shelves. From individual pieces to bulk wedding gifts, there are many takers of Kaunteya across the world. Recently, there were orders from East Asia and the US, signalling that the brand’s popularity is spreading far and wide.