AI9_6_2017_2_07_26_AM_Leah_MI.jpg
left: katherine triangle pillow, right: Scarpa circus mauve pillow

“I wanted to contribute in keeping these (traditional Indian) techniques alive for as long as possible by creating a new market and appreciation for them.”

gramercy triangle rug

She currently works with chain stitch embroidery from Kashmir, Phulkari embroidery from Punjab, cotton weaving & block printing from Rajasthan, cotton weaving from Nagaland, and Kantha embroidery from West Bengal.

bar technicolour pillow

The colour combinations and patterns in her work are mainly inspired by modern artists and designers, as well as movements like the Bauhaus and Art Deco.

paolo rug

“I wanted to create a rug that used different shapes in a seemingly random layout and a larger colour palette than most of my other pieces.”

zimbabwe west spring pillow

“Geometric shapes add a mathematical system to chaos and order.”

hello rug
AI9_6_2017_2_07_26_AM_Leah_MI.jpg
Showcase 16 Aug 2017

Intertwine: A tale of two countries, Leah Singh’s designs combine her experiences of India & the US

The inspiration for textile designer Leah Singh’s work can be traced all the way back to her childhood. Her father met her mother when he moved to Delhi from New York to start a company that would do sourcing and product development for companies in the US. And that’s pretty much how Leah grew up experiencing two widely different cities and cultures.

While she grew up in Delhi, she went on to study industrial design at the Parsons School of Design in New York. As soon as she finished her studies, she instinctively knew she wanted to dive into a business with her own label. This is when her binary inspirations finally came into play – she wanted to not only combine traditional Indian crafts with contemporary designs but also to amalgamate what she learnt in her education with who she was and what she had experienced so far. 

left: katherine triangle pillow, right: Scarpa circus mauve pillow

“I wanted to contribute in keeping these (traditional Indian) techniques alive for as long as possible by creating a new market and appreciation for them.”

The Inception of the Brand

“I moved back to India and decided to work with traditional crafts because they are unique and rare, and have a rich history. And because these techniques are slowly dying – I wanted to contribute in keeping them alive for as long as possible by creating a new market and appreciation for them. 

When I visited craft flea markets in India, I found beautifully made products using traditional techniques, but they were typically ethnic and the colours and designs felt outdated. I felt that there was huge potential to use these techniques to create modern objects by changing the designs, colours and product categories. Not only would this continue to give the artisans work, but it would also help to share their work with new markets,” says Leah. 

gramercy triangle rug

She currently works with chain stitch embroidery from Kashmir, Phulkari embroidery from Punjab, cotton weaving & block printing from Rajasthan, cotton weaving from Nagaland, and Kantha embroidery from West Bengal.

Her first collection was sculptural jewelry made from bone, the material for which was natural and a by-product of the farming industry. Leah feels that it allowed her to use her industrial design training to create three-dimensional pieces which were unique and dramatic. Soon, however, she transitioned into home textiles because of her love for colour and patterns. 

Techniques, Styles & Inspirations

Owing to the distinct textile styles that belong to different regions of India, she uses multiple techniques to create her collections. She currently works with chain stitch embroidery from Kashmir, Phulkari from Punjab, cotton weaving and block printing from Rajasthan, cotton weaving from Nagaland, and Kantha embroidery from West Bengal. “All of these techniques have a distinct aesthetic and give me the option of working with small and large geometric patterns, and a limitless colour palette,” she adds. 

bar technicolour pillow

The colour combinations and patterns in her work are mainly inspired by modern artists and designers, as well as movements like the Bauhaus and Art Deco.

The colour combinations and patterns in her work are mainly inspired by modern artists and designers, as well as movements such as the Bauhaus and Art Deco – composed of clean lines and systematic structure. Geometric shapes play a huge role in Leah’s work. “Geometric shapes add a mathematical system to chaos and order. They are also very versatile; by changing the colours, scale, combinations of shapes, and the type of pattern (repeated or random), the mood and aesthetic of a piece can change drastically,” she explains. 

zimbabwe west spring pillow

“Geometric shapes add a mathematical system to chaos and order.”

“I felt that there was huge potential to use these techniques to create modern objects by changing the designs, colours and product categories. Not only would this continue to give the artisans work, but it would also help to share their work with new markets.”

The Paolo Rug: the process explained

When asked about her work process, Leah gives us the example of the making of the Paola Rug. “I wanted the Paola rug to be made in cotton and to be available in various sizes. All the cotton rugs in my collection are woven in Rajasthan, so when I started working on the Paola rug, I knew which artisan group I would be working with. I wanted to create a rug that uses different shapes in a seemingly random layout and a larger colour palette than most of my other pieces. I experimented with the layout on my computer, changing the shapes and their scale. I simultaneously played around with colour.” 

Leah then sent the detailed artwork to the artisan group, mentioning all the measurements, colours and colour placement. Along with the artwork, she sent colour swatches for reference to dye the yarns. The artisan group then sent her yarns for colour approval and once approved, they started weaving. In about four weeks, they sent images of the completed piece to Leah, after which the piece was sent for washing and then the final product was sent back to her. “It is always a huge treat to receive samples from the artisan groups because I am able to see my designs come to life,” she adds. 

paolo rug

“I wanted to create a rug that used different shapes in a seemingly random layout and a larger colour palette than most of my other pieces.”

“Geometric shapes add a mathematical system to chaos and order. They are also very versatile; by changing the colours, scale, combinations of shapes, and the type of pattern (repeated or random), the mood and aesthetic of a piece can change drastically,”

Plans for Future

Leah, along with her team, is currently working on bedding and table linen, as well as tabletop items made in brass and stone, which we will be launching in the coming months. 

hello rug

To know more about Leah’s work, visit her website leahsingh.com. Intertwine on CQ is a series that explores collaborative works in textile and product design. Follow Intertwine here.