Kani Sozni

Laying the standards for excellence

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Sozni Embroidery: Detail (2017-09) by Ali Mohammad BeighDastkari Haat Samiti

Kani Sozni Embroidery

Kashmir is world-renowned for its Pashmina shawls, Kani shawl weaving and Sozni embroidery. The family of Shabir Ali Beigh are embroiderers held in great respect by their society and beyond. Generically, embroidery is referred to as sozni work but the variety of sozni practiced by the Beigh family and now others, is a craft so fine that the embroidery done with a needle looks akin to the fully patterned woven textile of kani weaving.

Sozni Embroidery: Embroidery in process (2017-09-30)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The embroiderer’s work is a labour of love. His masterpieces can take three years for the completion of a single piece.

Sozni Embroidery: National Awards won by Beigh Family (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Shabir Ali Beigh’s immediate family holds five National Awards, which is a testament to the standard of their work.

In a prestigious annual art fair in the United Kingdom, Shabir won the 'Best of the Best' award.

Sozni Embroidery: The three blocks that were used to print the design on this shawl. (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A very finely carved walnut wood block lays the base for a finely embroidered shawl.

Most embroidery workshops have a vast collection of blocks that are used for decades.

Sozni Embroidery: Masterpiece shawl with Kani Sozni embroidery featured in a book (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Every national awardee is featured with the award-winning piece in an official publication.

Featured here is Ali Mohamad Beigh, the patriarch of the family who became a Shilp Guru, a master crafts teacher, in 2004.

Sozni Embroidery: National Awards won by Beigh Family (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The younger generation takes pride in their skill and deep respect for the elders who established sozni craft.

There is also have pride for their heritage, which is reinforced when they engage with the outside world and interact with connoisseurs.

Sozni Embroidery: National Awards won by Beigh Family (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The path to excellence has been rigorously followed by embroiderers of Kashmir through years of training under the watchful eyes of elders.

The patriarch of the family is usually seated in his workplace by 7am, embroidering and supervising the quality of the work done by his family members and apprentices.

When Shabir Ali Beigh’s father passed away, the entire community mourned.

Sozni Embroidery: Photos of Shabir ali Beigh at various festivals (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Framed pictures, certificates and awards hung on the walls of their work space, stand testimony to their workmanship.

Sozni Embroidery: Beigh Family embroidering (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Workshops

Kani Sozni is a true art form, demanding a dedication not different from that required by classical art forms. It is rooted in the canons of motif and composition referenced in pieces that go back a few hundred years. It takes rigorous discipline and practise to master the perfect stitch. Kani sozni describes a technique of meticulously fine embroidery which is layered to make the fabric look encrusted like a tapestry. What may look like monotones may actually have as many as 18 different coloured threads in the pattern.

 

Sozni Embroidery: In process (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The work is done mostly from home-based workshops, though some embroidery for lower priced products is also given out to artisans to work on at home.

Sozni Embroidery: Embroidery threads (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

At any point of time the workshop has close to 2000 shades of embroidery thread available for embroidery.

Sozni Embroidery: Embroidery threads (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The only processes that take place outside are dyeing and washing. The dyeing process happens is Shabir's own unit, where he dyes the silk used for embroidery.

Sozni Embroidery: Embroidery threads (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Subtle pale shades are carefully laid out to match with darker and lighter ones, to create shadows and hidden hues within hues.

Sozni Embroidery: Old motif swatches (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The shawl, as it is known today, goes back a few hundred years. It enjoyed the patronage of the Mughals, and after them of the Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rulers.

It was at its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it became a highly sought-after article amongst the European aristocracy. Every stitch has a technique and a local name.

Sozni Embroidery: Old motif swatches (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Embroiderers keep original designs, based on community heirlooms and museum pieces, as references and inspiration for their ongoing work.

Sozni Embroidery: Beigh enterprises (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Family Run Shops

Shabir's immediate family holds five National Awards, which is a testament to the standard of their work. In a prestigious annual art fair in the UK, Shabir won the 'Best of the Best' award.

The market has rewarded these proud crafts people for developing this exquisite craft. In Shabir's family, financial security and success sit easily with their dedication to the art and their quest for perfection.

Sozni Embroidery: Shabir Ali Beigh (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In UK's art fair, each artist displays his or her very best work, and the peers select the best among these. Shabir asserts that such awards are more valuable than money.

Sozni Embroidery: Beigh enterprises (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Shabir’s work space in the showroom shows his desire to be organised, efficient, and run his business in a competent manner, with all the modern office tools.

Sozni Embroidery: Beigh enterprises shopping bag (2017-09)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A touch of style is added to please his customer. He has substituted plastic and paper bags for a handwoven, hand-embroidered cloth bag with his family’s business name on it.

Jammu & Kashmir's Sozni embroidery (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In this video, Shabir Ali Beigh talks about his love for the art of Sozni embroidery, that has been passed on through generations.

Sozni Embroidery: Detail (2017-09) by Ali Mohammad BeighDastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about the art of Kani Sozni here:
- The Process
- The Environment

Range of Products
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Suleiman Merchant
Artisans: Shabir Ali Beigh and family
Ground Facilitator: Charu Verma
Video Documentation: Suleiman Merchant
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Cinematic Video:
- Director: Jyoti Neggi
- Production: Studio Gola

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Crafted in India
Meet the makers. Explore their craft. Share their stories.
View theme
Google apps