Weaverville-based maker Janice Schmidt, of Goddess Rags, will present her collection of kantha-cloth garments created from cotton sari fabric sourced in India. The term “kantha” refers to the stitching together of two or more cotton saris to make blankets, a tradition that’s a testament to the thrift of Bengali women.
“I love the magic of working with the fabric. There’s a synergy to me when you’re cutting things up,” says Janice. “It creates a cottage industry for (Indian) women by being able to make this fabric, and it’s made a profound difference, in that they are educating their children with what they make. I see the pieces as ‘infused with love.’”
Janice adds: “In Sanskrit, the word kantha simply means rags. For centuries, poor Bengali women have taken their discarded cloth and sewn them together with a simple running stitch to create something new.” Many of the fabric pieces Janice uses are of vintage origin.
Schmidt, who grew up in Cleveland, recalls how her mother and grandmother taught her the joy of working with her hands as she grew up. These early experimentations imparted in her the confidence to explore different mediums, as varied as fiber and tile. Janice has made pieces using tesserae for her Mosaic Goddess business for over two decades.
“After 20 years of focusing on mosaics, I've rediscovered my love for sewing,” says Janice. “Focusing on vintage fabrics making skirts, pants and jackets, my garments are colorful and storied.” In her travels to India to source fabric, Janice tries to communicate with the buyers to get the history behind the Kantha cloth, the cotton sari fabrics that she works with.
“Everyday clothing inspired by the past using a combination of vintage, repurposed and new fabrics sewn with care and creativity to maintain the vintage aesthetic of hand crafting beautiful clothes of lasting quality,” says Janice. “Focusing on comfort, playfulness and ease of care, my clothes are one-of-kind pieces of wearable art.”