December in Bengaluru always brings with it lively Christmas markets and pop up bazaars. Most importantly, however, December in the city is synonymous with talented women who take time out of their busy schedules to channel their creativity into putting together a wonderful array of handmade goodies to deck up your home or add to your festive table.
From makers of Swedish mulled wine to creators of handcrafted table linen and decorations, we introduce to you some of the ladies who make a Bengaluru Christmas extra special.
A senior faculty member at Jyoti Nivas College, Wendy also runs Kiara, a music and dance academy for children. April Rose, her crafts boutique inspired by her late mother, is stocked with exquisite table linen for the Christmas season. She tells us her story:
“I started April Rose in 2006, the year my mum passed away, a month before my 50th birthday. We had never been apart and the grief was immeasurable. It incapacitated me totally for the first couple of months; then slowly I began to channel that grief into something creative....something that would perpetuate my mother's memory in a useful and creative way,” she begins.
Wendy’s mum was a gifted needlewoman and talented dressmaker who made all their clothes when they were children.
“So everywhere we went, we went wrapped in our mother's love, in the beautiful clothes she made for us. I was eight when she set me on a summer project to embroider my own dress. Still remember it...yellow...and I had to cross stitch a panel of red flowers and green leaves down the front and across the pockets. The Christmas before that, she had handmade a beautiful sewing box for my Christmas present...and into it had gone everything you needed for sewing. I was captivated, so come summer, I set to work, and by the end of the vacation, my embroidery was done. Mum had worked the dress on her mum's sewing machine, and I wore it with much pride.
“I think it was Mum who prodded me from up there to start embroidering and sewing again. As I picked up long-neglected needle and thread and began to work small patterns for fun, the idea of a line of home linen took shape. I called it April Rose — Rose was my mother's name and April was the month in which our rose went to bloom on the other side of the garden wall. The rest is history.
“Six years down the line, I now have a small store in a room in my music school, Kiara Music Academy, off Indiranagar 80Feet Road. It's a simple little place. I make every piece myself, with a little help from a nearby tailor. I embroider gift towels, tea towels, pillow covers, cushion slip covers, and other small gifts for home. I also hand paint linen and a range of garden accessories. My store is not always full of stock...as I work alone, and it's slow work...but I do have an annual Christmas sale which is patronised well and my regular clients have stuck with me, no matter which other sales are happening at the time. My clientele has also grown over the years, purely by word of mouth, and of course, Facebook! I also have flash sales every four to five months, after I have made enough stock to display and sell.
“So Mum lives on in my work, the rose continues to bloom, the fragrance lingers, and the sharp knife of pain that had ripped me open is somewhat blunted now. As with everything in my life, I have only one thing to say —"Thank you, Mum."
Lisa Govias was apparently always a ‘crafty’ person. As a child, she kept herself busy over weekends and holidays working with paper or fabric, even helping her mum bake and cook. As a teenager, she would create flower arrangements for altars and themed decorations for weddings. “Even after I got married and went to Dubai, I couldn’t let go of that creative bug,” she admits. She and a colleague teamed up to make unique Christmas decorations, from table runners to Christmas stockings, decorated candles to picture frames, serviette rings to decanter jackets. Personalisation was their USP. Stockings, tree ornaments, individual placemats — different and way more appealing than the mass produced stuff flooding department stores.
“There is nothing like adding that personalised touch to your home decorations, whether it’s family members’ names, a new baby that is celebrating his or her first Christmas, or putting together a surprise table setting for visiting guests,” she enthuses. Working with felt and ceramic, imported Christmas printed fabric Lisa turns out pretty table cloths, runners, cushion covers, and stockings, perfect for the season and to add to your collection of holiday décor.
For her die-hard clientele, Christmas is not complete without a wedge of the rich, dark, fruity cake that Michelle Gafoor bakes every December — 300 kg of it, no less. Her mum chips in and so do her kids. Even her foodie husband Aslam gets into the spirit of the season, helping his family slip the cake batter, culled from a secret family recipe, into their two electric ovens every year.
“My home turns into a mini bakery. Every available space is covered with flour, eggs, and cake tins. We use dry fruit and nuts that have been soaking in rum for two months. The tough part is the chopping; it must be done finely,” explains Michelle. It sounds like a lot of hard work, but the Gafoors clearly love it.
“We use a cake recipe that has been handed down from generations. The whole process brings back memories of grandmother’s family Christmas with the whole family and even friends joining in the preparations leading up to the festival,” she smiles. And although they have graduated from hand churners to electric beaters, all the other processes stay the same, and strictly quality-controlled.
Using her grandmother’s traditional recipes, Maria Chengappa and her daughter Narita get extra busy in December. This year, their eponymous home chef brand M & N's offers traditional Christmas cake — rich dark mixed fruit cake, Christmas pudding with brandy butter, double chocolate walnut brownies, and do-it-yourself gingerbread house kits containing the walls, roof, icing, and cake board to assemble the house. The kits come with detailed instructions, and add that charming element to your Christmas table.
“My Christmas cake recipe comes down from my grandmother to my father to me. My father was one of 10 boys and an excellent cook and fortunately I've inherited his skills!
Some years ago, we couldn't make Christmas cake at home and had to have store-bought cake. Nothing compared to our homemade version, so the following year (2008), I started baking and selling goodies on Christmas,” she explains.
M & N's now takes orders all year round for food items like grilled chicken wings, vindaloo, pandi curry, quiche, cutlets, sandwiches, cookies, lemon tarts, chocolate tarts, pumpkin pie, pickles, and relish.
Jaya Christina is a busy mom and full-time techie by day, crafty person by night. “Getting creative with paper is a destresser for me. Ever since I can remember, I loved working with and especially on weekends after her household chores and kids are seen to or on weekends."
Using hand-stamped die cuts, a touch of glitter, and organza ribbon, Jaya Christina turns out a cute bird-house to add to her range of personalised Christmas cards, snow globes, and tree ornaments. Her favourite technique of crafting is stamping and she retails under the name of ‘Crafty JC’.
"I import the materials that I use to embellish and decorate any surface — from fabric to paper to wood to terracotta. Stamping is a hugely varied technique. You can also use inks without stamps as a colouring medium to add colour to the edges of card panels, for example. The more you practice, the more you’ll discover which mediums you like best. I discovered the endless possibilities of stamping as a child and it never gets old,” she says.
So for those handcrafted cards, decorations or special Christmas ornaments that are not mass produced contact Crafty JC aka Jaya Christina.
A cultural ambassador par excellence, Kaveri, who runs a unique tour company called Bluefoot, specialises in bridging gaps between different nationalities and cultures. Married to Yohann Andersson, a Swede, she first tasted Swedish mulled wine, known as Glogg, on a visit to the country a couple of years ago.
“I wasn’t a big fan of the Indian version of mulled wine. Something was always slightly off. But when I tried Glogg, it tasted magical. The mix of spices, the aroma, the flavor -- everything was just perfect. And the best part was, I realised that all the ingredients were very close to home,” she explains.Once back in Bangalore, Kaveri decided to make Glogg herself and raise funds to support Suhas, an initiative she started to educate the children of the Dhobighat in Ulsoor.
Once back in Bangalore, Kaveri decided to make Glogg herself and raise funds to support Suhas, an initiative she started to educate the children of the Dhobighat in Ulsoor.
“ I picked up the spices from KR Market. Big sticks of cinnamon, large organic pods of cardamom, and fresh almonds -- and using Yohann's old family recipe, I simmered the spices, the different wines, the orange peel together and bottled our special Glogg for the Christmas season." Malaika loves to help and the whole house smells like Christmas. "It's now become a sort of tradition for us,” she smiles. Kaveri also sells her Swedish Glogg made from Indian wine and spices.