Wood, terracotta, ceramic, beads, papier-mâché, jute, bamboo and more – several options of hand crafted jewellery in natural materials are available today. Here are some Indian designers who are constantly experimenting and coming up with fresh, beautiful and colourful designs.
Jewellery holds a very special place in a woman’s life, whether they are heirlooms passed on from a grandmother to her granddaughter or specially bought to mark a memorable occasion. As Ann Demeulemeester, one of the Antwerp Six, whose eponymous designer label is mainly showcased at the annual Paris Fashion Week, points out, “Jewellery is something that has to do with emotion. I had to find my own language in jewellery. It really had to be what I would love to have myself.”
Nonetheless, whereas some of the carefully picked pieces may surely be timeless and close to one’s heart, it certainly doesn’t mean that every once in a while, one can’t try something new. So, how about setting aside those traditional diamond or gold ornaments and going in for some new-age stuff that can add that extra something to your oomph factor. Today, there are myriad innovative, hand-crafted options available in natural materials such as wood, terracotta, ceramic, beads, papier-mâché, jute and bamboo, among others.
And, not surprisingly, some of the best designs are coming from women jewellery artists.
Like Sejal Mody, a studio ceramic potter based in Mumbai, who has branched out into creating ceramic jewellery. At the recently-concluded Cerafest, a ceramic pottery exhibition in the city, her collection – that included pendants made from delicate, colourful ceramic noodles set into various shapes and dangling from bead and pearl necklaces, silk threads or even metal chains – was in huge demand. Even her cocktail statement rings with ceramic art pieces fixed on to wooden rings went off the shelves in no time.
“Be it the pendants or rings, ceramic jewellery suits special occasions and is good for daily wear as well. For instance, depending on the occasion, the size of the pendant could vary. If one wants to look all dressed up, one can go for the larger sized pieces. Incidentally, they compliment Western and Indian wear quite well,” elaborates Mody, who has studied Fine Arts from Mumbai’s Sir JJ School of Arts and then went on to do a course at Andretta Pottery in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, to pursue her dreams as a master potter.
Another style that has caught the fancy of many, particularly those who generally prefer to dress up in an eco-friendly manner, is accessories made from terracotta.
Photo Courtesy: Maitri Crafts
These combine well with outfits made from hand woven fabrics like khadi and silk. Over the last few years, several young terracotta jewellery makers have been constantly experimenting and coming up with fresh designs for earrings, neck pieces, bangles and cuffs. Bengaluru-based Deepti Lav is one of them. She sells her creations under the name of Maitri Crafts, which is Sanskrit for friendship and goodwill and “best expresses our desire to be associated with nature and its rustic products, made by the most natural way… by hand!”
Lav strongly believes that “Today’s generation is going back to nature. They all love natural jewellery. And I too always wanted to do something with locally produced handicraft. So, four years back I started Maitri.”
Soon after marriage, when she shifted base from Delhi, Lav discovered her love for making terracotta jewellery and got down to designing full-time.
Photo Courtesy: Maitri Crafts
According to her, “Bengaluru clay is very good for this kind of jewellery. Additionally, I source some from the neighbouring states as well.” She has several artisans from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu working along with her. While she discusses and suggests the designs, the talented grassroots ‘karigars’ bring her ideas to life.
The best part? She has something for all kinds of customers as her earrings and necklaces are available from a modest Rs. 60 going up to Rs. 2,000.
Courtesy: Maitri Crafts
Like Lav, Ramya, based in Kozhikode, Kerala, is passionate about making fine terracotta jewellery. In fact, this post graduate in bio-technology decided to make jewellery designing her full-time career after she had her first baby. Within a couple of years, her label, Prakrithi, has developed a worldwide clientele thanks to her traditional, fashionable and “down to earth” creations.
She ships them to customers based in the UK, USA, Canada and, of course, across India.
Photo Courtesy: Prakrithi Creations
“The process is laborious but the special feature here is that each and every piece is crafted by hand and no moulds are used. In fact, they are completely handmade by me. I learnt the craft from a master in Bengaluru and till date I source clay from that city. I use different kilns in Kerala to fire the pieces and then I paint them in dramatic colours with acrylic paints. It’s really amazing to the clay being transformed into beautiful pieces of jewellery. My latest Theyam collection has been very well received,” says the designer, who retails through other online portals as well. Prakrithi sells between Rs. 100 to Rs. 8,500 per piece.
If beads and stones are more your thing then take your pick from Riddhika Jesrani’s vibrant works. Riddhika was born in Mumbai and raised in The Sultanate of Oman. The edgy and inventive combination of glass beads, stones, and vintage cuts, along with her exotic background come together to create distinctive and glamorous pieces. Indeed, this Parsons School of Design alumna’s namesake line owes some of its brilliance to the cities that have inspired her.
Her collections are currently available in major cities around India, apart from Muscat and New York.
Courtesy: Riddhika Jesrani
Or walk into the nearest Bracialeto outlet – they are present in over 10 cities in the country – where you can have fun picking out murano glass, ceramic and silver beads, with which they will help you make your own pieces set in silver. The personalised lariats, anklets, and charm bracelets make for truly outstanding adornments.
When it comes to lacquered, wooden jewellery, there is nothing to beat Channapatna’s wooden cuffs, thick bangles or the large beaded necklaces. This small town, located 60 kilometres from Bengaluru, is where some of the most interesting wooden accessories and toys are made. Sets, complete with a neckpiece and a pair of earrings can be ordered online from crafstvilla.com, shopclues.com or varnam.co.in. Some of the virtual stores, like thecraftzbazaar.com, mirraw.com and craftsandlooms.com, have a wide selection of regional favourites like mirror-work bangles from the Kutch region, rich papier-mâché necklaces from Kashmir, meenakari inlay work from Rajasthan, among others.
If jewellery is one sure-shot way of reinventing one’s persona, then with all these ethnic, offbeat options at hand, it’s time to discover the new woman in you.