There are many types of canvases when it comes to art and Kolkata-based Eina Ahluwalia’s conceptual jewellery is the new canvas that is taking the country’s fashion gurus by storm. Hand crafting wearable art with strong messages, Eina’s eponymous jewellery line has found many takers but has yet to broaden the average Indian’s mind. In the city to launch her jewellery at the Taj Khazana at Taj Krishna and Taj Falaknama, she tells us why the art is important, how jewellery is more than a perfect medium to express it and why each and every piece is made by hand.
“Though I’ve been crafting silver jewellery since 2006, I took to conceptual jewellery in 2009 after I trained under Dutch designer Ruudt Peters in Amsterdam. The beauty of conceptual jewellery was that I could build in what I was feeling and experiencing and that it would be more than just ornamentation,” shares the designer. A management graduate who worked the typical corporate life, at one point felt stifled.
“I was working the usual Monday morning to Saturday evening job and didn’t have time for anything. Come Sunday, and I would be exhausted. I felt like I was stuck in a rut and took the leap to designing.”
Working initially with silver, Eina’s collections also include blow-glass and felt. However, silver remains her first choice. “I learnt how to make the jewellery and that helps me innovate as well, unlike most designers where the crafstman is someone else. I now have karigars who work for me, and sometimes the first piece is also done by them.” Considering her base is in Kolkata, Eina has access to some of the best craftsmen in the country, but she laments that they are a fast dying breed.
“A lot of them are old and are the last in their family who can produce such fine work. Their backs are giving way, they are losing sight, and the younger generation isn’t stepping in. We’re soon going to lose that heritage and this is one way I’m trying to preserve some of it. We’re willing to pay whatever it takes to keep them in the business.” With machine-produced mass jewellery becoming the norm, Eina says that the jewellery loses its significance and doesn’t hold such a personal value.
“When I launched one of my collections called Nostalgia, we didn’t do it at a show but instead sent a box out with the jewellery and other trinkets like polaroids and so on. It made a personal connect and that is what I want my jewellery to do. It has to be more about the concept than an accessory.”
In the four years that she’s launched her conceptual jewellery, the 38-year-old has been retailing through websites like Bootica and Pernia’s Pop-Up shop alone. Though her webstore will be up soon, she’s already created her own niche clientele that understands the art she’s trying to create.
“When I had my show Forgotten Jewel, people didn’t know how to react. I had huge egg shells and boxes as a part of the design and reactions varied from “huh?!” to “what is she thinking?”. So at the stall I had smaller sizes and that went down well. I wasn’t expecting too much but it took me a while to get a pulse of the market. With my line Wedding Vows, I did much better. The message was a stand against abuse and the Love-Respect-Protect earrings did really well. People understood where I was coming from.” Making a statement through jewellery has now picked up, which is good news for Eina.
Her most recent line ‘One’ is a take on religion which follows that all religions are different roads to the same God. He designs incorporate the many goddesses like Parvathi, Ganesh, Shiva and Saraswathi, besides also Christianity and Islam. “I want to do more with it, but that’s for later,” she adds on a side-note.Besides just being messages, the concepts that she tries to translate through her work, Eina hopes, will be reminders as well. Like in Wedding Vows, she wanted the Love-Respect-Protect message to be a reminder to women to do it for themselves, and to others. “Jewellery is largely used to decorate oneself. We look outside but not within. That is the direction I want my jewellery to point at.” Her other designs include the Trishul (significant of shakti, energy) from One, hands holding each other from Containment and so on. With a bubbling artistic energy under the surface, Eina hopes some day soon, she can just explore the more artistic side of herself.
“In India we don’t have jewellery art galleries. So I can’t really try out the crazy ideas I have. When I started, I was the only one doing anything like this, so I had to first create the market for myself.”
Doing just one show every year, Eina’s next show will be early next year. “I haven’t yet thought about what I’m going to do. I still need to come up with a concept and a message I can share.” Ask her what the process of coming up with a concept is like and she jokes, “I get very anxious and binge on coffee and food.” Eina Ahluwalia’s jewellery is available in the city at Taj Khazana, and can be shopped online as well at perniaspopupshop.com. Prices range from `3000 upwards.