Celebrity jewellery designer and India’s first conceptual jewellery artist, Eina Ahluwalia whose exquisite and intricate pieces which showcase strength with a sense of feminity, led us into behind the scene of her journey. She spoke to Kiran Manral in a fireside conversation at the Kolkata edition of SheThePeople’s Women Writers’ Fest.
Talking about her collection involving Trishul, swords, etc. and what inspires her, she says, “We use a lot of imagery of power and strength. How in India, women are revered as goddesses but we treat them badly at home. So we used a lot of Trishul, ceremonial swords and all kinds of things from across the world to evoke the same emotion of strength but what it all boils down to is that I realized that when a woman gets married to someone, we exchange vows with each other, but what we need to also do is to make a vow to ourselves to love, respect and protect ourselves even if the other person doesn’t.”
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“I tried to represent that message through symbolism and I found that the words ‘love, respect and protect’ were so powerful that nothing could replace them. So that was the first time I used words in jewellery. And love just by itself is great but it isn’t love without respect so I realised that respect is almost a sub-clause to love and protect is something we always forget because women are vulnerable and that is our power yet our vulnerability. So these words just came together in earrings, bangles, bracelets,” she added.
Bringing something new to the market can be challenging as one can’t really anticipate if it would be a hit or a miss. On making pieces that can be more personal than ornamental, Eina reflects, “In 2010 when I shifted from doing jewellery to conceptual jewellery. I had already done jewellery for about six years and then I realised at the end of the day, jewellery is just something for ornamentation. It makes you look beautiful and to look beautiful is something to do for patriarchal society as women.
That idea, to me, was problematic as a feminist. To say that I am making jewellery to help you look beautiful and make you be a part of the patriarchal society. So at some point, I figured a way to subvert the idea of jewellery and own it and make it more personal. So I started creating pieces of jewellery that reminds you of who you want to become, your strength, your ideology, etc. and that is when we started to work with this kind of jewellery.”
“In 2010 when I shifted from doing jewellery to conceptual jewellery. I had already done jewellery for about six years and then I realised at the end of the day, jewellery is just something for ornamentation. It makes you look beautiful and to look beautiful is something to do for patriarchal society as women.
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The first such collection she did was called “contentment” and it was made of silver, semi-precious stones. Then next came “How I felt” designed in collaboration with a Dutch artist, Beatrice Wanders made literally with felt. “That collection was so conceptual, we had showcased it at Lakme Fashion Week but it was very difficult to understand because it was too conceptual. It was something that I had studied in Amsterdam and Italy and it was great there because they had an audience and an evolved market but it didn’t work for the Indian market,” she recollects.
The biggest learning for Ahluwalia from that collection was that even if she wants to do a particular kind of jewellery, the message has to be primary but the medium had to be pretty, relatable and beautiful.