Call it lack of nerves or the inability to express her feelings, ace jewellery designer AVANTIKA KUMAR AGRAWAL fell in line with the conventional ‘engineering-or-medical’ study route taken by most youngsters in India. The result? She went through a four-year engineering course enduring a tedious journey. It was only after a lot of soul-searching that Avantika, who was bitten by the designing bug, decided to follow her instincts. Thereafter, she embarked on a tour that liberated her from the trappings of her own doing. Soon, success followed her like a shadow. In a span of one year, her ‘Aaraa by Avantika’ jewellery brand now sells exclusive and distinctive baubles online. After all, it pays to listen to your heart.
By SHANOO BIJLANI
Listen to your instincts and you will get instant payoffs; ignore it, and you get a creative heartburn just as Avantika Kumar Agrawal of Pune, Maharashtra, experienced before she found an outlet to release her pent-up artistic energy. Sometimes, it is important to tone down the voice of reason and pay attention to the voice of the heart to find peace and joy in wanting to do something that one likes.
As a child, Avantika loved to dabble in arts and craft. The crayon-scribbled walls of her house bore testimony to the fact that she was born for designing. “A box of coloured pencils was enough to brighten up my face then,” she recalls with a smile. “Throughout my schooling, I held on to my passion for drawing, sketching and painting.” She even won many prizes in various prestigious painting and drawing competitions at the regional and national level, including drawing competitions held by Unicef, Sakal, Indian Express and Camlin to name a few.
However, somewhere down the road, she chose to disregard her ‘inner calling’. Instead, she paid heed to her parents’ wishes and opted for an engineering course. “I was 17 then, and my thoughts had not yet crystallised. I went with the flow as I didn’t want to hassle my parents,” she reveals. But during those four years at the college, she experienced a strong pull towards creative arts. She’d wrap up her college assignments quickly so she could spend hours in front of the canvas, sketching and painting. She also dabbled in jewellery created from paper and wood and sold it through local boutiques in Pune.
“At the end of the engineering course, it dawned on me to make a career out of something that I loved doing,” she notes. “My parents, too, helped me find my calling. On one of his business trips to Ahmedabad, my father happened to visit the National Institute of Design (NID). He came back impressed with the philosophy and culture of the institute. He met the then director of NID, Darlie Koshy, who informed him that I could make a career shift and study for a post-graduate course in Design. And that is how I landed at NID to study the Lifestyle Accessory Design course.”
The transition from being an engineer to a designer was a journey of self-discovery for Avantika. As an engineer, she had been trained to work on a bigger canvas, and in the case of designing, it was the other way round. “It was difficult to initially comprehend these conflicting ideas, but hard work and good guidance helped me to arrive at a balance in my designs,” she says. “NID helped me discover my passion for creativity. It has so far been one of the best experiences of my life. The course enabled me to articulate my imagination and inventiveness through design. Under the guidance of my mentor Shimul Mehta Vyas, I was able to resolve the differences between engineering and design and bring together the strong points of both the disciplines in my creations.”
Post-NID, the designer interned with Amrapali Jewels, Jaipur, for eight months and got hands-on experience to hone her skills as a jewellery designer, and learnt about running a jewellery business, right from manufacturing to pricing and marketing. Her work at Amrapali included a lightweight silver jewellery collection, and four theme-based collections in gold-plated silver, including fashion accessories like hairbands, belt buckles, key chains, key charms, and brooches.
Soon, Avantika went solo and debuted at the India International Jewellery Week 2010 showcasing the ‘Aurum’ collection for which she received rave reviews. Thereon, there was no looking back. In September 2012, ‘Aaraa by Avantika’ was launched online. The brand has two lines of jewellery and accessories. The first is a Zardosi collection, and all the pieces are woven by Avantika. To retain its exclusivity, she ensures that she doesn’t repeat her designs. The patterns are modern, but also reminiscent of the Indian traditional heritage. The Zardosi line consists of bold neckpieces, rings, brooches, hairbands, hair pins, and more.
The second line is made of sterling silver, which is unique. The pieces sit lightly on the person and the pocket. “I design bold pieces but make sure they are not heavy or uncomfortable to wear.” She incorporates a combination of jaali (trellis) work, textures, surface finishes such as oxidisation, gold plating, matt and high finish. “This fusion is one of the most important aspects of my design.”
Silver clearly is the artist’s favourite medium because of the metal’s versatility; plus, it is not as expensive as gold, so it offers more avenues for experimentation. “I like to work with a fusion of finishes and textures which is quite easily achievable in silver. Maybe someday, if I ever get a chance to develop the same in gold, I will try my hand at it.”
Avantika retails through her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AaraabyAvantika). Interested clients browse through the catalogue and get in touch with her through email. “Social media network has enabled me to connect with global clientele. I can directly reach out to my clients all over the world and interact with them to understand their needs,” she comments.
‘Aaraa by Avantika’ entices a woman with an urbane outlook; one who is stylish and understands the depth and design values of Aaraa. Age is therefore no barrier and her clients range from across different age groups.
Aaraa (adornment in Arabic) offers jewellery assemblages that create an entirely new language with interplay of ethnic and modern ideas. Avantika experiences a creative catharsis as she explores, exploits, and combines different materials to achieve one-off pieces with a traditional tinge. Her designs reflect her ideology, which is not just limited to adornment, but is an all-inclusive process involving different aspects of her life – from decorating her house to reading and cooking. She admits to reading and researching on the topics before creating a mood board for a particular collection.
But her assemblages get livelier with the use of coloured gemstones. “For me they are an important part of my designs. Amethyst, turquoise and pearls are among the few gemstones that I enjoy working with because of the qualities they radiate. Amethyst is a very sensual stone that brings out the feminine and mystic quality in jewellery. Turquoise and pearls add a serene and positive touch to a pattern,” notes Avantika.
Besides gems, the young designer is also hugely inspired by the lotus flower. The logo of her brand bears a lotus on the tip of the first letter ‘a’ of Aaraa. “I am strongly attracted and influenced by the mystical and spiritual qualities of this graceful flower and its form. I also find myself connecting strongly to my roots, by drawing inspiration from it even in this urbanised world.”
When she is not designing, Avantika loves to read. Currently, she is digging into the past and is laying her hands on books related to mythology, Indian traditions, history and culture. Watching movies and listening to music also interest her. Photography is another channel for self expression for this multifaceted artist.
This is one artist who has taken life’s lessons to heart. She believes that if one is passionately driven by a cause, then success is inevitable. Well said, well learned!