At first glance, VERSHALI JAIN’s jewellery passes off as a random assemblage of twigs, sprigs and leaves – verdant foliage that looks more like an abstract painting. On closer inspection, the filigreed and enamelled jewellery pieces are daringly different and conceal the artist’s intrinsic love for nature. Knotted cotton, wool, and threads enfold the contemporary frameworks created out of 925 silver, 18- and 24-karat gold, and copper. The curious organic artworks have graced the prestigious galleries at New Designers 2011, London, the Marzee graduate show, Amsterdam, Talente12, Munich and Expo arte12, Norway. The New York-based artist, who has taken jewellery to a new level, talks about the trajectory of her life as a designer to SHANOO BIJLANI.
Tell us about your journey from being a design graduate to becoming a jewellery designer.
My desire to seek my identity in design, took me to places and made me reach out to people who led me to creating jewellery. I graduated from NIFT in fashion and lifestyle accessory designing in 2009, and began working for a top jewellery design firm Derewala in Jaipur before I went to Edinburgh in 2010 to do my Master’s in contemporary jewellery and silversmithy. I have always been drawn towards visualising products not just through drawing but by playing with actual materials, learning its qualities and limitations. I enjoy the hands-on experience. The same curiosity leads me to create my kind of jewellery. I have continued to make my one-of-a-kind ‘art adornments’ – that’s how I prefer to describe them.
Are you a first-generation jeweller?
Yes. I belong to a typical business class family. My dad has a mineral business and my younger brother will soon join him. My mother, a beautiful home maker, is an amazing and supportive person. I got married at 26 and moved to New York with my husband. My dad is my biggest inspiration. All I ever wanted as a little girl was to be like him when I grew up. I have always admired his dedication, hard work, ethics towards his work and his love for us. He taught me to dream big, follow my passion and never forget the family roots and values. I am lucky to find a really compassionate and loving life partner who believes in my dreams as much as I do. And I am very much excited about the new place and new adventures.
How and why did you choose to become a designer?
I picked on drawing as my hobby very early on and was quite popular in my school for it, and other creative artworks. Later on, I got really curious about different styles of drawing and the mathematics involved behind it. Isometric and perspective drawings were my favourite subjects in college. My family and friends were very sure that I would take up some form of art when I grew up.
When did you start your own brand? And where are you based?
Right now I am working in a small capacity as I am still researching and developing new products. Being in the internet era I don’t need to be based out of a particular city. Through my website I can connect with the entire world. Although I am working out of New Jersey, my brand is based out of India.
Tell us more about your achievement of showcasing at the Marzee graduate show.
My first few pieces took me to exhibitions like New Designer, London, Marzee Gallery, Amsterdam. Marzee is the largest gallery in the Netherlands for contemporary jewellery, and in 2012 four of my pieces were selected to be exhibited in Talente’12 Schmuch, Munich, which is a well-respected show in the contemporary art world. This boosted me and reiterated my belief in myself.
Your jewellery is a mix of metal and lace. We would like to know if it is handmade. Do you work only with silver?
My jewellery is an expression, and therefore materials and techniques vary according to every piece. In general, my jewellery is made with silver and copper and I depend heavily on enamelling. I also use knotted threads, and work largely on open filigree patterns with silver wires and use embossing on metal to mould my pieces. For me, jewellery is a medium to express my sketching and painting in three dimensions. Mentally, I ‘sketch’ with the help of silver wires, and ‘paint’ with enamels. I try to create playful yet delicate compositions. I reference a lot from nature – from processes to patterns, from simplicity to chaos, from colours to decay, everything about the environment captivates me and the same is reflected in my designs.
Is that the reason why your jewellery has a herbaceous quality about it? It almost seems like an extension of nature.
It is the mystique of Mother Nature that captivates me. It’s not the big inventions or deeper philosophies or architectural advancement that inspires me but it could be as tiny as a green twig sprouting from the fresh brown soil, the first spring blossom, just anything related to nature.
What role does colour play in your compositions?
Colour is an important element in my work. I find my colours through different materials and techniques and compose them together on the metal canvas. Wool, thread, fine wires, metal sheets and enamels are all delicately layered and handcrafted, giving tactile quality and contrasting texture to my work.
What motivates you to create a piece of jewellery?
It’s the joy of making something new, starting out with a fresh idea and stretching the boundaries of what jewellery is and how it should be made, that motivates me. And I wish to continue my journey of exploring new ideas and materials in the future as well. Design is a way of life for me, and I can’t help finding small design solutions and an unconventional approach to everything around me.
What occupies you when you are not engaged in designing jewellery?
I am also a design consultant for other projects apart from making jewellery. I don’t push myself. It really depends on how many ideas I get in a month. I am newly-wed, and still working on time management. I want the best of both worlds. Travelling, tasting new cuisines, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, excites me.