It took studied determination and courage to listen to her heart. Her short and newly-founded career speaks volumes about TRISHALA ASHOK’s path-breaking moves.
You have a degree in Media Studies, so what made you take up a jewellery designing course in GIA, California? Tell us more about how and when you started designing jewellery?
I found the Media Studies course quite interesting initially, but after the completion of my three-year Bachelor’s course, I realised I didn’t want to have anything to do with media. Instead, I pursued a diploma in jewellery designing, which was a hobby of mine since I was eight years old. I immediately applied for a six-month Jewellery Designing and Technology course at GIA, Carlsbad, California.
Initially, a lot of people advised me against learning computer-aided design (CAD) and instead, wanted me to be able to sketch and learn from the skilled craftsmen in our country. But I went ahead. I was part of the first jewellery design and technology course in GIA, along with 14 other students all from different parts of USA and the world. I was the only Indian in my class.
After six months of practice (in CAD), weekly tests, design challenges, learning how to operate computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) machines and being trained by the best professors who let you explore and experiment with your identity as a designer, I really had no regrets taking up that course. Seeing your jewellery come to life with high-resolution renders and using CAM machines to create resin models of a jewellery piece that is later manufactured, is really exciting. It also saves so much time and money. The best part about CAD is that you can see how your design looks before it is actually made. I posted pictures of my rendered designs and produced them depending on the reviews, likes and comments it got on my social media page.
I graduated from GIA in August 2013. Back home in India the next month, I was eager to start my own business.
When did you start your brand?
I founded Wansh on November 16, 2013. ‘Wansh’ is the short form of my mum and dad’s name – Wanitha and Ashok.
Give us some background about yourself; your childhood, education, etc. Do you come from a family of jewellers?
Well, I’m just a simple Bangalore girl who enjoys her cup of filter kappi (coffee), typical South Indian meals and morning jogs at Lal Bagh. My childhood was amazing. We travelled abroad every year. My brother and I had so much exposure to different cultures growing up.
I studied at BGS International School, Bangalore, and I must admit that I wasn’t a great student. But I was amazing at craft and athletics. My granddad was a jeweller, but he passed away before I was born. In fact, no one took over his business.
My dad and brother are both businessmen. My mum is a housewife, fitness expert, social activist and an aerobics instructor.
They all are my biggest idols. I learnt everything about how to run a business, multitask, how to deal with clients, network, and so on just by watching them and learning from their experiences.
You have won several awards for your creations. Can you list them sequentially in the order of winning them?
I have won in all the four competitions that I have participated in. The first competition that I took part in was hosted by Gem Prive in February 2014. It is a UK-based store that holds online competitions for jewellery designers across the world and the winning pieces are sold in their store and on their website.
The theme was Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love. The challenge was to design a pair of earrings that was inspired by Aphrodite using 14 karat white gold, tourmalines and two 10 mm white pearls.
I took inspiration from the mythical goddess within and the female form itself. You can see from my design that the main flowing organic curve looks like a woman’s uterus.
My second award-winning design was the Disk Charm contest held by mejuri.com. It’s a Canada-based store with the same concept as Gem Prive.
My Disk Charm was inspired by an antique button on my shirt. The pearl stud is easily removable and you can insert any 5 mm stud with the disk charm and wear it.
My third and the fourth awards were again from Gem Prive. The challenge for the third competition was to create cocktail rings using yellow, red and pink tourmalines. This time they had called in Jack Row, a multi-award winning goldsmith from the UK, as the guest judge.
My ‘Holiday in Istanbul’ ring won Jack Row’s Choice Award. It was a ring which was inspired by the paintings on the wall in Sultan Mosque, Istanbul.
My fourth award was inspired by the Zambian sunset. I wanted to know more about tourmalines before I started designing for this challenge. I found that Zambia is one of the main sources of tourmalines. During my research, I came across a picture of a magnificent sunset in Zambia.
The colour shading in the picture reminded me of the three tourmaline colours for this challenge. I put the reference into my ring – the yellow tourmaline represents the sun and the pink and red tourmaline evokes the crimson halo in the sky during sunset.
I love to participate in competitions. I love to be challenged and to see where I stand as a designer. This year, too, I will be participating in many more international jewellery design competitions such as Vision Awards by MJSA, WJA Diva Design Competition and Saul Bell Design Awards.
Do you market only in India or do you sell abroad as well?
Initially, I took only custom orders. In January 2014, I started to manufacture my own designs and approached boutiques in Bangalore; my jewellery is now sold at Nadira Iqbal and Ffolio Boutique.
Currently, I market only in India but my award-winning pieces are sold online on www.gemprive.com and www.mejuri.com
What’s the ideology of your brand?
Beauty is present in nearly every piece of fine jewellery, but poetry is in the details. The notion of “inspirational design” is at the heart of the Wansh’s design philosophy. Each piece has a story to tell.
Wansh combines inspired fine jewellery with high value and strives to make luxury design accessible for a broad target group.
Tell us in detail about your collections. What inspires you to create them?
When I started my brand I wanted to do things differently, and set my brand apart from the other jewellery designers out there. I generally name my designs after my inspirations. That way they are easy to remember. Even now, I get calls asking me about my older collections: ‘Is the jellyfish-inspired ring still available?’
I get inspired through many sources – travel, architecture, nature, current fashion trends, historical monuments and paintings.
Which gemstones do you generally use in your collections? And which metal do you prefer working with? Do you also use both precious and alternative material in your designs?
I use semi-precious stones and diamonds in my designs. With each piece, I like to explore many possibilities and try to pair unusual combination of stones to examine what enhances the design best.
I love working with silver. I call silver my “Lab Rat”. I experiment each design with silver before making it in gold.
What is the profile of your client? Is she a young consumer or do middle-aged women also prefer your jewellery?
My client is someone who dares to wear statement pieces and appreciates art, design and is willing to flaunt the piece with elan.
I have clients from all age groups – from college girls who love fashion jewellery to middle-aged women who require jewellery for any occasion.
How often do you introduce your designs?
I introduce at least 2-3 designs on my page or website every week.
What are the latest trends in jewellery?
Boho-chic statement jewellery is definitely in. Ear cuffs are picking up, too, along with back charms and armlets. My favourite current trend is the three-tone ring stack.
I turn fashion jewellery into fine jewellery, and give current trends a Wansh touch. I have designed a range of ear cuffs and charms that is selling really well.
What are your hobbies? And do they translate into ideas for your jewellery?
Designing and running my own business takes up most of my day.
When I’m not designing, I spend time at the gym. Fitness is very important to me as I believe in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I make time for social work and volunteer at the HCG Oncology hospital to spend time with underprivileged kids undergoing chemotherapy.
This has inspired me to come up with ‘Jewellery for a Cause’ by Wansh. A range of pendants, earrings and rings will be shortly sold on my website, and the profits will go into buying medicines and toys for underprivileged kids with cancer. I’m planning to launch ‘Jewellery for a Cause’ on World Cancer Day on February 4th this year.
I take breaks from designing and watch my favourite TV shows, movies and documentaries.
I also draw inspiration from what I see. One of my favourite pieces was this cocktail ring inspired by a vase in an episode of Modern Family. While the characters were talking, I was admiring their furniture in the backdrop.
Anything else you would like to add?
On every purchase you make at Wansh, 5% of your bill goes to an organisation called Let’s Live Together in Bangalore. This organisation fosters street dogs and cats till they find a good home and encourages people to adopt by organising frequent adoption camps.