Jewellery artist Eina Ahluwalia is the pride and envy of designers, recognised for her distinct pieces that are regularly sported by celebrities. Launching her latest collection, Paradisiac, at Nimai, a multi-brand concept jewellery store run by Pooja Roy Yadav, she spoke to us about balance and perfection in jewellery, her latest collection, and how jewellery can be liberating for the modern age woman, rather than being a mere frivolity.
Talking about Ahluwalia, Yadav, who is curating Paradisiac at her store in New Delhi, said, “I think for any creator of jewellery, working with Eina Ahluwalia is tantamount to the brand going somewhere. Eina is a role model for all concept jewellers, she has been a concept jewellery artist since 2002, when there was a very niche audience for it. I love how every piece stands for something and that she weaves in the concept of feminism and spirituality so effortlessly
Q. Tell us about your new collection, Paradisiac. What’s the story behind this name?
A. We actually came up with the concept behind the collection first, and then got around to the challenge of making it. We wanted something that represented perfection, but not the kind that dealt with mere beauty; a more holistic idea of what perfection means. I thought a lot and finally came up with the name “Paradisiac”.
Q. Historical Venus statues are a big part of your collection, even represented as installations at the launch.
A. These figurines are very old archaeological discoveries from 3,500 BC, found from countries across Europe — Czechoslovakia and Germany, for instance. They were ancient representations of the goddess Venus from all over, and they were the physical form of perfection at the time. They were usually little figurines that people would carry with them or wear as pendants as totems of abundance, and happiness. One interesting thing about them is that they are what you would call really fat now. With this collection, we are trying to say that the perception of beauty changes over time, and it is pointless trying to fit into a stereotype that is transient.
Q. Was the aesthetic of your collection informed by these statues?
A. When we have a concept, we use several motifs to convey the same story, and the Venus figurines were one of these motifs. The Venuses that we have made are pretty similar to the recovered Venus statues. We have other motifs such as the golden ratio from geometry, which is also an archetype of perfection. Sacred geometry is this math that states that everything in life is defined by a particular ratio. Everything in life, like the human body, or a plant, or our emotions, or music, follows a certain ratio, and this ratio remains constant irrespective of the form it takes. This ratio represents itself physically in many different forms. The planet Venus revolves around the sun, and the pattern it makes with the earth is this beautiful path called the transit of Venus. It follows the same ratio. So we picked physical objects that use the same ratio — the lotus leaves, the rose and shells. It also implies that each of us might look different but we are essentially the same.
Q. So, what is the binding factor among all the motifs?
A. There is an insane amount of pressure that we feel to match up to the standards of how we should be as a woman, set by society, not just in terms of beauty but also in context to achievement — how women should smile all the time, how they cannot age, and these are standards that we often try but fail to achieve. We should, instead, strive for a certain sense of balance, and a certain sense of perfection in terms of everything that we do. The third motif (in the collection) addresses that, and it refers to motifs such as the Seraf, an angel doing the work of god. There is another motif called the Serina, also an angel, who, legend goes, lived on the Greek islands and sang beautiful songs. People who were not able to understand her words but were mesmerised by the beauty of her songs went looking for her and drowned, but people who were able to understand her were able to see her. The message here is that we are here for a purpose. We should be striving for a different kind of perfection, and this is the concept behind my collection.
Q. How has the way people wear or accessorise jewellery altered over time?
A. Today, more people wear jewellery for the fun of it than earlier. People wear jewellery to show how wealthy they are. In India, women who were married earlier were not allowed to go out without jewellery. They were bound to wear it even if they didn’t feel like it. Today, people wear the kind of jewellery they want to, and they feel like they identify with it, and this applies to some brides as well. It can be liberating to wear a certain piece because you feel like wearing it as opposed to being bound to wear it.
Q. What are your favourite kinds of jewellery to design and wear?
A. I like to design most kinds, except I don’t like jewellery that is not practical. For instance, I don’t like the palm bracelet. I find them very impractical. The first thing I do when I design jewellery is wear it; I try it on for a day or two. I dislike ear cuffs as well; I don’t like how they don’t stay on for the entire evening. When you are wearing jewellery you need to not think about it, so jewellery needs to be practical and wearable. An important feature of our jewellery is that it is light. Your pair of earrings should not kill you and you should be able to wear it throughout the day. I think everybody can carry big or small jewellery pieces, but people often have mental blocks against wearing chunky statement pieces and vice versa. Some people however, can carry off a lot more jewellery than others at one time, and it depends on their personality.
Q. What metals do you like working with, and why? This is your first venture into fine jewellery, correct?
A. I have been working since 2003, and from 2006-09 I worked with a lot of stones. We used to get beautiful semi-precious stones from Hong Kong and I used to make a lot of stone pieces with them. Eventually I got sick of them. Otherwise, silver is my favourite metal, but I also like brass, because sometimes silver is too soft to take the kind of delicate work required by a lot of designs. I also work with brass and gold. I used 18k gold for the first time with this collection.
Q. Of all your concept driven collections, which one remains your personal favourite?
A. When I pick a concept, we spend more time developing the concept and thinking it through than actually making the jewellery. We did one on spirituality, one on domestic violence, and one that talks about not being bogged down by ideas of perfection. The designs are all done by me. I do the designing and production, and my sister does the brand tie-ups, makes sure that it has visibility.