I first saw Advaeita at one of the fashion week seasons in Delhi. Obviously, I had no idea what she did and she was wearing some amazing jewelery and I photographed her for my #EyesForStreetStyle series. I did that a couple of more time over a year / two years. Then, finally I figured out what she does and I loved it all! Industrial design in jewelery among other beautiful glass and metal and wood work! She’s a trooper and very talented. And one’s got to be hard working if one has to pull off something like this in India. Having starting capital inflow also helps immensely. I wonder if there’s a sector of venture capitalists who invest in brands that are creating beautiful objects like Advaeita’s Studio Metallurgy!
I consider her an influencer because she’s on the ground, doing the work, no excuses. I look at her and I am inspired to hit the pavement running. To accept what life throws at you or gifts you. To have a strong conviction about my art and the work I do. Sometimes, it is as simple as putting two things together and just making it happen. Go Advaeita!
Here is the interview that Advaeita diligently and patiently typed out for us!
01. Glass on wood? How does that work? Isn’t that a pain to produce? Especially in a market like India? How did you find the skilled artisans who could do this? How did you even come up with this idea? The glass globules look beautiful!
The glass on wood idea struck me quite literally as I stood next to my Molten Woods tables this year in Feb, at the India Design Exhibit 2017. I wanted to take the idea of putting two opposing materials together. One had to be wood, something organic and the other had to be hot and almost man made.
While mulling this, it struck me – why not try pouring hot molten glass into the natural wood cavities ?!
While the idea started with pouring molten glass, it evolved into using the traditional technique of blown glass simply because I really believe in exploring our indigenous handicrafts. Firozabad is known for its glass work. It produces glass artifacts that are exported across the world. Why should Murano Italian glass, get all the credit? 😀
This was followed by months of cold calling and trying to find someone who could either blow the glass for me or connect me with artisans who could. One of the biggest woes of being an independent artist without a background in products is that there is no existing network, to poach from. Every single project involves starting from scratch and finding people.
I owe a ton to people and their goodwill, often strangers, who have in the past year and a half simply extended their knowledge base and references and helped me to actually execute my projects.
As for the difficulty level to produce these, it’s quite tricky. We have really skilled artisans in the country, absolutely the best. The tricky bit is finding them. Period.
This is followed by trying to convince them, to try out something they have not done before – we love saying ‘ye toh kabhi nahi hua hai / ye nahi ho sakta’ in India. To take a risk and push the envelope is not cake walk.
To add to it, there is often a huge resistance in small towns and traditional set ups to work with a ‘girl’ and take instructions from a woman. I can recount countless instances where I have been told point blank – we have never worked with a girl before, to asking me if I am married or where my husband is, as a sort of validation that I am legitimately worthy of giving them work instructions.
While men can simply get down to the artisan level and work, without worrying about personal space and boundaries, as a girl, it’s a constant battle to command respect and get work done!
02. In terms of your education, what did you study? What were you studying for? Are you doing that now or is what you do now different from what you had originally planned? A brief timeline of the things you did that have led you to where you are now please. A life / career path. Who you’ve worked with, if any? Etc.
I began with an honors degree in history from St. Stephens College, Delhi University in 2007. Although I was intent on pursuing Fashion all through school and even cleared every single design entrance. Coming from a regular Indian family, my parents while being progressive, had a simple line of advice – we will always support you in whatever you do but if you choose something as unconventional as fashion and expect us to grant you a business afterwards, think again!
I was always good at academics and it seemed ‘safer’ to give academics a last shot given that in India, it’s easier to diversify into arts with a government approved degree versus returning to academics after pursuing ‘art and craft’. I hope we get a Liberal Arts system soon in our country!
The three years doing history, though enjoyable because I am a nerd at my core, made me realize that while I could work hard and pursue the path of civil services / academia etc, my heart would never be in it. I’m actually thankful that my parents pushed me to pick academics because it made me realize how much I was meant to stick with doing arts!
I followed Stephens with a year of Fashion Design in Milan, Italy studying in Istituto Marangoni, one of Italy’s most prestigious Fashion Schools. It was a hard year and I loved it. The standards of work and teaching were exceptional and I still owe a lot of my clean, minimal aesthetic to my time there.
I returned to India in 2011 and almost within a week, landed a job with Tarun Tahiliani. I worked as an Indian wear designer with him until 2014. I was really fortunate because he is the best mentor anyone could ask for. He is extremely hands on with everything, has the most solid set of ethics and is a real gentleman. I would’ve forever worked there simply out of admiration for the man, had I not gotten bored stiff of making bridal lehengas!
My business pitch for Studio Metallurgy, got me a break with the Myntra Fashion incubator program. I had applied on a friend’s recommendation and a whim. While I had never thought I’d like to design accessories, post winning it, I decided to quit and just figure what next. Two months later, on a Monday evening, I made a Facebook page for Studio Metallurgy and well…have been in business since then!
So in a nutshell, life hasn’t exactly panned out as I had imagined it, when I was 21. But from where I am sitting today, it’s pretty darn great because I am doing everything I could have possibly wanted to do and never gotten the opportunity to, if I were working for a company.
03. If I had to introduce you to someone, what would you prefer to be introduced as?
Hey, this is Advaeita and she makes pretty cool stuff. Here’s her card, now hand over your wallet to her with the actual usable cards ! 😀
04. Links to all your work / previous interviews / website / social media accounts please. So that interested people can follow your work on their platform of choice. If I wanted to purchase your work, where would I be able to do that? Online / offline? What is the best way to get in touch with you?
Most of these places stock my jewelry. For products people get in touch with me directly (no clue how they find me !!) I am super responsive on mail firstname.lastname@example.org and on my insta handle and facebook – best ways to get in touch with me.
Store Stockist : Nimai – Shahpurjat village, Delhi | Ogaan – Delhi | Ensemble – Delhi and Mumbai | Civil House – Khan Market, Delhi | Attune – Khan Market, Delhi
05. What is the latest project that you’re working on? How did it come about?
This would be ‘The Sharda Collection’ aka the glass experiment, named after my paternal grandmother…she was an enterprising woman in a time when most women weren’t the most entrepreneurial. From shards of glass to beautiful glass art, it seemed apt to dedicate this collection to her.
I wanted to use materials that have opposing nature. Hot glass burns the wood yet produces something so beautiful despite charring its surface. The wood, which is organic and can be reduced to ash instead gives definition to the glass and helps mould it. But the best bit is that the impressions of the wood within the glass, almost mimics glaciers.
It’s a beautiful evolution, a lot like our own evolution…the hot molten mass, and earth’s movements, destruction and creation that’s given rise to woody forests, rocky lands and glacial masses.
06. What plans, if any, for 2018? Any new projects that you’re thinking of? You don’t have to give specifics if you’d like to keep it under wraps, but give us a clue please.
Probably another dimension to my ‘Molten Series’ …I’ve done wood and metal and wood and glass…it’ll be something along these lines…I love Trilogies.
07. What does a typical day look like in your life? If there is no such thing as a typical day, what would you want your typical day to look like?
I don’t have a semblance of a typical day anymore and that’s kinda the best bit. I wouldn’t trade the uncertainty of it with ‘typical day’ 😀
I have mornings where I literally wake up with an idea that just has to be executed and I wake up mornings where I want to give it all up and just get to a regular job because ‘self motivation’ eludes me but then…someone like you comes along. And say that they like, what I’ve done. And the sense of achievement a sentence like this gives…it can never be matched by any appraisal report in the world or a huge raise.
Running one’s own venture or following a dream alone, is a constant battle of wills and self drive but it does have its rewards. Every little problem solved, every little target achieved makes your conviction stronger that maybe, just maybe, you are onto something bigger than yourself and there is nothing more honest than a sense of self validation ☺
08. When was the last time you took a vacation? Where did you go? What did you do?
I’m on one right now! Answering these interview questions for you, while sipping hot coffee, sitting next to a fountain, on a crisp Chicago morning. Thanks to my parents. I am one of those very very fortunate few, whose parents still agree to fund tickets, I can ill-afford sans a job.
This may sound preachy – but there is no such thing as ‘self-made’. It’s always people who make you. I really worked hard this year and here I am on a vacation, which I absolutely could not have for…but someone said – here take a holiday!
09. Where do your ideas come from? What inspires you? Is it a location? ( Like a lot of us think up ideas in the shower – is there is a specific spot that allows your brain to doodle ideas? )
I do actually think of stuff when I am in the shower! And when I am taking an auto ride and when I am trudging in the heat in some old market of Delhi getting shoved around, trying to buy nuts and screws or when I see a piece of machinery…it’s almost constant!
This may sound simplistic but it’s the ideas that seem to find me. The only thing I do, is keep my eyes wide open to seeing and observing everything around me and it’s the most mundane objects with the simplest form that jump out and that’s it! It’s always just in my head although I do doodle and jot them down but usually I keep them swirling around in my head – they have a uncanny knack of finding the right place and time to get realized eventually!