Channelling the Tribal Spirit
Former advertising and digital communication design professional GEETANJALI has always been enchanted by tribal arts and crafts of yore, and wanted to revive these traditions before they were lost to modernity. Choosing jewellery as her medium, Geetanjali ventured head-on to launch Moha by Geetanjali. Rooted in tradition, her jewellery reflects an old-world charm and is brimming with stories of its own. Geetanjali talks about her challenging but rewarding journey with ALIYA LADHABHOY.
You have worked in advertising and digital communication design. How did you switch to jewellery design?
I worked in advertising and digital communication design for almost a decade. I have always had a tremendous love for traditional craft. I am a big fan of tribal aesthetics in every sense and often disregard modern-day, run-of-themill jewellery. I often sketched jewellery designs of my own. When I went out to buy jewellery, I found it difficult to find something that I liked and appreciated. In the end, I decided to start my own brand of jewellery, which is easier said than done.
Why did you decide to call your brand Moha? When did you start the brand?
I am heavily influenced by the different tribes in India and I am fascinated by their creativity and skill. Many tribes in Maharashtra worship the moha or mahua tree as their ‘kalpavruksha’. The term moha, in Sanskrit, means desire and jewellery has always been the most desired object since ancient times. I felt it was apt for a jewellery brand. I started Moha by Geetanjali in December 2013.
Did you find it difficult to enter the jewellery sector? At any point, did you feel the need to formally learn the art of jewellery making?
It was very difficult to get into this field since I did not have any jewellery background. In India, the jewellery sector is a very close-knit field. It is an unorganised sector and the artisans are scattered all over the country. More so, the skills are limited to a few regions and families. This makes embarking into this sector a bit difficult.
I sought help from my family’s gold jeweller in the initial stages. Later, I learnt by trial and error and sat with the artisans to learn from them. I spent the first two years reading, observing, learning and experimenting with jewellery-making techniques from around the world.
What inspires your designs?
Nature and its beauty has been a constant source of inspiration. I also look at folk art and crafts for inspiration. The rustic appeal of tribal jewellery fascinates me.
Tell us about your collections.
Initially, I would create independent pieces but slowly and consciously shifted to theme-based design collections. My first collection was inspired by Goa’s pre-Portuguese aesthetics, as a tribute to a fantastic place which is so much more than just its beaches. That collection was inspired from the rich biodiversity of Goa, its temples, shrines and ethnic Goan jewellery.
The second collection, Kish was dedicated to seed pods. The latest is the Revival collection.
Tell us about your Revival pieces.
I have observed that some timeless designs are being wiped out. This has happened due to complicated jewellery techniques as well as changing lifestyle preferences. Women today prefer to wear lighter pieces. So my focus was to connect these missing dots and make wearable art compatible with today’s lifestyle.
The Revival collection has been inspired by antique yet timeless aesthetics in jewellery. I have attempted to bring some of them back to life and have modified their designs to suit modern-day requirements.
How has the response been?
The response has been good and I am very happy with the positive feedback. It feels good to have been able to educate people about our heritage, aesthetics and designs and tell a story that is deeper, rather than just creating a beautiful piece of jewellery.
Are you working on a new collection?
We have two collections that are currently in the making, which have been inspired by history. I have been studying and researching them for more than a year now and it is slowly but surely taking shape.
For one of the collections, we have revived the handcrafted beads of an era gone by using the same techniques that were prevalent at that time. We shall launch this collection in a couple of months.
How is your collection for men faring?
We have a collection of quirky and offbeat pieces for men. The response has been good and we have received a lot of appreciation, but I feel we still need to do more research on their tastes and create pieces which could be worn by a more diverse group of men.
How has the journey been so far?
The journey has been a passionate one. My love for the craft has kept me going. Sometimes it has been frustrating, challenging but equally rewarding. There have been several moments of despair and moments of pleasure and gratitude. We find our balance in these surreal ups and downs which, in turn, makes us march ahead every single day.
Which design is your personal favourite?
It is so difficult and almost impossible to pick one favourite. I have put equal amounts of love, affection and attention into each piece. Each design is very close to my heart.
Your designs are rooted in traditional forms. Do you think you would explore contemporary designs in the near future?
I always like to experiment and have tried to do something different and unique and eliminate repetitive designs. I consciously tried to break my own boundaries. When I design, I try to create designs which people can pair with both traditional and contemporary attire.
What’s next for your brand?
It’s a very new brand, we have just started crawling. We are happy to be loved, admired and respected for our work. We want Moha to grow into a respectable brand and to be known for its quality and uniqueness.
The Matsya Kanya silver earrings take their cue from traditional Goan jewellery. As per Goan belief, fish represents happiness, freedom, fertility and abundance.