Anup Bohra: A Rad­i­cal Vi­sion­ary

Solitaire - - CONTENTS - BY SHANOO BI­JLANI

Anup Bohra, CEO and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Jew­els Em­po­rium, Jaipur, is way ahead of his times. A pa­tron of jew­ellery arts and crafts, his for­ward­think­ing vi­sion has helped him pop­u­larise his lim­ited edi­tion col­lec­tion Master­strokes glob­ally. He and his team have been pi­o­neers in introducin­g French enam­elling tech­niques in fine jew­ellery in In­dia. The sole pur­pose that keeps his cre­ative and ad­ven­tur­ous spirit alive is the de­sire that In­dia must be recog­nised not just for its tra­di­tions, but for its tal­ent, in­no­va­tion and artis­tic ex­cel­lence. A brave heart, he opts to tread paths that are dif­fi­cult in or­der to cre­ate some­thing orig­i­nal. Bohra puts it aptly, “If you suc­ceed in ev­ery­thing that you are do­ing, it means that you are at­tempt­ing things that are far too easy. Thus, I choose paths where fail­ure is in­evitable ini­tially, yet if you are per­sis­tent and have the courage to stay orig­i­nal, you will suc­ceed. It isn’t the mind that cre­ates beau­ti­ful work, it’s the soul!”

Jew­els Em­po­rium, Jaipur, has been a pioneer in introducin­g the art of Plique-à-jour and Basse-taille enam­elling in In­dia. Tell us about the jour­ney. Why did Jew­els Em­po­rium bring the French enam­elling tech­niques into In­dia?

In 1983, I joined Jew­els Em­po­rium af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Amer­ica (GIA) and started as­sist­ing my fa­ther and grand­fa­ther in the busi­ness. We were well es­tab­lished in re­tail­ing to for­eign tourists, but it did not in­trigue me enough to con­tinue do­ing the same thing day in and day out. I was do­ing a lot of soul-search­ing to cre­ate an iden­tity where I could not only build my com­pany into a brand, but I could also take In­dia to the world.

Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion and re­search, along with my bet­ter half, Sm­riti, I de­cided to ex­plore the world of enam­elling. Colours al­ways bring out evoca­tive emo­tions. The beauty of a jewel is bound­lessly en­hanced when colour is added to it in the right pro­por­tion and com­bi­na­tion. And since colours ex­cite both me and Sm­riti, ex­plor­ing enam­elling tech­niques was an ob­vi­ous choice. Fur­ther, we re­alised that enamel in In­dia, es­pe­cially Jaipur, was only be­ing used in the tra­di­tional for­mat.

Enam­elling, or what is termed as meenakari, is said to have flour­ished un­der Raja Mans­ingh of Jaipur, who brought ex­perts from Lahore to set up karkhanas (work­shops) to pop­u­larise the tech­nique of Cham­plevé enam­elling. Since then, the tech­nique was be­ing used on the back of jadau jew­ellery to en­hance its life. The pal­ette was lim­ited to six or seven colours, which were used as solid hues in flat en­graved geo­met­ric shapes from

The beauty of a jewel is bound­lessly en­hanced when colour is added to it in the right pro­por­tion and com­bi­na­tion.

Is­lamic tra­di­tion, in­ter­wo­ven with pat­terns dis­play­ing acan­thus, birds, flow­ers and an­i­mal forms of Hindu aes­thet­ics.

While study­ing fur­ther about the his­tory of enamel art, we came across Art Nou­veau jew­ellery and we were in­trigued by the ex­per­i­men­ta­tion of that time. It was a eu­reka mo­ment for me; it pro­vided me a di­rec­tion. One thing led to another, and soon we started un­der­stand­ing, ex­plor­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing French enam­elling in our ate­lier. Bril­liant minds and the script in place, we were ready for lay­ing the foun­da­tion of a new chap­ter in the his­tory of con­tem­po­rary jew­ellery in In­dia; the search for tal­ented crafts­men­cum-artists be­gan, which fi­nally cul­mi­nated in West Ben­gal.

We then em­barked on this jour­ney of tur­moil and chal­lenges. We failed many times only to try again and again. We wanted to break the tra­di­tional bar­ri­ers.

Soon, we ex­per­i­mented and in­tro­duced the tech­niques of Plique-à-jour and Basse-taille along with Cham­plevé, bring­ing the colours from the back to the front of the jewel.

We found sin­gle, solid colours life­less. Hence, we tried and achieved shad­ing of not just dark to light, but also shad­ing of two or more dif­fer­ent colours. We live in a three-di­men­sional world, then how can enamel be re­stricted only to flat sur­faces?

We con­quered our next chal­lenge of de­ploy­ing enamel in con­toured forms. The more we ex­plored the more we achieved and that gave us the im­pe­tus to be more ad­ven­tur­ous!

To­day, we have a pal­ette of al­most 300 enamel hues and we can proudly say that we have pi­o­neered French enam­elling in In­dia with ref­er­ence to its use in con­tem­po­rary jew­ellery. We started this jour­ney in 2001, and to­day our avant-garde jew­ellery brand Master­strokes is known for rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing and crafting unique pieces of wear­able art, not just in In­dia but in many other coun­tries too.

Please throw light on the tech­niques for our readers and how dif­fi­cult it is to achieve the fi­nesse in fine jew­ellery. What are the hur­dles that a man­u­fac­turer or a de­signer faces, and how long does it take to make a piece clad with these enam­elling pro­cesses?

First let’s un­der­stand what fine jew­ellery is. Sim­ply put, when a well-thought-out de­sign is cre­ated re­spon­si­bly, us­ing qual­ity ma­te­ri­als, while ad­her­ing to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, the re­sult is a jewel that speaks ex­cel­lence.

And how you achieve this ex­cel­lence is even sim­pler! Just don’t com­pro­mise at any level and never stop learn­ing and in­no­vat­ing. When I see a piece of jew­ellery that I made a few years ago with my team, we brain­storm to find flaws and de­mer­its and con­struc­tively pro­ceed in rais­ing our stan­dards of ex­cel­lence to a higher level.

To­day, ow­ing to this con­sis­tent cre­ative post-mortem, we have evolved to cre­ate tell-tale marvels of fine jew­ellery and ex­tra­or­di­nary wear­able art!

I as­sure you, this is a nev­erend­ing pur­suit of ex­per­i­ment­ing and go­ing a step ahead each time you cre­ate a thing of beauty. Any art, when ex­plored, poses new chal­lenges ev­ery day.

Re­fer­ring par­tic­u­larly to French enam­elling, we faced chal­lenges from achiev­ing the right amount of heat­ing, to which colour com­bi­na­tions looked good, to how we can best enamel on curved sur­faces and much more. It’s not pos­si­ble to com­press my ex­pe­ri­ences of so many years in just a few words. I could prob­a­bly write a book on it!

The key is to keep ques­tion­ing one’s own skills and be your own harsh­est critic. Fur­ther, there is no spe­cific pa­ram­e­ter on how long it takes to cre­ate a jewel dressed with French enamel. Some jew­els may take as long as six months to a year! It all de­pends on the in­tri­cacy and de­tails of the de­sign.

We would like to know about the first col­lec­tion that was en­hanced with this tech­nique. How long did it take you to com­plete the col­lec­tion?

We were mak­ing sin­gle pieces for a long time be­fore I had a crazy idea to make a col­lec­tion in­spired by the mes­meris­ing pea­cock. The in­spi­ra­tion was not new, pea­cocks have al­ways been used in In­dian jew­ellery; but that was the chal­lenge, to por­tray the pea­cock in a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent way, yet make it ap­peal­ing for the In­dian clien­tele. At that time, we were fo­cussing only on the In­dian cus­tomer be­fore em­bark­ing on our in­ter­na­tional jour­ney. To top it, I don’t know why, but I wanted to cre­ate an enor­mous 80-piece col­lec­tion, which we ti­tled Ro­mance of the Pea­cock! It took some years to come up with that num­ber prior to the launch.

Im­por­tantly, how did it fare in the In­dian mar­ket? Where did you first in­tro­duce the col­lec­tion?

I had de­cided to launch the col­lec­tion at Jaipur Jew­ellery Show (JJS) 2006, but I was get­ting the jit­ters when we com­pleted 45 pieces in the Pea­cock col­lec­tion! This fear led me to start sell­ing much in ad­vance than the JJS. The col­lec­tion did ex­tremely well. In fact, I was able to sell ap­prox­i­mately 40 pieces even be­fore I in­tro­duced the col­lec­tion at JJS 2006! We re-launched the col­lec­tion with new pieces at IIJW 2011.

What gives Cham­plevé an edge over other types of enam­elling tech­niques?

It’s not the Cham­plevé, Pliqueà-jour or Basse-taille enam­elling tech­niques that have an edge over the oth­ers; it’s how you de­ploy the tech­nique in jew­ellery that gives it an edge. We used the same old tech­nique, but we tweaked it. From

We brain­storm to find flaws and de­mer­its and con­struc­tively pro­ceed in rais­ing our stan­dards of ex­cel­lence to a higher level.

a pas­sive ex­is­tence we made enamel a proac­tive el­e­ment of the de­sign. We made it as im­por­tant as the gold, di­a­monds, coloured stones and the form of the de­sign. We then en­light­ened the cus­tomer to change their per­cep­tion, from buy­ing jew­ellery for its ma­te­rial value, to buy­ing jew­ellery for its as­ton­ish­ing work – the enamel work!

Let me put it on record, the In­dian cus­tomer was in awe with our French enam­elling works of art!

How did you get the metal work­ers and enam­ellers to train in this tech­nique? Or did you im­port and adapt the art?

When I for­ayed into this jour­ney of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, I al­ready had a team of artists who could dream de­sign, man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­perts who were ready to face chal­lenges, and my bet­ter half whose un­der­stand­ing of colours was par ex­cel­lence!

We went all the way to Kolkata to bring the ar­ti­sans to Jaipur; for­tu­nately they, too, were will­ing to share our pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm. To de­velop any art form, some­one must pa­tro­n­ise it. In olden times, kings were the pa­trons. To­day, some­one like us, one who has the vi­sion be­yond just mak­ing money, must do it. When you de­velop or adapt art, which we did, there are no man­u­als for train­ing; it’s not a tech­nol­ogy one can im­port just through read­ing.

I had never ac­quired any pro­fes­sional train­ing on enam­elling. Thus, at Jew­els Em­po­rium, we con­tin­u­ously had to brain­storm, ac­cept chal­lenges, find so­lu­tions and were busy perfecting the art. Though, now I can pretty much cre­ate a man­ual for some­one else to train; at that time we just fol­lowed our in­stincts, came up with our own meth­ods to achieve what we have achieved to­day. The only dis­ad­van­tage is that it takes a painstak­ingly long time to reach this level. Yet, it is ex­tremely grat­i­fy­ing! To­day, I have a team of gifted artists who are in­volved in the en­tire process, from get­ting the de­sign on pa­per to the com­ple­tion of the jewel.

But I have not re­stricted my­self to this art form. I sim­ply want to de­velop craft tech­niques of any kind to a high stan­dard of ex­cel­lence, whereby it is a piece of dis­tinc­tive art which is ap­pre­ci­ated glob­ally.

In 2012, we par­tic­i­pated in the ‘Craft to Jew­ellery’ project of the GJEPC where we in­cor­po­rated the unique crafts of bam­boo and bidri into fine jew­ellery.

Do you also have el­e­ments of enamel in your lim­ited and signed edi­tion Master­strokes?

Ev­ery Master­strokes jewel ex­hibits one or a com­bi­na­tion of French enam­elling tech­niques. It may be Cham­plevé, Plique-à-jour or Basse-taille. And, in­evitably, ev­ery Master­strokes jewel also car­ries the brand’s reg­is­tered trade­mark sig­na­ture, an ‘M’ with a small di­a­mond (see left). The ‘M’ is very sub­tly placed, in­cor­po­rated sen­si­bly in the de­sign of the Mas­ter­piece, most of­ten on the front side of the piece.

I sim­ply want to de­velop craft tech­niques of any kind to a high stan­dard of ex­cel­lence whereby it is a piece of dis­tinc­tive art which is ap­pre­ci­ated glob­ally.

What is your take on pla­gia­rism? How do you feel when oth­ers copy your de­signs or call them­selves the pi­o­neers of French enam­elling in the coun­try?

Copy­ing is the big­gest form of flat­tery. It is the best trib­ute one can pay to a pioneer!

Sev­eral of our con­tem­po­raries and de­sign­ers copy our de­signs, and have learnt to in­cor­po­rate French enam­elling and some even repli­cate what is our style of in­cor­po­rat­ing the mono­gram! Some are au­da­cious enough to call­ing them­selves as the pi­o­neers of French enam­elling in In­dia!

My grat­i­tude to all such hu­man be­ings for hon­our­ing us and pay­ing such great re­spect to what we ini­ti­ated and cre­ated. I take pride in be­ing a game changer and will re­main ever ec­static that I have pi­o­neered en­light­en­ing the In­dian jew­ellery fra­ter­nity with the art of French enam­elling, which oth­er­wise may not have seen the light of day and would have con­tin­ued to re­main a beau­ti­ful form of an ex­ist­ing art not pur­sued by the jewellers, de­sign­ers and work­smiths in our coun­try.

I will re­main ever in­debted to all who have copied us in some form or the other by learn­ing to in­cor­po­rate and adapt the art of French enam­elling in their pieces of jew­ellery, as it is be­cause of them that this art has gained quicker and wider ac­cept­abil­ity with the In­dian con­sumer, thus mak­ing my task much eas­ier.

Pla­gia­rism has chal­lenged me and my team to con­tinue evolv­ing fur­ther and stay far ahead of any com­pe­ti­tion. It has helped build my brand Master­strokes and en­abled it to stay on top!

Tell us about your phi­los­o­phy to­wards the brand.

My de­sire is to pa­tro­n­ise and pro­mote jew­ellery-re­lated crafts in In­dia to what­ever level I can to the best of my abil­i­ties and cre­ate wear­able art that sur­passes its in­trin­sic value. I de­sire to be­come rich by grow­ing wealth for my com­pany and, in turn, for my na­tion. The word wealth needs to be un­der­stood in the right spirit and larger per­spec­tive!

Gar­den in Bloom The stun­ning neck­lace gets its glow from 53.5 carats of Mex­i­can fire opals, and 5 carats of or­ange sap­phires edged as well as em­bel­lished with di­a­monds, thus recre­at­ing the hues of sun­set. French enam­elled, stud­ded stems and leaves com­plete the neck­lace that has been named af­ter Hes­peris, the Greek god­dess of sun­set. Cour­tesy: ADORN mag­a­zine. Pho­to­graph by Vishesh Verma

Se­lene cuff from the Shades of Lo­tus col­lec­tion.

Anup Bohra

Hawai­ian Hibiscus from the Jekyll & Hyde col­lec­tion.

The Au­tumn Saga ear­rings from the Mu­sic to My Ears col­lec­tion.

From the series of Alibaba and Forty Thieves, the pen­dant fea­tures four thieves.

Sm­riti Bohra, Cre­ative Head of Jew­els Em­po­rium

The grand neck­lace and ear­rings set from the Ro­mance of the Pea­cock col­lec­tion.

The flo­ral ring from Master­strokes bear­ing the sig­na­ture M.

Prie Dieu-Feu Opale col­lier from the col­lec­tion, Cel­e­brat­ing Gaudi.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.