Geetanjali Gondhale’s fascination for nature and tribal arts and crafts compelled her to turn her back on advertising and plunge into jewelry design five years ago
What gave you the confidence to opt for jewelry design despite no training in the field?
I’m a commerce graduate who worked as a UI designer for a few advertising agencies and corporate houses for over ten years. Though I was in ‘design’, ‘craft’ was my first love. My work on different design solutions trained me to be empathetic, and how to systematically extract, learn and apply the human-centered techniques to solve business / user problems in a creative and innovative way. I felt that I could adopt these ‘Design Thinking’ methods in my jewelry designs too. Visualization and design comes naturally to me, but it took me some time to understand, learn, adapt and merge my love for craft with my skills in design.
Why did you decide on handcrafted silver jewelry? What’s the story behind ‘Moha by Geetanjali’?
I love being in nature. I used to trek a lot and travel to villages in the interior where I would see local tribes and was always amazed by the creativity and detail in their offbeat tribal jewelry. That’s what inspired me! So I did a market survey and competitive analysis and realized that there was a niche I could cater to. I decided to focus on handcrafting silver jewelry by utilizing ethical jewelry making practices. Silver being more affordable became an obvious choice when I decided to craft jewelry.
I launched ‘Moha by Geetanjali’ on 13th December 2013. The brand nurtures a love for nature and stands true to the concept of sustainability. Moha utilizes eco-friendly materials and runs best practices while creating each piece of silver jewelry. The brand encourages the traditional art and craft of creating silver jewelry by incorporating the use of talented artisans.
The name ‘Moha’ is inspired from the Mahua tree which is like the ‘Kalpvrukhsa’ or ‘wish fulfilling divine tree’ to many tribals from states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal. ‘Moha’ means ‘desire’ in Sanskrit, which sounds just right for the business!
What differentiates ‘Moha’ from other handcrafted jewelry brands?
We are not just traders – we are storytellers. We are a brick and mortar business as well as a new age e-commerce company. We operate like a startup rather than a traditional jewelry business. We produce our designs from scratch to end, with our own unique design language and themes. We try to empathize with and connect emotionally with our customers, and that’s where we make a real difference. We choose topics and motifs that tell a story or evoke nostalgia. Nature has been my ultimate source of inspiration. I enjoy biomimicry – I like to create patterns emulating nature. Our tagline says ‘inspired from nature, crafted in silver’.
Tell us about your jewelry making techniques.
Our jewelry making involves a tedious 16-step process. Briefly, we create molds of our final sample piece, and then we emboss those designs in silver. Later we have to do intricate cuttings, shaping, pasting, soldering, fitting stones, polishing and eventually testing it for desired fall, fitment and weight.
What are the ethical practices you follow?
We try to follow the United Nations’ 17 Goals of Sustainability. For instance, we use only natural material in our jewelry. We refuse the use of harmful products like plastic, synthetic beads, charms, polymers, nylon or Argentan (German Silver) which is harmful to human skin as well as the environment. We are very keen on making lead- and nickel-free jewelry. We try to involve artisans practicing the lost arts in jewelry making in order to revive the art and create a better earning opportunity for them. We educate and help them to adopt new techniques and sensitize them about the bad effects of using synthetic and harmful metal alloys.
How do you distribute and market your products?
We have our own fully functional ecommerce store. We also do selective private exhibitions.
Where do you see handcrafted Indian jewelry in the next five years?
Jewelry that symbolizes or personifies one’s belief, lifestyle, passion or hobby will be the jewelry of future. The Millennials will bring in the era of gender neutral jewelry.
How do you plan to expand your brand?
My aspiration is to continue making the ‘storytelling wearable art pieces’. I believe that sometimes staying small has its own advantages. Small businesses have transformed over the last two decades, largely because of the digital revolution. The Internet has created infinite possibilities. You can create a good product and reach a likeminded audience over the web.
I believe it is important for us to grow rather than just expand. With that in mind, we are hiring the right kind of people to fill up different positions. We are considering new distribution models and trying to engage with our customers through different platforms.
I am being patient as the journey unfolds. I believe hard work has no shortcuts whatever stage of life you are at. Love what you do, and give it your best!
This article was originally published in POOL 102.
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