A Shift In Perspective

A Shift In Perspective

Published by Libby Ames on May 9th 2023

A Shift In Perspective

As soon as you step foot into India, you are catapulted into sensory overdrive – cars honking, dogs running past, oppressive heat swallowing you up, eyes of all the passersby boring into you, and the swirling smells of the city all around.

As we drove around the city, rules of the road as we know them seemingly nonexistent, I felt an overwhelming sense of disorder. Auto rickshaws and motorcycles weaving between lanes of traffic, meandering cows causing traffic jams, families casually strolling through hordes of vehicles. I couldn’t understand how no one was getting into an accident or how anyone would ever get where they need to be. There was no order.

Stepping foot into the artisan workshops, there was a palpable shift in the environment. Rather than chaos, there was calm. It felt as though they were welcoming us home, accepting us into the family they have created in their workspace. Many of the workshops are run out of a single room, floor-to-ceiling shelves lining the walls, all filled with a kaleidoscope of bead-filled jars. The artisans sit around common tables, collaborating on different designs and sharing life advice and laughter with one another.

Each artisan group we visited specialized in working with different materials, such as horn, resin, precious metals, recycled brass, deadstock fabric, and block printed fabric. There is a wide range in the skills required for working with the different materials, which provides working opportunities for a greater subset of the community.

In one workshop, artisans walked us through the process of metal casting, which is used to create different charms, pendants, and other metal elements in our jewelry. First, a design is set into a mold, which is then filled with melted wax. Once the wax hardens, several wax pieces are connected to a central wax pole (imagine it like leaves on a tree). That wax “tree” is then placed in a plaster-filled cylinder. The plaster hardens, the wax is melted out, and melted-down recycled brass is poured into the space the wax created. Once hardened, each brass piece is removed from the “tree” and ready for its next step in the design process.