In conversation with Jewellery artist Chinanshu Sharma.
Hello and Namaste!
To quote Coco Chanel, “Jewelry is not unchanging. Life transforms it and makes it bend to its requirements".
With the fashion industry waking up to the disastrous consequences they have on the planet and people, there is a shift in the culture, thought process and materials used. Many indie designers and makers are leading the conversation on conscious fashion and consumption.
Chinanshu Sharma's Wild Things collection, which is available at Salt.Mango.Tree is about celebrating Indian weaves and exploring sustainable materials for jewellery making. The Kullu weaves from Himachal combined with shells and metal are a tribute to handcrafted goodness and slow fashion. Lightweight and bold coloured, they catch your eyes and are perfect ice breakers.
An excerpt from our conversation.
Tell us about yourself.
I am Chinanshu Sharma- artist, designer and entrepreneur. I am a boring banker turned designer and started my entrepreneurial venture Paarisha by Chinanshu in India. I relocated to the US three years ago and am working as an independent artist and making and learning new things since.
Tell us about your brand in 5 words.
Consciously Designed, Mindfully Made, promoting Sustainable living, slow fashion and loads of loving kindness.
How did Paarisha come about? Did you have any formal training in jewellery making?
I started Paarisha after taking a brief sabbatical from my banking career and learnt jewellery design and fabrication at IIGJ - Jaipur. I have been taking some classes and workshops with incredibly talented artists here in the US and doing a bit of self-learning too - by experimenting and failing.
What is your daily routine as a jewellery maker?
My daily routine has chores, studio time, and my favourite part- twice a day walk- thanks to my dog, which I think is truly a blessing in disguise. I make it a point to manage at least 2-3 hours of studio time daily - sometimes more if I am working on something exciting. However, I can't stress enough on consistency. I dedicate about 3-4 hours to other aspects of the business-like photography, packing and dispatching orders, social media, communications - emails and research on new projects and more relaxed time for doodling. I also like to spare some time for my volunteering involvements.
How do you manage artist block? What inspires you?
I am fortunate that writers' block didn't hit till Covid happened. My current lifestyle, home duties and chores, online meetings, working at the studio can get overwhelming, and I don't find the time to make any jewellery.
Sometimes a week or two passes before I can make anything. I find that being conscious about it helps. Getting back to the bench to craft simple designs gets me excited. It is all about getting back to it, again and again. Frankly, being regular is what helps. And for inspiration, I make sure I take lots of breaks where I go hiking, visit the beach and take nature walks.
Tell us about your jewellery making process?
Jewellery making involves - lots of doodling and long walks, thinking, visualizing and building up the excitement around what I want to say and portray. Thinking about the wearer and what impact it will have and what I intend to have and for that very reason I like interacting with people in shows/ online and seeing their excitement and it is so surprising sometimes that it is vastly different from my own.
How has your heritage influenced your designs? And how is this represented in your designs?
Having lived in various parts of India, I have experienced the rich and vibrant culture and crafts. I travelled a lot to design and crafts exhibitions across India and have interacted with craftsmen, artisans and designers, and this has always inspired and influenced my style. The materials I use, viz. zari, Kullu weaves, banana fibre, silk yarn- is shaped by these travels and interactions. I have always been conscious of the use of sustainable materials for my designs.
How has your designs evolved over the years?
I first started with beaded jewellery, where I was working with sizes, different coloured stones and connectors and pendants.
I did move to metal briefly, but because of my wrist injury, I had to take up softer materials like silk yarns and mixed media, which was also immensely influenced by the Indian diversity, crafts and culture. That was when I started Paarisha and employed and trained economically disadvantaged women to reproduce my designs. After relocating to the US, I am exploring metalsmithing again, and I will be exploring more materials in the future!
How would you describe your design style?
Consciousness and kindness are at the core of all designs. I want the world to be a better place and with my pieces that means being conscious of materials I use, the process I follow and the impact I have on the wearer, environment and the world- however little it may be.
Did COVID wreak havoc in your jewellery making process? How did you manage this?
Initially, we expected 2 weeks of quarantine, which has now turned out to be a way of life. I was slow to start and was waiting for things to get back to 'normal'. I often thought about the jewellery lab I used to work in and hoped to get back to it. That never happened, and I then slowly set up a home studio. That fuelled me- I could do so much more! And little by little, I have a whole collection of silver, brass and semi-precious stones. I have been trying new techniques, making mistakes and learning- it has been insanely fun!
What’s next for you?
I love experimenting with different media and that is what excites me a lot. I have worked with yarns, wood, metals, stones, found object, recycled stuff, cycle and car parts. I am exploring two directions right now - a lot has to be thought and explored - one would be fine Indian traditional jewellery and other is totally divergent - Contemporary.
Explore more of Chinanshu fabulous jewellery here.
Images via Chinanshu Sharma and Megha Nikhil