Only One Exists

Arpana Rayamajhi is a New York based jewellery designer born in Kathmandu. I’ve been following her on Instagram for some time and find her pictures eye-catching and inspiring. “Arpana brings her Nepali heritage and craftsmanship to each of her pieces. Each piece is handmade and one of a kind.” 

How did you get into jewellery making?
I started making jewellery (professionally) when I was in college at Cooper Union School of Art. I started partly because I was broke and partly because I wanted one-of-a-kind pieces. Upon graduation in 2015 I started sharing it with the world. I would say that maybe the seed was planted at a very young age seeing my mother adorned with her jewellery and really from missing my family and home. 

What materials do you use and where do you buy them?
 I use anything that inspires an idea for me. Mostly, I use beads for their colours and also for their history that dates back as long as humanity (almost). It is often overlooked or undervalued because of its “crafty” “artisan” nature that establishes unnecessary hierarchy on materials and its association with mostly womanhood.  I have also used naturally bleached sea urchin shells from the cook islands and this is what transpired my entire career so far. I use erasers, plastic, crystals, silk threads, yarn, faux fur, found objects, silver, synthetic hair and bells. The idea is more important than the materials as of now.

What materials would you like to incorporate into your work that you haven’t before?
I haven’t worked with metals so much so I would love to use silver, gold and brass. I’m not into diamonds and those “expensive” things and all that but who knows that might change! 

What tools are needed for you to construct your jewellery?
Mostly my hands and my brain. The tools otherwise are super simple. Pretty basic hardwares, scissors, looms. I like to make things easier for myself. 

Roughly how long does it take to make a piece and how do you plan what you’re going to make?
 It depends. A choker that is 11-13cm over the last two years (because I’m getting faster) takes me about 4-5 hours to make. There are pieces that I conceive in my head, and by the time it’s made can take a couple of days to even a week or so. They are all one of a kind so every piece is different from the other.

Your pieces are so colourful and uplifting, do you ever feel like using monochrome colours?
I do actually. I have been working on a series that is monochromatic. But it’s weird, because I say I will stick with three hues of the same color and then that little drop of yellow or red or black becomes so necessary to give it life. That sounds such a cliched way to talk about colour but it’s true!
Your Instagram has vibrant pictures of Nepal. In what ways (if it does) does the country inspire your work?
In every possible way. I was born and raised there and lived there until I was 24. So nothing that I do or nothing about living in NYC can also change that. But I am an artist and a person first of all and I keep changing so I do not hold onto my Nepali identity as strongly as just conveying beauty around the world and share a part of where I come from; a tiny little Himalayan country that has over hundreds of different ethnicities all living together. Nepali people know that we come from a really small place and the world is huge so there is this sense of pride and belonging to this place that is very very prominent in pretty much every Nepali. And despite eveyrthing, when someone from Nepal starts making a name internationally, even if very humble, we all take pride to talk about Nepal. For Nepali people, Nepal isn’t simply a country and a political thing… it’s home. It’s forgotten by the world often and it’s very community driven. 

What other countries have you visited or would like to visit for inspiration?
I have been very fortunate to visit a few places but with a Nepali passport it’s not very easy. There are always the most terribly beaurocratic processes we need to deal with every single time we travel and we need a visa for pretty much everywhere in the world. There is no visa upon arrival for us “third world” people. It is assumed that all of us will move and live somewhere illegally.  But I have been to Japan, France, Italy, Spain, U.A.E, Mexico, The Cook Islands, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, Indonesia, Singapore, Netherlands.. where else? I feel like I’m forgetting some places.

Have you ever thought about applying your beadwork to clothing or other items?
Yes! One medium transpires ideas for another.

What advice or words of wisdom would you give to other craft-makers wanting to start a business out of what they do?
I do have an issue with the word “craft-maker”. I am not crafty, I make work. Just as serious as everyone else, maybe the only thing that is stopping my work from being in the “high end” world is finances. I aspire to see beads as one of the standard jewellery material, like silver gold etc.. it is just as fine and just as amazing if not more than these metals. My main advice would be, do not be afraid to do what you love to do and share it with the world. Prepare to spend a lot of time by yourself with your work and figure out why is it that you love to do it and what you want to achieve from it. Do not overestimate your skill and ability but also underesetimate yourself. The focus should be in producing good work and being honest and sincere with your practice. Everything else is out of control.
Lastly, what do you love about making jewellery?
The fact that I get to wear my own work and knowing that there is only one of it that exists in the world ( at the moment).
Shop Arpana’s jewellery here.

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