Flowers really are divine creations. When in full bloom they radiate their sweet fragrance, and once they dry up hidden between pages of a notebook, they still manage to bring a smile to our face, its beauty as a memory. When the floods hit Chennai in 2015 and washed away Amrita’s garden, she was desperate to preserve a memory from it. She managed to salvage some foliage and created jewelry by preserving the flowers using a technique she learnt in college. Soon after, she launched her brand by the name of Alankaara, which specializes in carefully handcrafted jewelry.
The team comprises of Amrita’s mother (the accounting whiz), the flower lady who brings fallen as well as fresh flowers from the local market and Amrita, who handles the logistics, marketing, branding and creative process all by herself (and is doing a splendid job, check out their page). She also works with a few freelancing housewives and learnt a lot from an artisan couple in the past. She attributes some of the skills she learnt about the craft to them, as they work without any fancy technology or machines.
Wondering how Amrita came up with this unique idea? It all started when she was studying at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. Amrita says, “I was part of a social entrepreneurship project called ‘Impact Edge’ where we worked with crafts that had little scope in their existing state. My project was to work with the Seashell Craftsmen of Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. Their craft took a huge hit after the tsunami of 2004 and never got back to its former glory. So we intervened and introduced this technique of preserving shells in lacquer and helped reduce their seashell consumption by 97%. Soon, I graduated and worked a couple of jobs before I realized I wanted to take forward my graduation project. So the first collection ORA – Oceans Treasures hit the market a year and a half back. It was well received by the market and soon I was retailing the pieces in various stores. Roślina, which is the botanical collection of Alankaara is literally my baby. After the Chennai floods in 2015, I applied the same technique as that of the seashells for the flowers and it worked beautifully. By Feb 2016, I launched Roślina into the market and it was an even bigger hit than Ora.”
The skills and technique used to create this beautiful craft came naturally to Amrita. She knew lacquer was used on furniture to give it a shine, so she applied her mind to it and used molds to get them to form the desired shape. Of course, she keeps reading to keep abreast of the latest techniques and shortcuts to make her products achieve impressive delicacy. What’s her favorite part about the craft process? Amrita says excitedly, “My favorite is flower pressing. I have a workshop in Chennai and the heat here is unexplainable, but works for me because my flowers dry faster. I press the flowers between glass sheets and mul mul cotton so it absorbs all the moisture yet retains the color. The fun part comes when you open the cloth to reveal the dried flowers. You can never tell how they will turn out until they’re done!”
Curious to know more about the process? “Ours is a factory line process. If one step is missed, then the whole product falls apart. So we start with sourcing the flower, which is the most important step, obviously. Then we dry it in the sun. Once it is bone dry, we cover it in lacquer and mold them such that they fit into the metal base that is pre made. Then we fuse the metal with enamel color that suits the flower. Once that is done, we fuse the flower to the base. The whole process takes close to 18-26 hours”, says the expert.
Amrita’s immediate focus is to create a strong core team, so that this one-woman army can expand to a diversified team, ready to take on any challenges that come their way owing to the unique business model. Starting from the very bottom rung of the ladder, Amrita finds it fulfilling to learn something new every day. “Our products have been well received throughout the country. I believe this craft has quite a potential and the possibilities are endless if we figure out a way to make it as consistent as other crafts”, says Amrita.
Location: T Nagar, Chennai.
FB page: http://www.facebook.com/alankaaraa
Contact number: 9940520028 / 044-24342028
You can find their products at: Jaypore, Tjori and Mojarto. In Chennai it’s being sold out of Ashvita and Taj Fisherman’s Cove