Roopa Vohra has single handedly revived the dying art Thewa of Rajasthan. Thewa is a 400-year old Mughal craft that fused intricately carved thin sheets of 23-carat gold on to molten, coloured glass. Today, this successful designer’s name is synonymous with exotic Thewa jewelry.
How were you initiated into designing?
In 1995, while flipping the pages of a magazine, I came across a picture of a ‘pankhi’ in Thewa technique, which is a combination of glass and gold. Impressed, I got more curious about it, did research and worked towards it.
What challenges did you face initially?
To learn the techniques of Thewa, I went to the interiors of Rajasthan and found that it was a dying art and a generation of artisans who practiced it, had neglected it and moved on to different professions. I had to build a rapport with them and convince them to start making Thewa products. I started my business with a capital of less than Rs ten thousand. The karigars made dibbiyas and pankhi, which had no demand in the market then. It was a task to convince them to make pendants and earrings and so on. I had to make numerous trips to Rajasthan until they realised I meant serious business.
Please tell us something about your academics and training.
A business school graduate in finance, jewellery designing happened to me by chance. As an expatriate wife, I ventured into jewellery manufacturing and glass making techniques prevalent in all Orthodox Church led countries such as Cyprus which is where I lived. I learnt the requisite skills by working on the job at various manufacturing facilities overseas.
What prompted you to revive Thewa?
The beauty of Thewa prompted me to revive it. I have consistently presented exquisite jewellery collections drawing inspiration from the rich past of India’s cultural heritage. It can also be attributed to my tremendous interest in reviving dying art forms. Some of them are unique line, inspired by light and fluidity, uniting gold, diamonds and coloured stones in harmony. I also developed a Naqaashi collection, which is a 24-carat gold relief work on coloured handmade glass. It is an almost-forgotten art form which etches gold relief work on glass.
How did you expand your business?
Initially, I worked from home. Then it was the show route, word of mouth publicity, exhibitions (in India and abroad) etc which worked for me. Then the retail sector boomed and that’s when I got opportunities with retailers like Shopper’s Stop, Pantaloons, etc. Now, I have my own signature store in Mumbai.
Please tell us something about your brand?
Roopa Vohra jewellery is understated and elegant. Parisian and Baroque styling is presented in rich colours and styled voluptuously. These pieces are a statement in the world of luxury jewellery! With a zing of contemporary flavour, rich colours are blended with a touch of classic romanticism in these pieces.
What advice would you give to aspirants who wish to make a career in jewellery designing?
Be sure that this is what you want to do. I have seen students who spend four years training to be a jeweller/ accessory designer and within six months of their first assignment, they quit as they cannot handle the demands of this profession. This is as professional a line as medicine or engineering, so please treat it accordingly.
What are the skill sets required for jewellery designers?
As a designer one must be original and innovative and ensure that each piece is perfect. You need to have tremendous knowledge about gems. Besides this, one must be aware of techniques like creating alloys, moulds and casts, setting stones, polishing and enamelling. Besides creativity, one must also have business acumen. It is not as glamorous as it appears from the outside. One has to work hard to succeed.
What is the future scope of jewellery designing?
This is an ever growing field and it has become a much sought after career. There is immense scope as the demand for good designs will never fade. India has produced many award winning designers. The field is vast and one can do anything from basic design to quality control to product handling. One can work in a big jewellery designing house, manufacturing unit, export units or start one’s own venture. All depends on a person’s talent and passion.