THE ARTISTIC CONTEMPORARY DESIGNER TALKS TRAVEL AND INSPIRATIONS
Jewellery designer Vayshalee Naran was about nine years old when she decided she was going to dig for her own gemstones and create a small excavation pit in her backyard in Zimbabwe where she grew up. “I found a piece of crystal quartz that I took to our family jeweller and had it set and polished in 22k yellow gold. This was the first piece of real jewellery I designed. From then on, I decided I wanted to be a jewellery designer and maker,” Vayshalee says. After completing high school in Harare, Zimbabwe, she took a course in grading rough and polished diamonds in Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by Surval Mont-Fleuri finishing school in Montreux Switzerland. She completed an Art Foundation degree at the University for the Creative Arts in the UK before declining an acceptance offer from Central Saint Martins and opting for the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in the USA. After an undergraduate degree in Jewellery and Metalsmithing under her belt and completing liberal arts courses at neighbouring Brown University, she received a scholarship from luxury goods company Richemont Group and completed a Masters in Luxury Design at their Creative Academy in Milan.
Today the talented designer lives between London and Harare and has a prestigious client list of high value clients from sport stars to socialites and businessmen and women. She adds, “Because of my fine art background, I am able to interpret their brief, all the while taking into account their personal stories and presenting them with a tangible, beautiful and relatable piece of fine jewellery.”
Q. How important is travel to you as a jewellery designer?
A. I grew up in Zimbabwe, a verdant and naturally beautiful country. Living in Africa, nature and wildlife are an integral part of my lifestyle and drives my creativity. The African wildlife fed my fascination for skeletons and bones over the years. This led to the creation of my signature piece, the Bone Bangle. It is a homage to the greatest gift – our human body and its capabilities. As humans we are all the consequence of our circumstances and I make what I see and experience. Travel plays a pivotal role in my designs. By the age of 18, I had visited almost 40 different countries as my mother believed travel and exposure to different cultures was one of the most important educations. In a practical sense, I use the act of packing for a trip as a way of distilling down my possessions to what I value the most. I prefer to carry with me what I hold most meaningful and important and I hope my brand offers my clients pieces that would be equally as precious to them.
Q. What else inspires your work as a designer?
A. In relation to my designs and the inspiration behind my work, the many multicultural influences from my experiences and lifestyle have developed my particular taste and aesthetic. My personal identity is the most defining attribute of my brand; Atelier Vayshalee Naran. I perceive and relate jewellery to that of a prosthetic. Jewellery is an extension of the body and the metals and minerals that we regularly wear assimilate into our skin and become part of our identity, they evoke memories of association just as perfume and sound does. It is a very personal and emotionally charged object that is worn on the body.
Q. Why is designing jewellery so important to you?
A. I think the most interesting aspect of jewellery is the sentimental value the wearer associates with each individual piece such as an old piece of leather evoking memories of a childhood friendship tied next to a diamond bracelet given as a token of forgiveness and carries a bitter memory. There is usually a story behind each piece, and this is what should motivate one to wear them.
Q. What collections or pieces of jewellery are dear to you especially when it comes to travel?
A. Since the beginning of history, travellers carried along their journey amulets for protections and mementos of loved ones in lockets. All my collections are based on the themes of protective talismans and symbols of love.
Q. Can you give us any tips on what jewellery we should take with us on holiday or vacation?
A. Pieces that are versatile and comfortable to wear during the day. On beach holidays, I prefer to wear gold necklaces and bracelets with secure closures that don’t get affected by chlorine or sea water during the day so I can swim with them unaffected. I like to pack a muted or neutral palette of clothing to mix and match. Bold statement pieces like cocktail rings, cuffs, oversized necklaces and large earrings carry a sense of frivolity and elevate a simple outfit as making sure to limit them to only one or two at a time.
Q. What are your three most popular collections?
A. The Bone Collection is a symbol of love and protection. It was inspired by a single rib bone, the armour and cage of our hearts. Handcrafted, each Bone bangle and ring is fabricated in sterling silver and plated in white rhodium with a highly refined finish making it a piece of luxury jewellery, ambiguous in form and distracting from the raw and macabre idea of a literal bone. Ergonomically designed to fit comfortably when multiple pieces are worn like the rib bones that inspired them.
The Evil Eye Collection is worn across all cultures. Evil eye charms are traditionally gifted to a person to protect them against jealousy and the evil eye. The necklace is adjustable and can be worn as a choker or standard necklace length. It is fabricated in sterling silver and plated in 22k rose gold or white rhodium.
The Geometric Collection – In Eastern culture the number eight is the luckiest number, the number of infinity and of prosperity. This unisex bangle, with its clean lines and mirror-like surfaces, creates the perfect stage for light to play off the eight facets on each piece, reflecting luck around the wearer.
Q. What’s a much-loved signature piece?
A. The Artery bangle. The Zimbabwean garnet represents the blood in our veins and symbolises love. Other stones on the ends of the bangle such as emeralds represent abundance and amethyst royalty, both are options available for bespoke versions.