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UNCONVENTIONAL JEWELLERY DESIGNER SHAM PATWARDHAN

— Meher Castelino

Sham Patwardhan studied German at Max Mueller Bhavan Pune, left India in 1986 and graduated in German. During these years, he studied jewellery design as a core subject and entered the world of design at 40. One of the most unconventional jewellery designers, his work is honoured in Europe but unfortunately not in India.

Please tell us how you started designing jewellery and a little about yourself.

In 2000, it was a hobby when I contacted a traditional goldsmith in Bielefeld where I was staying till 2005. I wanted to convert Shivaji Coins into my first necklace. The goldsmith gave permission to use his studio and that started my pursuit of designing jewellery, and from until 2005, I made jewellery for friends in gold and precious stones. 

Why did you not stay in India to continue with your jewellery designing?

I am a Designer as well as maker and was used to the European style of bench work, which is just the opposite of this working style, which is traditional and still widely used in India.  During my short stay from 2009-2012 in India, I was unable to even enter a jeweller’s studio. One can enter a jewellery shop as customer but not the workshop. People get suspicious and will not entertain you even if you are willing to pay. I sent images of my work to jewellers but never heard from them, which prompted me to return to Germany.

What kind of materials do you like to design with?

I enjoy working with different materials like wood, porcelain, gold, silver, plastic, silk threads etc.  I enjoy using wood and colours for making jewellery but gold is the best material. 

What is the price of your jewellery?

Prices depend on the workmanship, materials used and hours taken to finish the piece of jewellery. The price ranges from €80 onwards to € 3500 (INR 5500 — INR 3,35,000). A necklace in silver, pearls, smoky quartz costs € 5000 (INR 3,35,000). All coins are manually made and behind each coin there is my name and year of fabrication.

Do you have a workshop where you make and design the jewellery?

Currently I am working from home and also in the university workshop where I have the tools I need.

Some of your designs are a little impractical to wear; why is that?

Most of my designs are three dimensional and oversized. I fabricate my idea on the basis of expression, i.e. how will the design look where size will not be a difficulty. When the boundaries are broken, expressing the idea becomes easier.  This is the so-called artistic freedom!

Do you make jewellery for display or to wear?

Almost all my pieces are wearable. Display is secondary. One has to be sure about wearing it.

Is the European market good for you?

Conventional jewellery shops are everywhere. One can buy catalogue based jewellery pieces, which are made in Brazil, Mexico, India, Thailand and China where production costs are low. In European countries ,one can study jewellery design and making. So artistic jewellery becomes a second line. 

Why did you pick Germany as your base?

As I have been living in Germany since 1986 it is easier for me to live and think. I chose Germany for studies because I know this language since 1984. Now it is my mother tongue.

How has Germany helped you in your designing? 

Designing is a long process, which is related to my thinking process, and being used to the culture where I need not explain why this is so and why not. So this freedom is the biggest help in art. One not only remains in the frame but also ventures to go out of the frame and enjoy the possibilities of research and development.

Your jewellery designs are very esoteric and not at all conventional; is there a buyer for such work?

Contemporary jewellery is a vast field and I would not be the only one whose jewellery is esoteric and not conventional. There is a small community of collectors worldwide who are rich and educated. Some are not rich but have great admiration and understanding and also education. Every year, there is an International jewellery event in Munich called “Schmuck” for emerging designers, where there are speeches by experts and critics. There are jewellery and handicraft fairs for contemporary jewellery where private collectors and galleries come together to buy the latest works or to get hold of new artists.

How do you sell your jewellery and where is it available?

Right now I am concentrating on producing new ideas. One can buy pieces directly from me and there are few pieces with an online shop. The link is  http://bund-fuer-gestaltung.de/de/8-sham

Is it difficult to survive in Germany as a jewellery designer?

It is very difficult to survive as there is a lot of competition. Besides, there are many designers offering their work to online shops like Dawanda, Etsy etc. 

What is your customer profile in Germany?

When it comes to art, the understanding about it in society becomes narrow, with fewer customers. It is unbelievable but I have no customers! Until now I have only exchanged my works with other people who also make jewellery and art. In 2007, I exchanged a plateful of my jewellery for two nice bronze statuettes from a sculptor. Also, I exchanged works with my professor for a ceramic done by him! This year, I exchanged one ring against another by a famous German designer. I think this is the noblest kind of appreciation and recognition of my work.

Is there a lot of competition in jewellery for your kind of work and if so from where?

Throughout Europe, there is jewellery similar to my work, so one has to carve a niche. This procedure takes time and needs help from galleries and exhibitions and in competitions where one gets discovered.

What are you working on just now and what are your future plans?

I am working on colourful plastic brooches, rings with Indian inspiration like monkeys, elephants and birds. I plan never to stop making jewellery as it is a real addiction now.

Have you ever tried designing some conventional pieces?

I have tried designing some conventional pieces but it is not challenging. It is a waste of time; besides who will do modern artistic jewellery then?

What has been the response to your designs in India and abroad?

I have participated in 2012 for a group exhibition with three European jewellery designers in Pune and received a good response. I have participated for three years in Poland where I was selected from among 56 artists; the competition was very tough. In the Munich jewellery show I was selected out of 1,000 entries.

Will you remain in Europe or will you come to India in the future and design?

I will remain in Europe because here the infrastructure and network within designers and makers is easy. India has a long way to go in the field of understanding modern jewellery design. It is a long and tedious process to educate people so there is appreciation. Here I would like to put a counter question: why are German cars popular in India? They are modern designs.  Compare cars from 1930 and 2015 — there is a big difference in their appearance though they have retained four wheels. In jewellery, there is nothing new in India. Everything has been done before for bracelets, necklaces, rings, toe rings, etc.  India can start a new movement in the field of artistic jewellery. It started in the US from 1948. At the Munich fair every year all continents are represented except the Indian subcontinent…
 

Meher Castelino
 
30-MAY-2015
 
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