Meet the SHEROES - Suhani Pittie
Suhani Pittie, is considered one of the best contemporary jewellery designers in the country. Today, she shares her story with SHEROES and talks about her venture into this field.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Especially how you ventured into the field of jewellery designing.
I’m a thorough Calcutta girl. Which means I’m all about - books, debates, music, art, football and more football, I was the goalkeeper as a child…always! I was always very athletic! My mom would have a hard time keeping me back in the house! But I was good academically. Besides being the “head girl” of my school and of the school club 'Interact', I was majorly into quizzes, speeches, elocution, dance, music…everything! I don't think I was ever never out of things to do!
Calcutta as a city stresses upon education and culture. When I was 14 my dad asked me what I wanted to do with life. I was slightly clueless so he started taking me to his office. My job was to dust and keep his files in alphabetical order!!I did that for a whole year. My father has never wasted a minute of his day either. He would work or indulge in his hobbies (music). And I guess somehow we all inculcated the same drive, discipline, enthusiasm and the same determination. I have never seen my dad stretch his legs and do nothing.
We never ever indulged in holidays or shopping. I only got pocket money if I was buying books and I had to show dad the receipt. My dad was very strict. There was no personal TV or computer. We saw whatever the whole family wanted to see. We hardly ever ate out. Food was probably the least discussed thing in my family. I had some 6000 hobbies. I’m a graduate in classical music (vocal) but all my free time was spent dancing.
But all through at the back of my head, my entire childhood was this picture of the stone, amber that I had seen in a book. I couldn’t get it out. And though I didn’t know then what the subject was… at age 17, I did pursue a degree in gemology in the US. When I came back at the age of 19, I started my own school for teaching grading and identification of gemstones and diamonds. My students were not just individuals but also jewelry firms and institutions. This I did along with some theatre. And then I moved to Hyderabad. This was in 2004.
My current career was absolutely unplanned! One fine day I was toying with some old silver. I heated it, and made something for a family member and got orders on it from people who saw it on her. I had under 5000 Rs with me. I used it to outsource work to one karigar and 2 months later, I participated in Bridal Asia. And Tina Tahiliani from Ensemble picked up all my work.
You are considered one of the leading contemporary designers today. How has the journey been?
I am at step one of a million step ladder. There is so much to do. It’s very humbling to know and see how much everyone loves our work. My intention was always to do good work, to give the market an alternative thought process when it came to jewelry. I’m not trained in design or jewelry making so for me everyday has been a learning curve. Mistakes and unplanned developments, I’ve learnt it all on the job.
What is an average work-day like for you?
My day generally begins at 6 in the morning and I was a workout freak till I broke both my ankles playing football and though it’s been two years now, they have not 100% healed.
I am at work by 10 am sharp and leave at 8 am sharp.
At work, I handle production, design, HR, the heads of all these departments come to me first thing in the morning to report. Once I’ve sorted the day’s jobs for each department according to current or future plans, I shut my cabin and then begin designing. I design religiously everyday sometimes as many as 65-70 designs in a day.
How do you get ideas / inspirations for your various designs?
Emotions, movements and expressions. It begins with the first impression which is initially vivid then intense and then gets slowly ingrained into the unconscious. I like to collect these feelings, memories, connections and observations. Raw, colourful, sensuous, ancient customs...merging and blending with new forces...that inspires me.
Each collection brings with it a mood, a feeling, an emotion. Maybe its about a jatra dancers who’s life story haunts me, or lord Shiva who’s crescent is also the crescent of Islam or the tribes of Orissa and their undying faith in the forces of nature or if its about lost love or found love or finding yourself lost in love or even my personal story.. I do not follow trends. I just do what I want to do at that point. I put my feelings on a drawing board. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes there are weeks of solitude and silence. My work is very personal to me.
When starting out in this field, what were the initial challenges you faced?
When I started there was very little concept of alternative jewellery in mainstream market. When I was trying to establish my team of workers, every now and then one of them would rebel saying..this was not the kind of jewellery that the market buys..and I was wasting my time. But they held on and I held on. Amongst the many other challenges another one was that since I’m not trained in design or manufacturing of jewelry, I had to learn everything by doing…by making mistakes. Sometimes it was daunting but more often than not, it was fun.
Imagine googling: where do I buy silver. Can I melt silver? How do I melt silver. It was as basic as this! And this happens every season. Because every season I work with a new metal/material.
What professional inputs would you share with aspiring jewellery designers?
Have a curious mind. Be ready to learn on the job. I did not professionally learn the subject but I think in today’s environment its imperative to be educated on the subject. So go out there and learn professionaly.
Also, try out if you have a creative flair and an eye for detail. Just because it’s the ín’thing to do, it may not be right for you. Be ready to work your backside off if tyou want to make this industry the goal of your life.
What does it take, to succeed in this profession according to you?
Never emulate someone else’s path. You cannot aspire to reach their destination because you are not living their journey. Find your own strengths and work at them. And never forget there is only one route to success and that’s hard work.