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Red Bag Conversations: The Silver Jewellery Playbook

A women entrepreneur shares her journey, and discloses her desire for a double date with Osho and Swami Vivekananda

Aparna from Nine By Thirty – one of our favourite jewellery brands- shares her art and inspirations, what’s on her reading shelf, and her design influences

Aparna Das Sadhukhan wears many hats- that of an artist, an entrepreneur, an occasional writer and style expert and a mother. You may have come across her work in one of her many avatars, but here’s what you need to know. If you want to own some distinct, beautiful  silver pieces, each with a story to tell, or if you believe in accessories as a form of storytelling yourself (have we mentioned before that we are all about the accessories ?); then you need to rush to a Nine By Thirty sale today.  We spoke to Aparna to find out a little bit about her design inspirations, a little bit about her, and a little bit about how to have fun doing what you love.

Thanks for talking to us Aparna. How do you start a typical day- with a cup of coffee, a newspaper, a run on the treadmill? What are some of the things you look forward to every morning?

Mornings always begin with the customary *OMG-OMG- jump-lick-wag-push-OMG-I-haven’t- seen- you- in- ages- jump-lick-wag-push-jump-repeat*  greeting from Rocky, my dog.

Then, I brew a pot of Darjeeling and plan the day by making a list while simultaneously opening news apps and social media apps on my phone. All the above with a lot of background chatter from my 8 year old and constant shoving of wet nose in my face (Rocky). As you can see, I have pretty loaded mornings.

Could you tell us a little bit about some of your design inspirations from your childhood? What are some of your current design obsessions?

Little things like the way my mother decorated our home, to the kind of clothes I wore and the modest lifestyle we had has stayed with me unconsciously and reflects in whatever I do and conduct my self in general. My designs are largely traditional with a hint of the atypical. While I try and conceive things differently, my framework is still largely conventional.

New / current trends rarely catch my eye. Its always the unusual that I take notice of. Take me to the Himachali or Chattisgarhi tribes and I’ll spend months obsessing with their style of living. The same doesn’t hold true when I see my label conscious friend swoon over a Fendi or LV. I do appreciate but rarely get inspired or excited by them.

Who are some of the women who inspire you on a daily basis   -be it in your personal life, your designs or your writing and photography?

I have a motley set of influencers :). From my maternal grand mother and mother to the everyday bai / helpers (they have always filled my life with the most delightful and touching stories) to Aparna Sen, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Deepti Naval and Michelle Obama to the many many women entrepreneurs  working at grassroot level. But my steady, everyday dose of inspiration comes from some phenomenal women on the internet like Dithi Mukherjee, the artist, Preeti Sukumaran (founder of Krya ), Archana Srinivas (curator of Rang Decor).  Neha Viswanathan (probably my biggest influencer and motivator so far in writing and photography). I haven’t even named 1 percent of the pool of women who make me what I am.. that would take reams of paper!

Could you tell us a little bit about Nine by Thirty? You have a distinct business model with pre-announced sales, unique pieces and selling exclusively through Facebook and shows. Why do you think that works for your business?

Nine by Thirty, is a serendipitously conceived idea. We subconsciously work towards these things without actually planning for it. The idea is to keep loving, pursuing and nurturing these dreams. I did not actively pursue anything. I love wearing silver and always dreamt of owning a little boutique with books, tea and silver. I never thought I’d be making  jewellery. NEVER. I did not even know I was creative enough to do what I am doing.  But loving something more than everything else, makes one do incredibly good things.

The model works for me because I’m a people’s person and FB is all about that – connections and conversations. For now this works for me – no set up cost and I carry my shop with me on my phone wherever I go.

 Do you see yourself more as a designer or as an entrepreneur with an eye for a design?

Honestly speaking, I still haven’t figured this one yet. I alternate between the two. I have strong entrepreneurial phases when I dream of taking NBT to the next level and then there are phases when I couldn’t be bothered with the business aspect and all I want to do is immerse myself in making jewellery in a frenzy.

You have held so many different roles and dabbled in so many interesting fields- from film production to writing travelogues to being mother to a 8 year old, to now being a jewellery designer and retailer. What do you think you’ve learnt from all of them? What are some of the other experiences you’d like to have some day?

I like that you know so much already about a small timer like me. :).

Well, I’ve learnt from every job. And I bring those learnings onboard to NBT. Film production taught me how to work hard. It crushed my ego and made me do things beyond what I thought I was capable of. Working in the NGO sector with the underprivileged made me grateful for what I had. It taught me gratitude and the skill to deal with the toughest government officers. Writing was/is a life enriching experience. It makes me see and approach various situations with constantly evolving perspectives. Working with ad agencies made me thick skinned and patient. I deal with the occasional irate customer now with a zen like disposition, all thanks to dealing with difficult clients as a client servicing executive. I’m not sure what I learnt from the corporate world though. Yes, I met some wonderful people and learnt that working from 9-6 meant nothing to me and did nothing for my soul. Finally, being a mother to a 8 year old made me unlearn all that I said above and brought me down to my knees!! Honestly, being a mother has been by far the most challenging and satisfying experience of all.

What more would I like to do?  There is so much more that i’m afraid one life is most certainly not enough. Two sure shot things I hope to do before I die - learn pottery and singing and go hiking with my parter on a month long hiking holiday (the latter one is particularly challenging since it involves my partner who has sold his soul to the corporate sector). You can add sky diving and being the owner of a bong food restaurant someday to the list too!

Do you think you would have reacted to these experiences differently if you were male? How would they have been better or worse?

While I think my experiences so far are pretty much something any male could have encountered too. I have met men who have jumped several jobs across sectors with the hope to find that one thing that’s closest to their hearts. These are life experiences and I am privileged to have had an upbringing that allowed me to be who I am today. Its not a man-woman thing at all. It has more to do with an individual’s choices. Sure, the fact that someone was taking care of my financial requirements while, I dabbled and experimented with my whims was a huge plus. In my case it is my husband, but I do know of people who have supported their partners of either gender financially just the way my partner did. So then, I don’t think I’d have reacted any differently had I been male.

Who are some of the Indian designers- be it fashion, jewellery, interiors or others – whose works you are particularly fond of?

I admire Sahil and SarthakMora’s Ritika Mittal and Shalini Subramanian of Plantation House. I love them for the philosophy behind the brands they have created. I absolutely love Sabyasaachi (Editors Note: This is the second artist we’ve interviewed who says they love Sabyasaachi. MBRB must interview him some day) – though you will never see me in one, I’m incredibly inspired by his journey and how he is what he is today.

What would you say are your favourite material possessions- the things you’d run out of your house with in case of a fire?

Nothing. I’m not attached to things. I’m materialistic and buy a hell of a lot. But I’m not attached to any of those.

 What is your favourite book from those you read last year? Favourite movie??

This question has made me realize how little I read last year. Of all that I read the ones that come to my mind immediately are : Manu Joseph’s Serious Men, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland, Divakaruni’s Oleander Girl, Hosseni’s And the Mountains Echoed, Amitav Ghosh’s The River of Smoke and Nandita Bose’s The Perfume of Promise. All good reads but Divakaruni was particularly a let down. Palace of Illusions remains my favourite Divakaruni book till date.

I’m currently reading Americanah (Chimamanda is a favourite author) and Fear by Osho. I must say- I love them both.

Films – The Ship of Theseus.

Lastly, here is a question we like to ask everyone at My Big Red Bag. If you could have dinner with any one person from history, who would it be, and why?

I love addas that discuss philosophy (usually opposing views) – so a double date with Osho and Swami Vivekananda :)

All images from Nine By Thirty’s Portfolio

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