I first met her at Moksh on a sunny Saturday. It was the usual once a month Farmer’s Market That’s held there. A vibrant environment with an aromatic smell surrounding the place, colorful Wardrobes scattered around the tables holding items for sale, and soothing music as a backdrop. Among these surroundings, next to the door, was a neatly set table with minimalistic handmade jewelry resting on boxes. And, next to it sat Aayusha Shrestha, the woman behind this handmade jewelry—AAMO. With this craft issue in the works, I couldn’t think of a better person to talk to Than this artisan, so I went to have a chat.
From delicate pieces that exude femininity to modern designs that can be worn both alone or Beautifully layered, AAMO is everything you could want in your accessories. Aayusha shared That jewelry design was something she did for herself, while in college, where she got a degree In graphics. In 2016, she took the plunge into design, creating her own line, AAMO, built on her Signature style with the use of metal and gold plating. Much of it is designed with particular Inspiration she got while she was growing up in Patan, and also from day-to-day life. Here, she Sheds some light on her career as a jewelry designer.
Beginning the journey
My jewelry journey did not start from the major I completed, but it was the outcome of long-Term research. I lived in Patan for a long time, and grew up there too, but I studied in India for More than 10 years. So, the place became very foreign, and that’s why I was always so curious About what was happening there. Growing up, I saw a lot of metal works and sculptures and Became curious about how they were made, and started visiting various workshops. While doing The research, I realized people of my age were not taking up the skills from their fathers. And, as You know, it is mostly passed on from father to son and the wives and the daughters were not Involved at all.
I asked one of the boys from Patan why more young people weren’t taking it up, and he said that There is not much money involved, so he’s trying to be an engineer. Then, it struck to me that, as A designer, how can I help solve this brain-drain issue. I started and took some time to observe The skill set of the metal workers, because they work traditionally, don’t use machinery, and also Make their own tools. So, a lot of work goes into it, and I just used to hang around and watch and Learn. Since I studied graphics, I was also into questioning—why are certain designs the way They are—and the whole brainstorming of course helped in coming up with my ideas: why do We worship, why do we celebrate festivals—which I put in my designs.
Bumps along the road
So, more than just designing, this is something that came very spontaneously to me, and I had Done my research. Then, before I put pen to paper, I use software to design it. Though some Designs look very simple, I might have been playing with it for a year or more, constantly Thinking about it. So, in that context, this is the easy part for me—just designing. But, in the Beginning, it was very hard to gain the trust of the people I work with,they never took me Seriously, because as I mentioned before, it is a very male-dominated field. I had to be very Persistent and patient, and it was a challenge. But, that also taught me a lot; that this is just not Work, but that I had to understand the person who is making the design. So, eventually, I have Built this whole relationship and then we become so close that they start inviting you to their Family functions.
What does AAMO mean?
There are many aspects to that, one is TeAmo, which means ‘I love you’ in Spanish, but also, When I was researching, I found that back in the old days people used to call their Aama(mother)Aamo; and also, I am very close to my grandmother and mother, and so there was Always this bond, and the name reflected these many aspects. Then, I added another A for my Name, which people always get wrong; they always write Ayusha, where it’s actually double A. So, it’s basically ‘mother’ as well as my love for what I do.
I’ve dedicated designs to them, also: my first piece, Barsha, the cloud and the rain; that's my Mom's name. I did a whole floral series for my grandmom, called the MeroAamakoBagaicha—a Lot of floral motifs were from my time spent with her, because it was her favorite thing, she Loved to sit in the garden and look at the flowers.
How do you feel about the increase in similar jewelry designers now?
Honestly, I feel like,‘thank god!’, because that was my whole point. I feel very glad seeing other Local brands flourishing; this is the time for the younger generation to start something new. Because this is the age when we are more open, accepting, understanding, and we have that pride Of being a Nepali, too. So, I definitely feel very happy about it, but my big concern is, Everything looks similar. That's why I keep talking about identity, individuality; it's so crucial. For example, anybody can be a designer; but I am a Nepali designer. Our aesthetics are Completely different, and I feel a lot of designers don't focus on what our aesthetics are and how We are different.
What are your future plans?
I have a plan to provide training to anyone who’s interested and passionate about jewelry-Making, but it’s not an easy thing to do. People want a week or two weeks’ course, but that's not How it works. All I can share in that period of time is how to find inspiration, solve problems, How to come up with ideas. But, if somebody wants to understand the skill sets and practice Them, this is at least a years’ worth of investment. So then we also had talks about having maybe A course in colleges.
Which is your favorite piece?
It's the one I did for my grandfather. That's not a series, and I only did two pieces, so when he Passed away, I made a neck piece called, ‘Eventually we all will be one with Earth.’ What I was Trying to depict is that, even though we all die someday, out of that something beautiful does Come out. So, that’s why it’s showing growth and it’s also a universal symbol, something that's Underground, but the leaves are blooming. And, another favorite is the one I did for my grandmother, and also, the goddess series. At that time, the Delhi rape case had just happened. I felt that, in our Asian culture, we worship women and goddesses, but its only within prayer books and all, so I made this series to promote awareness. A lot of women could relate to the earrings, too, and the series was more interactive.
How do you see the future of handmade jewelry in Nepal?
I feel like, not just in terms of jewelry, but anything: if we're importing something, we should be able to capitalize on what we import and have an economy based on self-consumption. Getting them, making them, and sending top-quality products out. So, I feel that the future should be handmade; I support technology going wider, but feel that handmade is very important.