MAKERS OF MUMBAI: SAPTAPARNI AND SHALMOLI OF MYRTLE HANDCRAFTED JEWELLERY
When Saptaparni and Shalmoli couldn’t turn away the stray cats that trooped into their ground-floor apartment, they realised they needed to find alternate means of income to feed their growing army. They began Myrtle in early 2018 and their distinct handcrafted jewellery has already gathered a loyal following in the city. The sisters have moulded the perfect partnership – Saptaparni designs and creates the jewellery, while Shalmoli does all the number crunching.
The City Story: Tell us a little about your journey. How and when did you decide to start Myrtle Handkraft?
Saptaparni: I loved clay modelling and painting as a child. I started with sculpting faces and heads and then moved on to miniatures. That was my learning curve. I started making jewellery in 2013. Being an actor, I often get a lot of free time between auditions and shoots. Then my closest friends suggested I start selling the pieces. I don’t like selling art, but I needed the money to feed the stray cats we had started adopting. So we began posting the pieces on Instagram where we got a good response.
TCS: Can you talk us through the process of creating?
Saptaparni: I use air-dry or polymer clay that you can buy from any store. I mix a little bit of watercolour, acrylic or oil paint into the clay to create the colours that I want. The true colours only show once the product is completely dry. I make the base first, then the flowers, leaves and other designs. Finally, I stick those on the base. I improvise a lot. I never have a fixed design in mind when I start.
Shalmoli: We always tell our customers that they will never get the same design, because our designer keeps improvising. Even making a pair of earrings is difficult for her at times, because she can’t copy the designs so precisely. But customers love that, because it makes the jewellery unique.
TCS: What inspires you?
Saptaparni: In 2013 I saw big, chunky earrings at a Dolce and Gabbana Show at Milan Fashion Week. I loved those earrings, and I wanted them. That was the trigger point. Since then I’ve always wanted to create big jewellery pieces.
In terms of design, I’m instantly attracted to flowers and leaves. Even if I consciously try to avoid them, I end up creating them in most of my designs. I will eventually move on to more geometric shapes, but right now I’m focused on florals.
TCS: What are some of the challenges of running a business?
Shalmoli: Money is always a problem. So many customers bargain a lot. We do give some discount if they’re buying in bulk, but it’s not possible for us to lower our prices since we’re barely making any profit. While fixing prices, we take the cost of production into account, then the size, then the postage charges and finally add only a tiny margin for the actual labour and time spent on making the product.
TCS: What keeps you going?
Saptaparni: The love of art. I believe that any form of art is therapeutic and requires a lot of concentration. People should not take up art to become famous, to earn money. They should do it for the joy it brings them, just like I do.
TCS: What are your future plans? Where do you want to take Myrtle in the next 5 years?
Shalmoli: Our next step would be to create a website. Right now, we only have an Instagram account. A website means better brand value and more customers. We are also looking to start world-wide shipping, because we have been getting requests from overseas as well.
Saptaparni: From the product point of view, my goal is to make bigger, chunkier earrings. I believe that more is less. People have approached us for collaborations and bulk orders, but I can’t keep up with that since I’m the only one who makes the jewellery.
I would also love to make my own utensils – ceramic bowls and plates. But it’s very expensive to have that kind of a set-up at home with a wheel and baking kiln. I started with the jewellery because I couldn’t afford that, but I hope one day I can.
TCS: What do you love most about Mumbai?
Saptaparni: I’ve travelled all over the country, but I can relate to Mumbai because in many ways it is similar to Calcutta. The culture is rich, the people are humble and the weather is beautiful for most part.
TCS: Where do you go when you need a quick escape from the city?
Saptaparni: We like going to Karjat on the weekends because all our cats are there now, at an animal shelter called Probably Paradise run by Roxanne Davur. It’s a beautiful space with over 250 rescued animals including horses, dogs, cats, and cows.