Her current ambition of wanting to reassess where she is going with her work doesn’t detract from how far she has come as a goldsmith. “I’m happy with what I’m making and proud of my current body of work, I just wish I had had more life experience during my formative years to better understand the kind of person I am.” She also wishes she had more time to reflect on the impact of moving home as a young girl, on losing aspects of her culture and how this affected her work. In her early twenties, after graduating, Shivani had her own studio with space to sell her work which demanded a non-stop commitment. “I had to be there and open every Tuesday to Saturday, there was just no time for anything else but making.”
The need to keep developing work is one of the hardest things about being a jeweller, then and now, she says. Of course, the best thing about a profession can take longer to realise. “Having autonomy is what I love about being a goldsmith, but so is the complete lack of rules – I can make whatever I want.” She says this with confidence but admits there are unseen layers of influences that affected this sense of free-will when she was younger, “I lost some of these cultural parameters and I want to get them back.”
Somewhere along the line I feel like I stopped being myself. It’s OK to let people see a raw and messy side. Honesty is important and good brands do this really well.
Shivani regrets not having had the ability to critically assess what was happening in her cultural and creative environment with any real clarity. A bit of a catch-22, and perhaps she’s being too hard on herself. “I feel I needed to get to know myself more. I was just making what I wanted to. And, on some level, that wasn’t enough. I should have been sharing a lot more, both personally and artistically; I internalised the idea of having to leave my culture at home.” She expands on this by saying she had, slightly rigid ideas about work and cultural life being exclusive from each other. “Combining them is part of the answer in reconciling a sense of lost identity. Somewhere along the line I feel like I stopped being myself. It’s OK to let people see a raw and messy side. Honesty is important and good brands do this really well.”
The onset of lockdown provided Shivani with space to just stop and reflect on the past as well as her priorities and core values in the present. Being a mum with two children had previously helped with pressing the pause button on life. “Before having my first baby I felt like I was on a treadmill; being a parent has provided some perspective. It’s too easy to just keep going and not critically judge whether the path and destination is right for you.” Assessing this meant looking at her values and interests and how she could bring elements of that into her work. In her research – conducted during lockdown – Shivani discovered a Japanese principle known as Ikigai which basically means having a reason for being. It encourages practitioners to find a sense of meaning in life by mapping out moral and economic factors with the central tenet being your purpose – your Ikigai.
I’ve tended to compartmentalise certain experiences in my life – the challenge now is how to introduce them back into my work.
“I started forming bridges between these different things [practice, morals, economy, purpose] and working out how to articulate my thoughts into this process.” According to Ikigai her love of making and being a goldsmith were only part of the equation and to balance it, other kinds of moral activities needed to be added. Some of the things that stood out for her that needed to be incorporated into this philosophy were around anti-racism, diversity, heritage, ancestry and culture. “The process caused me to pause and question why I had separated these things from my work. I’ve tended to compartmentalise certain experiences in my life – the challenge now is how to introduce them back into my work.”
This means attempting to reconcile her clean minimalist style with a certain maximalist celebration found in Indian culture. However, she realises it’s not that simple and not necessarily just about jewellery. Shivani is also skilled with textiles and enjoys sewing and making her own clothes. She reasons that perhaps it’s more about the creative and subtle changes we can make to influence a bigger picture and of reconnecting with her heritage to develop a more complete and authentic identity.