Designer Poonam Soni's multi-medium approach to jewellery has paid rich dividends as her “Itai Doshin” ornament goes under the hammer at the prestigious Eco Art event in Abu Dhabi later this year.

“Many bodies, one mind,” said the great Buddhist preacher Nichiren. Translate this into a piece of art: champagne diamonds, red rubies and drops combined to create the Saker falcon, an endangered bird. Named “Itai Doshin”, this ornament can be used either as a brooch or a lariat. What makes it stand out is the confluence of various elements: precious stones, painting and more in the typical multi-medium approach of designer Poonam Soni.

“Itai Doshin” will go under the hammer at the Eco Art event in Abu Dhabi in November.  Her work is set to travel through a host of international destinations starting with Monte Carlo in July and ending with a grand auction, as part of the Grand Prix festivities, in Abu Dhabi on the picturesque Yas Island.

Zen elements

A practicing Buddhist, Soni's piece borrows from Zen elements of peace, harmony, unity, self-empowerment and a spirit in flight that transcends cultural and geographic borders. As for the craftsmanship, “it took over four months and numerous artists, craftsmen and other experts. Fine Jewellery helped us with the setting and the polishing. The piece has a proposed starting bid of Rs. 20-25 lakh. The auction will be conducted by the chairman of Sotheby's,” says Poonam.

The “Itai Doshin” was payback, the designer says maintaining her Zen-like composure and undeterred by magnitude of the project. “Our royalty had their jewels made by Cartier. This was the closest I could get to that.”

For this piece she says, “I have borrowed from all my earlier works. There is miniature painting, there is Mughal art-fusing 23 carat gold on glass and hand painting for the face of the bird. There is craftsmanship; the piece is adorned with champagne-coloured ovals for the polka dot effect, white diamonds and drops from the wings.”

This is not the first time that Poonam has tasted international success. Her multi-medium work using material other than metal like leather, paintings, shell, leather, burnt gold and crushed gold has won critical acclaim and buyers worldwide. Harrods invited her to retail, and LVMH London ((Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) called her to open the ‘Incredible India' show in Paris. She is one of the few designers whose work was showcased at the Burj Al Arab.She was also featured on the covers of popular international glossies and was the first to design for the ‘Miss India' and ‘ Miss Universe' franchisee. She was approached by the Platinum Guild to launch their products and services in India.

Be it the revival of Mughal art in 22 carat gold or treating jewellery as both canvas and mixed media, she has broken design norms since she set up her label in 1989. “Twenty one years ago no designer looked beyond gold and diamonds. I was warned that people's mindset closed and they would rather buy jewellery for investment. I always considered jewellery an art form.”

Soni created India's first painting-jewellery with celebrated artist Laxman Shreshtha, securing a listing in the Italian Trends book as a Global Trend of 2009. Cartier worked with her on her famous painting-inspired line. “When I saw his works I told him that I would like to work with him. And soon we had a collection that had his miniature paintings framed in jewellery,” she says.

Spanish influence

Another work that got rave reviews and an endorsement from the Spanish government was the ‘Gaudi Revived collection', a jewellery line inspired by the works of eminent Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, known for his nouveau art and spectacular monuments such as Casa Mila. “Gaudi has been the pride of Spain and when I saw his structures, I was inspired to come up with my interpretation of his works. Each piece in this line has the official Spanish emblem,” she says with pride. She has also collaborated with the famous Takaya Gem Co Ltd of Japan. With two offices in India and third one on the cards, over 800 workers, quality  control department, art directors, an office in Paris, New York and Tokyo she has moved her craft into a corporate direction. Soni is, incidentally, the only jewellery designer in India with her own production, marketing and quality control systems. And a pret line is in the offing.

 Come November and she will take eastern elements to a wider international audience. “I plan to spread peace, and the message that we are one,” she says, as takes the message from the Lotus Sutra onto a global platform.

Art for charity

Eco Art is a charitable institution for ecological welfare supported by Prince Albert II of Monaco. Famed for its annual auctions, the institution chooses artists and sculptors to depict a theme based on endangered species. The proceeds are donated to support ecological causes. The art form for 2010 is jewellery and the theme focuses on the hornbill and the Saker falcon.

Other well known designers showcasing their works this year include Takada Kenzo; Georgio Bulgari; NOOR; House of Waris, Yianni Mela , Lebanese painter and jewellery artist Ranya Sarakbi, jewellery artist Miss Bibi and London-based designer Tomasz Donocik. The guest list includes Prince Albert of Monaco II, sheikhs of the UAE, Hollywood stars and the world's who's who.

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