What is iced enamelling

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 As a kid my mom would tell me stories of palaces and forts in places like Agra and Jaipur but instead of focusing on the prince- princess part, she would talk to me about architecture and ornamentation. Years later, at the age of 12, on my first trip to Agra and Jaipur I fell in love with inlaid stones, marble and enamelling (meenakari) and the stories I heard before started to come to life.
I have been enthralled with the richness and smoothness of colour that meenakari gives jewelry and I have tried more than once to find tutors who would teach and have failed. But after every such attempt, I would ask myself if I could do such fine, precise work and even if I could, did I want to do it? I realised that I wanted something more organic, something that would flow and merge without being held down by conventional rules. I wanted a medium that would resonate with my free spirited nature and after a lot of search I found Relique powders

 Before moving on into the technique let me give you a bit of background here. I came across the Iced Enamelling process in 2013 via videos and was fascinated. As it was a bit expensive then, I let it go. Then in 2014, as fate would have it, I became a part of the Ice resin Creative team and was soon sent Iced enamels relique powders to try.

What is iced enamelling 

Iced enamelling is the process of using ICED enamel relique powders to color metal in a fun way. Though it comes under cold enamelling process (which requires the use of neither the kiln nor the torch), it does require a little heat to fully form. There are 14 available colors out of which three are glitz metallic (fine glitter), three are matt metallic and the rest are solid colors. Watch the video by Sun Lenart Kazmer for a simple DIY

Materials required for iced enamelling
 Apart from the Relique powders, you will also require a bottle of Enamels Medium, a heat gun, a tile to work with, a two part epoxy resin (preferably Ice resin) and ofcourse the metal piece that you want to enamel. It is interesting to note that though enamelling is a technique that is commonly associated with metal and  the powders have been specifically developed for this purpose, they also work well with a resin or a plastic base. I did try this technique in my Nouveau roses necklace's pendant which won the ABS monthly challenge for Art beads. The butterflies and leaves shown in this post were made by participants in my recent resin workshops. Arent they pretty sweet?

If you do not have a heat gun, you can heat an iron skillet or tawa ( iron Dosa kal is the best), on a stove, lay a piece of silver foil on it and then put your dry metal pieces with the powder on it. Unlike the heat gun process which takes anywhere from 30s to 3 minutes, the stove method literally takes a few seconds and you have to watch over the pieces very carefully. I did a lot of experiments using the stove technique (I didnt have a heat gun until a couple of months back) and I failed a lot more than I succeed. But I learnt how to do it right. So if you want to try Iced enamelling in a painless way, please use a heat gun. I recommend the Ranger's heat it craft tool as its cheap yet good but Americans should check the version to make sure that you are getting is with plugs that will fit your socket as the one that I use and recommend is the European 220V version (perfect for Indian sockets)

Tips - use as little medium as required (less is more in case of the stove route). If you use more medium it will just bubble, boil over and spoil the entire piece. With other heat guns and stove, the piece needs to be completely dry before you heat it. You can, however, continue to apply medium on the powder if you are using the Heat it heat gun to achieve the desired result. 

PS: I have linked Amazon products here to help you shop easily. They are affiliate links that provide a teeny income for the blog's upkeep

Iced enamelling is a super fun, mixed media technique and I encourage all of you to try. I'll share a very interesting tutorial using this technique, next week. Until then,  Do share yours favourite resin or enamel tips and tricks  or questions in the comments.   
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Ideals of beauty

What is beauty? Who is beautiful?
These are questions I ask fashion communication students after they complete my semester and a half long course on Costume Appreciation, where we discuss the aesthetics, beautification processes, and attire worn by people around the globe. For me, it is the single most thought provoking discussion that a fashion school can and must have and after a lot of thought, I am sharing my views on this topic here.

History teaches us that there is no one yardstick for measuring beauty and how Various ideals of beauty have evolved over time.  In some cultures, spotless white or black skin is the ideal of beauty while in some other tattooed or painted skin is considered beautiful. Some prefer no accessories while other elongate necks and earlobes with jewelry. Some think anklets indicate slavery while other think they celebrate free-spirited nature. With the passing of time, different cultures have borrowed from each other, amalgamating their ideals with those that contradict them, leading to rich cultural practices.
Photo: Kritarth Ghosh, Model: Adhithi Priya, Headgear: Divya N, Concept: Birth of Colors
When the (Victorian) British came to India, they were shocked to see even women from respectable families without blouses or wearing skirts that reached the knee. It went against their tenets of modesty, respect, and cultural values. However, here, in the hot, humid subcontinent skin show was not just accepted but also appreciated for what it is worth. Slowly, along with their mindset, their clothing process also changed and the west started accepting show of skin (on certain parts of the body) as a sign of beauty. At the same time, Indians, who coveted the high neck, ruffled collared blouses and tweed jackets of the English felt that covering the body made them more beautiful and hence covering the body became the Indian culture while baring skin became western culture.
Image from Basics: Fashion design - Jewellery design by Elizabeth Glaton; book review coming up soon
In the past European women, applied lead powder on their faces as paleness was considered the epitome of beauty and in the process suffered painful cancers. Hindu, Tamil Brahmin women used to apply turmeric on their face and hands as yellow was considered as the auspicious (mangalagaram) mark of a married woman (Sumangali). Marie Antoinette's powdered hair is legendary along with the staggeringly high fruit and feather coiffures of the18th century noblewomen which would be inhabited by mice and vermin. Until the mid 90's only curvy women were considered sexy in Indian movies with 2000's giving way to anorexic models.

 Who is to say what is right? In this age of extensive and often extreme grooming does the concept of Saamudrika Lakshanam hold good?

One of the main functions of fashion is gender identification and differentiation but how can we define how a man or woman should look without considering the context of the civilization, the geographics, demographics and the evolutions of the culture? 

 Lord Krishna, the best strategist and one of the most handsome Gods is said to have had radiant blue-black skin, lotus pink lips and he is described in epics as wearing bright yellow silks with pearl and diamond jewelry and sometimes a nose ring. A very famous Cretan sculpture shows a powerful goddess holding up snakes with her breasts spilling over her jacket. In the high Gothic period wearing a hose that came over the mid thigh with velvet breeches was considered as manly perfection. A very famous Cretan sculpture shows a powerful goddess holding up snakes with her breasts spilling over her jacket. On a more relatable level, I remember my grand uncles having long hair (similar to a back oseldet) and wearing chunky diamond studs in both ears as a part of their tradition. I see male traders wearing nail polish and Mehendi even today and I know of women who'll only wear all black or blue outfits.

Today, our societies, our nations and hence our practices are in a constant flux. Living in this melting pot of cultures, we are racing towards frontiers and embracing technology as our second skin but we are still not open to breaking stereotypes and challenging falsely conceived notions. At a time when leggings are being considered as destructors of culture, are we willing to call a man wearing a pantyhose and gathered velvet shorts as manly? Are we open minded enough to see him wearing yellow silks, a nose ring, flowers and pearls? Should a woman be completely covered up to be a "good, respectable woman"? Can a plus sized or even large women wear short, fitting clothes without being ridiculed?  Why is a girl considered feminine only when she wear pinks, pearls or flowers? Why is there is constant debate whether the fair or dark skin is more beautiful

 I understand that this is sensitive (and controversial) topic with exhaustive arguments from either side of the bench. But the fact that there is a discussion itself is a positive development for me. I feel that Fashion brands, designers and enthusiasts have a responsibility to make this society more open minded and aware and accepting of the fact that we are all created equal. No one being should ever be made to feel that they are less than another for looking a particular way. I laud Jabong's sequel to their "Be You' Campaign that discusses alternative ideals of beauty and questions stereotypes as a positive step in this direction.

Without going into the commercial or strategic aspect of branding, I think this one of the best fashion advertisements of recent times in terms of content - styling and choreography. Controversial as it might be, it is interesting to see the Indian advertising industry transform into this mature, complex visual medium. It makes you sit up, take notice and propels you to discuss real yet scarcely discussed issues like "identity"in a contemporary Indian Context.

Recently, I found this post on Facebook that said "One's choices may not resonate with you! But that does not make them wrong!". I don't think I can sum up this post any better. One does not have to conform to a particular way of looking to be considered beautiful. With a little awareness, acceptance, and kindness everyone can live beautiful lives!

PS: This is not a sponsored post and the affiliate link is just an after thought!

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Bridesmaid gifts - Flower Jewelry

Bridesmaid gifts is a relatively new concept in India . Though we do buy new clothes and very rarely jewelry trinkets for our close relatives, hardly anybody will wear it for the actual wedding as it won't be grand enough for a wedding. But with  Flower Jewelry gaining popularity, many Indian and NonresidentIndian (NRI) brides have turned to Flower jewelry as Bridesmaid gifts for their pre-wedding festivities
This US based bride wanted initially Half matha pattis as gifts for her sisters and sister-in-laws to match with their green and gold outfits for her Gaye Holud Ceremony. Slowly as we got talking, the gift grew to accommodate long necklaces and matching earrings. 

The challenge here was to design pieces that were grand enough to be worn to a wedding, yet not so grand that they'll upstage the bride. Also, there had to be a small difference between two sets of design (I presume two sets were for the bride's own sisters and the other two for her inlaws) So, out of the four two were three strand necklaces with three big and two small flowers as the focal and the other two were two strand necklaces with two big and one small flower each as a focal. In the picture below, you can see both the two strand 3mm bead necklaces with flower focals. 

The green swatch that I worked with was tricky - it was an unusual green that you usually won't find in ribbons. So I superimposed ribbon roses of 2 shades of green to arrive at the perfect color. 

As these were gifts, I went with simple yet festive packaging (check them out on my Instagram page). I used hot pink earrings cards (upcycled from unused handmade paper left behind by students) with a little gold star tape and I used pink tissue paper (used by jewelry stores to wrap silver jewelry) and printed out little green Sayuri labels. They are so pretty, aren't they?

So what did the lovely bride get for herself as Gaye Holud Jewelry? The rich red flower set with red bud roses and gold beads. It is a set with a choker with a single rose, chest length necklace, earrings, Haathphool and matha tikka (single line matha patti) or forehead ornament.

Check out my reviews page on Facebook to see what the bride has to say. 

If you have ever attended a workshop at Sayuri or bought my creations or simply are a friend who has nice things to say about me and my brand, please review Sayuri on facebook to help keep up my reputation as a 5-star brand.
So what do you think of Flower Jewelry as quirky cultural bridesmaids gifts? Even if you do not follow the customs or rituals I think that these trinkets would make fun, colorful and economical gifts for friends and family. 

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Why it is smarter to buy Gemstones in Thailand

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Whether you are a precious jewelry designer who is looking to buy gemstones for your collections, a patron of gemstone jewelry or a collector of colored stones, Thailand is your go to marketplace. The internet is full of stories of gemstone scams but having seen the gemstone industry firsthand in Thailand, I can safely say, that you can get a very good deal if you what you are looking for and where to buy it. Here are a few reasons why it is smarter to buy Gemstones in Thailand. 

It's a Cutting Hub
Thailand has been famous for its gemstones for centuries, especially dark red ruby (July's Birthstone) and sapphires mined in Chanthaburi and blue sapphires from Kanchanaburi. With the Depletion of local mines most of the raw stones are imported today; Thailand, however, continues to maintain its reputation as one of the biggest hubs for precious colored gemstones in the world. Chanthaburi, situated 250+ kilometers from Bangkok is a major cutting, manufacturing, and treatment center for color stones. Here, millions of gemstones are imported, cut, polished, sold, and exported every day. Thai craftsmen are considered the world's best cutters and are skilled in cutting Burmese Rubies and sapphires in pure precision.

It's the Treatment Hub

Purists may not like treated gemstones, but in this day and age, with ever changing fashion trends, treated stones provided the much need cost advantage without compromising on the look and style of the piece. Thai craftsmen are considered the experts in the heat treatment of rubies and sapphires which permanently modify the natural inclusions, increasing the color and clarity of the stone. For e.g., the "geuda" sapphire of Sri Lanka on processing turns from a milky hue to corn flower blue. They are also said to use specialised diffusion treatments that turn corundum into low-cost yellow sapphire, create irradiated topaz, glass-filled rubies, and oiled emeralds. If you are looking for natural, untreated stones, be very specific to the dealers as this region is famous for its stone treatments. While purchasing expensive stones, ask  for a certificate. If the stone is not certified, it is a good idea to get it certified.

Its a Trading Zone
One of the major markets for trading color stones like rubies, peridot, spinel, topaz, jade sapphires, tourmaline, garnets including  synthetic stones is Bangkok. As it is cheaper to buy wholesale cabochons from Bangkok as most color gemstone traders and wholesalers have offices here.
Places to gemstone shop in Bangkok include Jewelry Trade Center, JTC and area between Silom and Suriwong. Websites/online stores of reputed Gemstone dealers are another great alternative for people who cannot physically travel to Thailand to purchase gemstones.
Weekends at Talad Ploy in Chanthaburi are busy and colorful with dealers, brokers or representative of gem owners selling beautiful colored stones to buyers at the tables of a street market. The store fronts that offer "tables" charge a commission for every sale, usually paid by the seller and hence will be included in the buying price. Bargains could be struck with good negotiation skills. Most reliable gem dealers in both Bangkok and Chanthaburi will be registered in the Thai Gems & Jewelry Trader Association Directory as members which can be verified.

It is Cheaper 
As the gemstone sector is one of the top foreign exchange earners in Thailand,  that creats innumerable jobs generating billions of Baht, the Government has exempted tariffs on the import of raw materials to boost the sector's competitiveness. Also, the government of Thailand has made the purchase of Thai gems even more attractive (read cheaper) to foreign buyers by refunding value-added taxes (VAT).

To summarise, if you have done your homework on gemstones, treatments involved, realistic costs of a treated stone Vs a natural stone and work with a reputed buyer you can get great gemstones deals in Thailand.

Disclosure; Images Courtesy: Navneet gems & Minerals
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DIY 4th of July Tasseled Choker necklace

People, who dress up for the holidays often do so for the spirit of the celebration without really being concerned about fashion trends. This very same reason, on the other hand also stops people from dressing up, out of fear of looking dated or jaded. In my opinion, the best way to dress up for the holidays would be with accessories that are absolutely in trend. With 4th of July fast approaching, here is a really quick DIY necklace that combines two of this season's most favourite trends - choker necklace and tassels. This necklace can be made in less than an hour's time, making it the perfect "day before" project. Here is what you need 
Tasseled Choker necklace
- Blue Bernat mega bulky yarn
- red embroidery thread
- white or off white embroidery thread
- blue embroidery thread
- Scissors
- Fabric glue

Make the tassels: These mini tassels are a lot of fun and are very easy to make.
1. Wrap embroidery red around the first and middle finger of your non dominant hand 15-20 (until you get the desired thickness). #Tip: Start wrapping with the end facing downwards, it can be trimmed later.
2. Slide it off your finger and tie a knot about 1 cm from the top
3. Trim the ends to make them level and flush it out. Repeat steps 1-3 to make 3 more tassels and keep them aside
Make the Choker Necklace
1. Cut 28-30" of the bulky yarn and fold it into two. To create a loop , tie the offwhite thread 1.25" away from the tip.
2. Holding the two lengths of yarn together, wrap the offwhite thread around them until you come to the other end. Leave about 2-3" (depending on how long you wnat the tassel to be), wrap the thread and tie to secure. Do not cut the thread.
3. Wrap all the way back to to the loop side, criss crossing the yarns; knot, wrap to desired thickness and cut the thread.
4. Knot the red thread on the tassel end. Draw it through a needle and wrap around the choker until you come to the other end. As you wrap, attach tassels to the base using the same thread. This process is called a "double wrap" - you wrap the thread once, you come back again and this time you thread it through the tassel before wrapping for the second time. You can space the wraps however close or further apart as you wish. 
5. Trim and Fluff out the blue tassel and check to see if it goes inside the loop

Make the loop closure: Wrapping the loop gives a neat look, strengthens the closure and adds stability to the piece. See the difference between the necklaces with a wrapped and unwrapped loop on the above image.
1. Knot blue thread to the base of the loop and wind the thread around the bulky yarn wrapping it completely. 
2. Wrap at the base (cover the off white thread if you want), knot and cut the thread. Use fabric glue to glue down the end

That's it, your necklace is complete. Though the base can be created with any sort of yard or cord, I specifically recommend Bernat mega bulky yarn as its really very soft (you can cuddle with this bonbon of yarn and go to sleep) making it very comfortable as a choker necklace that is worn very close to the neck. 

This necklace is best worn with a LWD (Little white dress) or even a blue dress while you hang out with your friends and family over brunch. To give it more of an evening vibe wrap or stitch rhinestone chain with blue or red thread on the choker.

This versatile design needn't be restricted to the traditional blue, white and red colors. You can create a gypsy necklace with a black base and multicolored tassels. You can go all white for a formal look or black and gold for a jazzy party look. There are innumerable variations and if you do make one, give me a shout out. Do tell me in the comments, how you like incorporating the latest fashion trends in your everyday wardrobe and holiday attires. 

Happy Independance day to all my american friends. Enjoy this  rare 49 star American Flag stamp showing Betsy Rose making the First American Flag that was launched on 4th July, 1959 in  Auburn, New York along with the 48 star 4 cent, 1957 stamp in combination. The second,13 cent tenant souvenir stamp sheet  showcases a John Trumbull painting  of the Declaration of Independence. Stamps courtesy www.mintageworld.com

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