In Sanskrit, Lai means ‘the beloved one’. Historically, for an Indian woman, jewelry has been her beloved one–not just for adornment but also as a status symbol and means of financial security. Through its jewelry collections, Lai aims to promote the work of Indian artisans and help to revive fading artistic traditions. Working directly with artists helps them retain a positive sense of identity, both about their craft as well as the value of their own skills. By creating opportunities to practice these crafts, master artisans won’t have to pursue income elsewhere.
Age-old techniques such as ‘rava’ (granulation, a speciality of Gujarat), ‘jali’ (fretwork, a speciality of Jaipur), ‘meenakari’ (enamelling, a speciality of Rajasthan), and ‘bidri’ (metal-on-metal inlay, a specialty of Bidar) are employed by master craftspeople in the creation of this jewelry. The materials, from silver and mud (for sand casting) to wood and lacquer, are sourced locally by the artists, who create the pieces according to sketches provided by Lai’s founder and designer, Puja Bhargava Kamath.
“We like to think of ourselves as storytellers who tell the story of our land, our culture, and its folk arts through jewelry,” says Lai’s founder Puja Bhargava Kamath. A graduate of India’s premier design institute, NIFT, New Delhi, Puja created Lai in 2011 with the goal of employing traditional craftsmanship to make story-rich jewelry that not only aids in preserving traditional skills but also enables artisans to find market access and sustainable employment opportunities. “These are jewelry pieces that draw from the past but do not blindly replicate it–they are culturally inspired but very current,” she points out. Puja has won several jewelry design awards from the likes of De Beers, the World Gold Council, and Perles de Tahiti.