Reviving The Ancient Art Of Brass Stamping
Ruchi Zaveri started NHEST, modern brass home décor and accessories, inspired by her mother’s art and brass artefact collection. NHEST works with various artisans from India and aims to keep India’s beautiful art forms and craft processes alive. We love the contemporary brasswork piece, created from these traditional Indian craft methods.
What have been some of the ups and downs? How has your experience made you more aware? Since people are used to buying mass produced products, which are much cheaper than hand-made ones, there are times when the sales are not as great. Not everyone appreciates and values art and the story behind hand made products. I do not over price my products as I want this craft to continue, which will happen only when people buy more of this. But this has helped me choose my target audience well, I have learnt how to sell the product in a way that people can visualise themselves using it. There is still a lot that I have to learn.
Tell us about who or what supports and inspires you? My inspiration for this has definitely been my mother. For support, I have a large family who always believes in sharing love, which helps. My biggest cheerleaders are definitely my father, sister and my fiance. Every time I see a NHEST product in someone’s house, Instagram post or story, it fills me with joy. This pushes me to work harder and create more. Knowing that these orders help the artisans lead a good life, is very comforting.
What is the best advice you have been given? What is the best advice you would give someone else? My father always tells me, “hope for the best, and be prepared for the worst” and “Work your ass off while you can. There will come a day when you won’t be able to physically work as hard, and when that day comes, there should be no regrets”. These are two things which always push me to work harder, put my best foot forward, and at the same time, learn to deal with setbacks without being too upset. One thing that I have learnt is to not compare my journey to anyone else’s.
What is the experience like working with the artisans? It has been interesting working with the artisans. There tends to be a communication barrier at times, but I keep learning as I go.
Talk to us about female empowerment and entrepreneurship? Since I had good support from my family, I did not face much of a challenge. But when I would contact artisans, there would be times when I would not be taken seriously or given good rates, because I am a young woman. But this makes me work harder and be a stronger person. I am all in support of female empowerment and entrepreneurs. I would always prefer buying products from an entrepreneur, than a multinational.
After training in jewellery design, Ruchi moved into other crafting and creation processes. She began working with artisans and creating a contemporary collection of brass home décor and accessories.
Tell us about why it’s important to you to maintain craft and tradition? India has so much to offer, when it comes to arts and crafts. I am very attached to the history of our country, and the heritage. My aunt, Arti masi (Soko Edit Avni’s mother) loved to explore the Indian textiles, and my mother loved sculptures and paintings from local artists. This is one of the reasons I was always attracted to local art and didn’t like seeing the handmade crafts replaced by machine-made bulk products. I believe such crafts help the beauty of India stand out and should be well preserved. Since most stamped brass crafts are “old-fashioned”, I try to create contemporary products using the same craft so it appeals to the current generation.
Tell us about the design process in your collections? There is a different process of each product. I find my inspiration from my environment. A lot of my products feature elements of birds and flowers, and those make me happy. I do a little research via magazines, blogs, Pinterest etc. Then I play around with the form, explore various ideas via sketches, and then try to design products. Depending on the type of accessory I have designed, I contact the artisan needed. Since a while I have been focusing only on brass, as I feel that is a metal full of potential, and so much more can be done.
Why do you often feature birds and flowers in your designs? Bird and flowers because these make me happy. I can spend hours sitting on my terrace, listening to the birds, observing the plants etc. I love gardens, I love the open. At my maternal grandparent's home, there was a painting in our room which has a lady with birds and flowers around her. It is a painting all the grandchildren have admired during our stay at their house. I guess I have always had a thing for birds and flowers, and that is reflected in my work. Even when I design jewellery for my sister, a lot of the designs have these elements in them.
How do you mould brass? Can you tell us more about the process of making the products? So, the interesting thing about this craft is that no heat is used. The metal is not heated and it is not soldered. It is as organic as it can be. Sheets of brass are used to create the products. They are first cut into the desired shape and stamped using iron nails and a hammer. Then using the hammer and other metal tools, the sheet is curved. If two pieces of metal need to be joined, copper rivets are used. Due to this, there are limitations faced during designing, but this challenge is so exciting to me as a designer.