Passion Bejewelled - AAMO by Aayusha Shrestha

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Passion Bejewelled - AAMO by Aayusha Shrestha

We are constantly being processed by conventional ways of the world. The society shapes our thoughts with a demand of an identity that can be comfortably catalogued. Some cave into these demands but only a few attempt to defy and craft their own identity. Aayusha Shrestha is one such courageous soul who emerged as an entrepreneur to start AAMO – a conceptual line of Nepali hand crafted jewellery – after leaving a well-paying job.

From sociology to designing

Spending most of her life outside Nepal, Aayusha Shrestha graduated in Sociology from India and involved herself in an INGO to work with the community in Nepal after returning back. While attending an all-expenses-paid program abroad, she realised that she wasn’t making an impact with her work as she had wanted to, and the expenses made then did not make sense to her. 

She needed to take actions and that’s when she decided to leave her job. “I realized I was not happy. I was not driven in the monotonous work and was not reaching out to the community. I had joined sociology because I wanted to work with the community but it did not work for me that way. I thought to myself that irrespective of the amount of money I earned or the social status of working in an INGO,  I’d rather follow and do something I’m passionate about, do something I’m happy doing rather than what the society says,” expresses Aayusha.

After leaving her job, she followed her passion for arts. In spite of people questioning her decision and not having a single soul encouraging her, she made herself believe in her dreams. She joined Kathmandu University and graduated in BFA Graphic Communication in 2014. 

She is currently involved in multiple lines of work. Apart from being a conceptual jewellery designer, she is also a freelance Graphic Designer. She teaches design at Kathmandu University School of Arts and Design, while also working part-time with Nepal Art Council as their PR (Personal Relationship) Manager and Curator. 

 

Inspired by finesse

Aayusha got to explore the city more in the process. She has always been intrigued by the authenticity of craftsmanship in the city. Strolling around Patan, she discovered world class craftsmanship and the dearth of innovation and product originality. She was blown away by how much traditional art, crafts and architecture had to offer. Realizing how less explored Nepali handicrafts industry was, she got an idea; she wanted to be involved with the local community as a designer and expose the craftsmanship to Nepali audience. So she started AAMO to produce and highlight local craftsmanship, while remaining authentic to the designs. 

AMO means ‘maya’ (Translated to English as ‘love’). And thus, AAMO means Aayusha’s maya.

Starting from scratch

Devoting four to five years on research, Aayusha worked to understand Nepali craftsmanship, the type of metals used, and the technique that goes into crafting jewellery. However, the lack of written documents challenged her research, and the available materials were written mostly by foreigners. So she met up with different people, listened to their stories, read books and cross-checked facts on the internet.  Reading voraciously on the subject, she was inspired by the stories of Kathmandu and beyond. After extensive research, she invested Rs.100,000 of her savings to start building her products. 

“Starting itself was a big struggle. I did not have a backup and invested my savings in it. AAMO is like my night time job. I used to stay up all night working on it, reading, researching and designing. It was difficult trying to balance it with other works,” says Aayusha. “When I approached craftsmen to make the jewellery, I received many rejections. They were sceptic on working with a 20-something on work they had never done before. My parents were also very concerned about me but I had the faith. Finally, I found some craftsmen who agreed and we started.”

 

Inscribing stories in bijouterie 

AAMO jewellery pieces are conceptual and ethical, two qualities that make them unique and divine. The jewellery designs are exceptional because they are all handcrafted by experienced craftsmen in Patan. Each design has a story that inspired the designer from her personal life or stories around her. She has made over 40 designs so far including collections such as ‘Lo’, ‘Padma Patram’, ‘Chandra Surya’ and other individual designs.

The craftsmen are still into age-old practices of making jewellery. There are currently four craftsmen who make their own tools and use brass as a primary metal in the jewellery. The raw materials are received from India or brass sellers in Patan. The craftsmen make the tools required on their own from steel or iron except for special equipment like a saw imported from Germany. They craft the jewellery according to Aayusha’s detailed designs and instructions, and later, the crafted jewelleries are double plated in 22 karat gold. The final product is then carefully packaged in locally made special boxes using traditional Lokta paper. 

 

Delivering the treasures

Once the first pieces were crafted, Aayusha posted them on Instagram (@aamo_nepal) and tested with her friends and family in October 2015. The response was exceptional given that AAMO has no flagship showroom and the designs were only put up on Instagram. Aayusha has spent next to nothing in marketing, yet the business has been able to self-sustain within a couple of months since inception.

She shared the compliments and feedbacks with her craftsmen which motivated them to work despite their initial hesitation. She doesn’t want the work to be laborious for them and ensures fair pay. But for her emphasis is on quality rather than the quantity. She pays attention to details and is adamant on having her way with the designs. The results are seen in unique jewellery pieces with a fine finish, which has created a niche market for AAMO.

The gold plated pieces are priced at Rs. 3000 and above, with additional delivery charges for orders from outside the valley. As the raw materials are brought from India, costs have risen now due to the inflation after the blockade. “Working in a country that is not self-sustainable has been a challenge,” according to Aayusha.

As AAMO does not have a store, orders are taken on Instagram and Facebook (AAMO by Aayusha Shrestha). Apart from available designs, AAMO also takes orders and custom designs in gold and silver. As of recent, she has also started taking appointments with customers on request.

 

One woman show

Aayusha is doing all the jobs on her own. “Due to finance and capacity, I’ve not been able to expand the team for now. I do the designing, accounting, and packaging myself. It’s also been tough making people understand. People want it to be a business and are focused in profit making but that’s not what I want. I give 20% of the proceedings to charity. It’s more of a social entrepreneurship. It is tough to maintain right now. But in the future, I plan to hire like-minded people and train them,” says Aayusha.

Aayusha calls herself a designer rather than an entrepreneur. She has been learning the management aspect of her venture through trial and error, and seeks advice from her friends about business at times. “The first time somebody called me an entrepreneur I was surprised because I’m a designer. I know there are things that can be done to push AAMO, but the reason I’m not investing in it is that I want this to be very real. I would rather have people understand my brand and fall in love with the pieces than just buy my products just for the sake of purchasing,” she shares.

Charms for the future

Aayusha plans to make her night time job with AAMO full time soon. She also wants to tap into other aspects of handicraft sector, including textile, wood carving, and ceramics. She wants to preserve the traditional skills that are the beauty of our culture by creating innovative contemporary designs and by encouraging younger generations to learn the skills so that they are passed on. 

A firm believer in her passion, she possesses innocent eyes that carries dreams for developing the nation. She expresses, “At this age and in our generation, I honestly feel we need to be and work here in the country. There are so many gaps in the small market that we have. Many in our generation opt to go abroad, which leaves behind a pool of opportunities that exist here itself. So if you have an idea, I say just go for it. If you can’t do it on your own, share your idea with other people. Do what you have to and make it happen. Trust yourself and go with your gut. It is uncertain but it’s important to have faith in yourself. If you don’t start, you’ll never know.”

 

Comments

  • Guest
    Bhuban Chand Thakur Singh Saturday, 20 August 2016

    Brava. Do follow your dreams and work with passion. I did it too. But it is a very lonely journey. God be with you all the way. All the best.

  • Guest
    Bhuban Chand Thakur Singh Saturday, 20 August 2016

    Brava. Do follow your dreams and work with passion. I did it too. It is a vrry lonely journey. God be with you all the way. All the best.

  • Guest
    Rupamm Saturday, 20 August 2016

    All the luck Aayusha!
    The "Amo" you have in your work shows itself.
    And a reminder, my 3 things are still to be received.

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Guest Tuesday, 16 January 2018