Story and Photos by Elizabeth Bissessar
Natasha Gill always had an affinity for all things artsy. And like many others, she had to overcome may obstacles in both her personal and professional life on the path to fulfilling her dream. Gill, the owner and creative director behind Sundara Artisan Jewelry shared her story with WMN.
Sundara Artisan Jewelry came into being two and a half years ago following a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events. Gill had been a graphic designer for 15 years. Like many in creative fields, she was torn between being a full-time artist and settling for an eight to four office job. In 2011 the decision was made for her. She was laid off from her job in advertising, and not long after, her father was diagnosed with cancer.
“It just felt that everything in my life was just falling apart all at the same time. It was a terrifying experience because everything in my life that made me feel secure just fell to the bottom,” she said.
Gill said her mindset changed from that point. The overwhelming sense of being lost made her question her own career and future and she realised it was time for something different and creative. It was her husband, however, who gave her the final push to start a new business from the ground up. The two, who have been married for four years, were long distance “high school sweethearts” while she attended school in Venezuela and he in Trinidad.
"He really gave me the opportunity to pursue one of my lifelong dreams, which was to be a working artist.”
Gill’s vision was to combine elements of nature into jewelry. “I really loved the idea of using nature to make jewelry, using leaves and imprints of branches, twigs and flowers and all of these things, and so when I started off thinking about doing an actual jewelry line, that was really the direction I wanted to go in. But what ended up happening was that its very labour intensive and I ended going back to the traditional metalsmithing techniques more because I wanted to get my business off the ground.”
In the initial stages of Sundara, Gill experimented with different materials such metal clay. She also fused an assortment of colourful, raw gemstones and cut stones into pieces. “I love the look of it, I love how there’s an element of its being sort of raw and unrefined.” Gill explained the intention behind her pieces.
“Most of the jewellery out there is fine jewellery and everything is pretty and perfect, and I really loved the more natural element of the stones. I love the fact even in its raw state that amethyst could be so beautiful, and I was inspired by that.” Her pieces consist of silver, gold-filled metals, and on rare occasions rose-gold filled for the base materials.
In 2017 Gill decided to start a new line under Sundara Artisan Jewelry for her latest collection, Secret Forest Treasures. The collection makes use of elements of nature, including real flowers and plants as accessories. Gill researched ways to make her idea work and discovered resin, a clear substance excreted from plants that can be used as a method of preserving and casting the natural materials like petals and leaves.
Artificial resin is often used in this form of jewellery making, sealing the pendant and design. Gill uses petals from orchids and bougainvillea, pinewood, fern leaves and seashells. She said resin jewellery is not widely available in TT.
As Sundara continues to grow as a business Gill has been tapping into different avenues to market her product. Her jewelry is sold at Upmarket and the Hotel Normandie, but she also sells through her website and recently started selling her pieces on Amazon. She intends to market her pieces through social media as well. She said her business is not driven by her competition but by the purpose behind her work: “making what I think is beautiful and what appeals to me.”
“The name Sundara means ‘beautiful’ in Sanskrit, which exemplifies an expression of my soul. My soul loves beauty and so for me, I want my jewelry to be aesthetically pleasing as possible to myself. I make things I like and hopefully others will like it too.”
She urges other artists to follow their own voice in every creation. “As an artist, it's not easy to find your own voice a lot of times, and for me where I started off with Sundara and where ended up today are two different directions.”