Expressing your creativity is encouraged when you’re little, but as time goes on, crayons and paintbrushes are swapped for taxes and bills. Except today’s Boss Babe broke all the rules and stuck to her colorful roots by creating a stunning jewelry line that seriously speaks for itself.
Nepal native Arpana Rayamajhi never let the light of her creativity die. From a young age, Rayamajhi’s parents encouraged her to express herself artistically, but it wasn’t until she moved to NYC and attended Cooper Union School of Art that she started to explore the fashion world. Now this Nepalese artist has a cultural-aesthetic jewelry line that entails one-of-a-kind handmade pieces, showcasing beautiful visual narratives through their colorful beads and trinkets. With just one glance, Rayamajhi’s pieces are going to make you swoon and we wouldn’t blame you if you end up spending your whole paycheck on her collection (you know we did).
We got to hang with Arpana at her killer Union Square apartment where we chatted about her jewelry line, her go-to NYC meal, and her design aesthetic. Meet the fashionable and talented Arpana Rayamajhi.
Gemini in the east/ Scorpio in the west
Artist you’re currently swooning over:
No one in particular
Must-have fashion item for the summer:
Whatever one thinks one must have. I do not believe in “What’s in this season” or must-haves at all.
Go-to meal in NYC:
Describe your personal aesthetic in three words:
Intricate, eclectic, personal.
Next travel destination:
Tell us about yourself and how you got involved in making jewelry?
I started making jewelry out of necessity. I didn’t like a lot of things I saw and could afford in NYC because nothing stood out as unique unless, of course, [it was] super expensive. Need is the mother of all inventions, I guess.
Your jewelry collection is inspired by your native country, Kathmandu, Nepal. What is the narrative you’re trying to tell through the aesthetic of your craftsmanship?
Nepal is a huge influence in my work, but so is the rest of the world. Ethnic cultures—even pop culture—are a big influence for me. I want to talk about ideas [and] specific concepts through my work while also talking about how we as [a] society place value on different objects and how the hierarchy of doing so is totally arbitrary as well. Making jewelry for me is not just about selling, it’s also about doing something I love. And if I must talk about Nepal through my work then it’s mostly material related: what it means to be a woman and adorned in Nepal. A lot of young Nepali people are forgetting the language [and] culture completely. It’s either Indianised or Americanized. If in any way I can contribute to Nepali people [to consume] goods from our own artisans and pool of really amazing stuff, then I feel like I’m a step closer to helping preserve a sense of identity that makes us unique while, at the same time, connecting to other cultures.
NYC spot where you can get some Nepal-inspired grub:
Lali Guras, Dhaulagiri kitchen
What do you look for when you acquire materials for your collections?
Everything. There are no limit or constraints.
While you were a student in The Cooper Union School of Art, you mostly worked with painting and sculpture. Have those mediums influenced your craftsmanship when it comes to creating your collection?
It hasn’t helped my craftsmanship so much as given me a wider perspective on how I can make jewelry that is somewhere between art and a “fashiony” object. I like that at the moment. I still paint and the conceptual bit of the two disciplines is really not that different. Paint, sculpture and jewelry might have different purposes, but they are also not that different.
Ever since moving to NYC, do you feel the city has changed your aesthetic in any way?
Moving to NYC has, if anything, helped me accentuate what I love more and given me the freedom to feel good about what I wear and what I want to do rather than change me as a person or my aesthetics completely. I’ve always been into style, and in Nepal, it’s harder to explore because you can really stand out and have people look at you as [though you’re] strange. It’s happened to me many times. And in NYC, I get a lot of people looking at me, but the individualistic nature of the culture here that can make me feel totally detached to what others think—unlike Nepal, where the community is really strong. However, both places have their own norm. Despite how much NYC would like to think it doesn’t, it does.
If you can have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who and where would it be?
I’d want to have a drink with a couple of people actually to just hang out and talk: Jane Goodall, Bjork, Stephen Hawking, Dalai Lama — maybe even Hendrix or Bob Marley — Kim Gordon, and most importantly, I’d love to see my mom and dad again.
Your wardrobe is crazy colorful — and we love it! Can you tell us any tricks on how to style patterns without it being overwhelming?
Thank you! I think the reason it works is because I have no system for it. They are all very well curated specific to my taste and ideas and not trendy at all. I think that’s why it works.
If you weren’t a jewelry designer, what career do you think you would be doing?
I don’t consider myself a designer as much as an artist. My practice is predominantly jewelry and painting. However, I am actually trained in music (although [I have forgotten most of it] because of lack of practice). I still play music and want to at least release an EP, even if it becomes a more personal thing. Even though I do [have a] few specific creative projects, I’m not spreading myself thin. What I love and know how to do, I do them as well as I can.
You also co-founded DISPOSE. Can you tell us a little bit about the online magazine and why disposable photographs were chosen to illustrate the story?
I co-founded DISPOSE with my partner Bruno Levy and Alex Hollender in summer [of] 2012. We wanted to use disposable cameras as a medium to tell stories about different individual lives by asking them to document a day in their life from the moment they wake up to the time they hit the bed. In this digital world, editing is mad easy when the options are limited. The three of us felt that analog photography makes people really focus on the moment and not just be mindless and shoot a bunch of images and then edit it. You don’t get a lot of chances, the result is always a pleasant surprise, and upon receiving a lot of cameras, you end up noticing how people made certain choices and what that can say about the person. We had the Flaming Lips do a [shoot] for us; photographer Alec with a flight attendant; Archana Rayamajhi; artists, photographers; even four orphan kids from Kibera slum. It was a super interesting project. I see big media houses (wont mention their name here, but please look it up. It won’t be that hard to find.) get “inspired” by our project and it upsets me because they [could’ve] easily collaborated with us but nah. They’d much rather steal the idea. But it would be sweet to get the project funded again.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
I hope to see myself growing artistically and as a business. I just want to work to the best of my capability and be humble about it. Everything in life is impermanent so I also hope that five years later, I am wiser, my work [is] considerably better and has a wider reach for consumption as well as it affects a lot of socio- political issues in a positive way.
Any advice for future Boss Babes, especially those looking to explore the jewelry world?
There are trends and they will most likely always be there, provided that the structure of society doesn’t alter [them] so much, but I urge everyone to not fall for any trend. They are transient, change too fast and do not cater to YOU as much as you are being told what you want. To hone in on what is it about the work you are doing makes you want to do it, to explore the medium artistically while being honest with yourself and your taste is probably the best place to start. Again, I don’t know if this will apply to everyone, but it did to me. Originality (even though there really isn’t such a thing… maybe) is what also drives me to make work. I have no desire to be a part of any trends.
Photography via Vanessa Granda