Usually wrought in gold and silver, filigree is a delicate kind of metalwork, done with tiny beads or twisted threads or both in combination, soldered together or to the surface of an object of the same metal and arranged in artistic motifs. The exquisite craft has almost been dying out, but thanks to some designers who’re using it in innovative ways, it has received a new lease of life. Among these designers is Vandana Bhargava, who discovered the brilliance of filigree during her husband’s posting in Orissa a few years ago and was inspired to design filigree clutches, which she’s included in a collection called “Regal Attitude”.
“There are only two important centres in the whole country at present practicing filigree craft, Cuttack in Orissa and Karim Nagar in Andhra Pradesh. And as designers, it is our responsibility to promote and perpetuate the rich Indian heritage, culture and crafts,” says Vandana. She adds, “Filigree has been practiced in India for over 2,000 years, yet this delicate craft has suffered on account of lack of innovative designs and poor finishing and marketing of filigree products. So I decided to take it up in my maiden clutch collection.” Creating over 168 clutches in gold and silver, Vandana was ably assisted by her son Varun, in putting together this particular collection.
It took Vandana a substantial amount of time and effort to provide feasible designs to the filigree craftsmen and training them to work on various motifs and techniques of finishing. “The filigree style in Cuttack, locally known as ‘Tarakasi’, involves working with a thin metal wire twisted and soldered into a design. Fine strings of silver or gold threads are produced by drawing it through a series of consecutive holes of very small apertures. These threads are then shaped into various designs and patterns. Slightly thick wires are first used to fabricate the frame and then small design pieces made from thinner wires called ‘Sikko’ are pieced together with precision to fit in the fabricated frame,” explains Bhargava, who operates out of her studio in Delhi, White and Gold.
She states, “When I finished my first clutch and held it in my hands, my instinctive reaction was ‘how majestic, royal and regal!’ That’s why I titled this collection ‘Regal Attitude’.” The silver and gold clutches are priced between Rs 85,000 and Rs 3 lakh.
As a designer who has been working with jewellery for many years now, who does Vandana seek inspiration from? “It is difficult to point out a single name, but I would go with Versace. Nobody uses colours like him. Bright colours lend his designs a different feel altogether. Just like him, I have always tried to use natural gemstones in beautiful colours in my jewellery as well,” she says.