Origin of Chicory Chai
Chicory Chai is a design studio specialising in restoring handcrafted, bespoke jewelry. Founded by Himani Mantri Grover in 2009, their jewelry is an unfettered individualistic expression of traditional savoir-faire, born out of conscious creative choices: handmade over industrial, spontaneity over conformity, emotions over reason.
While the designs can't be defined under modern hashtags or new age media tags, they tend towards conscious consumerism and are for those who believe in slowing down the greed of thoughtlessly accumulating products over seasons.
Trail of Tarabai
We followed the design story of one of their pieces to understand how Himani and her team re-create each piece of jewelry giving it a new lease of life.
The "Trail of Tarabai" was created around two antique pieces - a south Indian nose ring and a Tibetan pendant. The piece is about Tarabai’s journey from Tanjore to Ladakh, exploring the art of her land - a journey she took to satiate her thirst for new places, people and beauty each place offers. Her unstoppable spirit and lust for life, she was a tornado in human flesh! As she went along her, she picked Ajrakh from Dhamadka, step well from Bundi, Motifs of TajMahal, poetry from Awadh - she got it all together and placed it close to her heart.
The piece was aimed to match the towering personality of the wearer. Every design is personalised keeping in mind who the wearer is as much as what her story is. No design is repeated and most of the times, these designs are 100% handcrafted. The entire process from design to final delivery takes anywhere between 3 to 10 weeks, depending on the complexity of design and materials involved. The customer is kept in loop at every stage ensuring that her/his vision is being met.
This piece took 11 weeks and 3 different techniques - Repousse & Chasing, Fret Work & Engraving, to be made in brass, silver, and semi-precious stones. It’s a bold collage of beautiful motifs, celebrating India.
(Above: Trail of Tarabai piece by Chicory Chai)
The Nostalgic Sojourn:
Each creation of Chicory Chai passes many artisanal hands to be a carefully crafted wearable art from being a simple sheet of metal. There is, thus, a prominence of raw edges, marks, solders and dents - which is their ‘signature’. A Chicory Chai piece never has a perfect moment; nor is it ever permanent or complete. It is on a continuous journey from dreamer to creator to owner as it evolves over time.
The brand tries to retain the authenticity of the materials they work with: brass is not made to emulate silver or silver, gold. Jewelry is never plated; one because they like to retain its dull aesthetic look and two, because of its environmentally degrading process.
They also want to change the mindset that makes silver more precious than brass. They both are metals and they give them both, equal importance by the virtue of great skills applied on them.
Tools & Techniques:
Chicory Chai was started to create meaningful design retaining the old world charm. Hence even the way they create the jewelry is with just hand tools, basic and extremely primitive. It uses age old metal techniques with age old tools and non-industrial methods to create each piece of jewelry. The ‘past’ provides as a stepping stone into the ‘present’ and they are heavily influenced by the glory of the bygone times.
They work a lot with antique jewellery pieces that have been left redundant due to a lost stone or bead, a broken chain or link and restore and repurpose these pieces, sometimes just as a minor work but most times, by creating an inclusive contemporary design around these pieces, retaining their essence of design, craftsmanship, history and memories