Miniature painting comes to life in jewelry

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Indian jeweler Lai brings miniature painting to life

Lai uses the ancient technique of miniature painting with a contemporary twist for new jewelry collection ‘The Miniaturist’

Lai, the India and California-based jeweler, has collaborated with artisan groups in India to create a new collection of contemporary jewelry, “The Miniaturist”. Created using intricate goldsmithing techniques from Jaipur, the exquisite pieces blend historical references using centuries-old traditions of miniature painting from Rajasthan. Each creation, carefully refined, was made in collaboration with two of the few remaining chitrakars (traditional artists) who specialize in miniature painting for jewelry.

Miniature painting as jewelry

The skill of miniature painting dates back to the Mughals around 460 years ago. However, unlike the Mughal style, which was mainly aristocratic and secular, the art of painting in Rajasthan was deeply rooted in Indian religious texts, folklore, love poems and musical themes.

Crafted using techniques and skills employed since the 16th century, ‘The Miniaturist’ collection is meant to convey “the stories of the artists, the art and its traditions”, says Lai founder Puja Bhargava Kamath. She believes that the growth of jewelry manufacturing in India “has largely been reduced to creating quick, convenient and unimaginative versions of stereotypical designs”. Lai challenges this protocol, she adds, by “rethinking” some traditional crafts from a global perspective.

“We believe that as a bi-continental brand, together with our artisan collaborators, we are able to create products that are truly unique and marketable on a global scale. Not museum copies, not cheap me-toos, but something new, something current, something that clearly and proudly comes from India – but that the world could embrace.

The art of miniature painting has remained remarkably unchanged to this day, with the artist using ultra-fine brushes made from the hairs of a squirrel’s tail, while the base is locally produced handmade paper. The complex process comes with its challenges – each time the artist mixes color for a new batch, the color tones can change. “It’s very difficult to stay true to the sample/design photographed in terms of colors and artwork,” says Kamath. §

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