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Verve People
April 23, 2018

Minding Their Own Business(es): Advaeita Mathur of Studio Metallurgy

Text by Tina Dastur. Photograph by Shubham Lodha

For Advaeita Mathur of Studio Metallurgy it’s all about building a brand that is innovative, creative and thoughtful. She chats with us about her unique trail as a young entrepreneur

For 28-year-old Advaeita Mathur, industrial bits and bobs are more than just ugly mechanisms that serve a basic purpose in stark structures. Instead, scraps of brass, slabs of concrete and sheets of steel are items she covets. Mathur leverages the inherent, yet often overlooked, beauty of these materials to make individualistic items of jewellery and home decor under her brand Studio Metallurgy. After graduating with an honours degree in history from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, she was keen on pursuing design and enrolled in the Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Upon her return to India, she worked with design brand Lecoanet Hemant and Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani, before finally setting up Studio Metallurgy in April 2015.

The brand puts a new spin on the main features of industrial design, which include keen precision, sharp lines and a clean finish. The thrust is on using industrial scraps to create objets d’art. With her lens focussed on unique design using unusual materials, Studio Metallurgy’s products are unconventional in form, yet utilitarian.

Be it in her impressive Hardware range, where fuses, watch dials, test tubes and clamps are used to create earrings and rings, or her intriguing Mobius Twist line, where earrings and bangles are constructed by twisting a hard metal like brass, there is always some form of innovation and a great deal of creativity.

On being asked where she finds inspiration, Mathur states, “It pops up at any time — when I am in the shower, taking an auto ride, trudging in the heat through the by-lanes of some old market in Delhi trying to buy nuts and screws, or when I see a piece of machinery. It’s almost constant. I feel like the ideas seem to find me. It’s usually the most mundane objects with the simplest forms that strike me and grab my attention.”

Although brass is her preferred medium of choice because she considers it the “most versatile non-precious metal”, she also uses wood and glass to craft remarkable decor pieces. Take her Molten Woods project, where wood is fused with molten metal to create peg tables, coasters, wall sculptures and mirrors. Or the Vintage Instrument Lamp Project, where disused trumpets are transformed into elegant light fixtures. Probed about how she conceptualises her products, Mathur elaborates, “Most of the product ideas are instinctive, as are their execution. The iterations are mostly structural or to enhance the technical functionality. It’s always a work in progress when it’s an out-of-the-box idea because there is no benchmark against which to measure the finish or technical balance of the product. However, as you keep working with these materials, it always fosters a better understanding of material behavior, so it reduces the number of iterations in the long run. What I find particularly special about my process is the mixing of organic and inorganic materials together and crafting them entirely by hand, with a strong emphasis on durability and fine finishing, while keeping the individuality of the materials intact within each product such that no two pieces are ever alike.”

Since Studio Metallurgy is all about handcrafted products, you would be right in assuming that it is an artisan-centric brand. “If it weren’t for the skill and talent of my artisans, there would be no Studio Metallurgy. The hope is to foster the belief that you can find modern design in India as well, and one needn’t have to always look to the West. Through our creations, I hope I am able to help bring back that sense of pride in handcrafted ‘Made in India’ products,” highlights Mathur.

In today’s times of machine-made everything, I ask about the role individuality and authenticity play in any new business’s set-up. “It just so happened that making unique ‘one-offs’ appealed to me — and it’s worked in my favour. It’s allowed me to have a commercial venture while maintaining the inherent nature of the personalised uniqueness that comes with art,” Mathur insists. And as for balancing the art and commerce angles, she asserts, “I don’t think commercial viability and aesthetics are mutually exclusive of each other. And I don’t believe that cost is a limiting factor in creating products that cater to art as well as functional design.”

Given that Studio Metallurgy has captured the Indian market’s attention in just a span of three years, Mathur reveals what she believes has contributed to her success. “One, it’s been the support of people I love. To be an entrepreneur with a vision that entails ‘breaking out of the mould’ has plenty of moments that are just downright lonely and clouded with doubt. And they’re the ones who motivate you to continue going. Then, of course, there’s passion — but what’s been key has been infusing that passion into my job while simultaneously creating a sense of detachment from my products because it is a business at the end of the day, and it needs to be profitable. And lastly, I have always been cognisant of the difference between wanting to create products that are works of art, but not working like an artist,” she maintains. Studio Metallurgy is still a dream that is a “work in progress”, Mathur insists, but the New Delhi girl says that going forward, the brand “will continue being a reflection of my progress as an artist”.

Sometimes, not conforming to conventions and taking risks pay off. “In my experience, I have found that when you make something that you find relevant, and if it comes from an honest, creative space and is true to your aesthetic, it will work. Besides, in a country with a few billion people, there’s bound to be a market for everything!” she quips.

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