Jewellery as sculpture from Ami Doshi Shah - Bubblegum Club

Jewellery as sculpture from Ami Doshi Shah

After finishing her degree in Jewellery Design and Silversmithing in 2001, Ami Doshi Shah was determined to venture into the world and make art. At 21 years old, she went to India for six months where she was immersed in the culture of jewellery makers and manufacturers.

Though the desire to express her creativity continued to burn, she worked as a strategic manager at a UK-based advertising agency for 12 years. In 2014, she quit her job and moved to Kenya. The following year, she established Ami Doshi Shah. Her Indian and Kenyan cultural background serves as inspiration for the brand. Prior to the arrival of destructive colonial powers, these cultures used jewellery to represent cultural rites of passage and a connection to the spiritual realm.

Bubblegum Club sits down with Ami Doshi Shah to talk about how her experiences have shaped her as a person and as a jewellery maker.

Ami Doshi Shah

Lee Nxumalo: When did you establish your love for jewellery?

Ami Doshi Shah: I’ve always been creatively inclined, but it was when I finished high school and studied Art and Design in the UK that I started experimenting with the idea of body sculptures. It was the first time I became truly interested and liked the idea of static objects coming to life on the body. The dichotomous relationship brought new meaning to a particular object or body. I come from two very strong cultures – I have South Asian heritage but I am third-generation Kenyan. Both cultures have a rich relationship with jewellery and adornment.

Lee Nxumalo: What would you say are the similarities between jewellery making in India and Kenya?

Ami Doshi Shah: In terms of the making itself, there are certain techniques that are similar, but in Kenya, we don’t have a huge availability of precious metals. The historical relevance of jewellery is different in Kenya than it is in India. India has its own fairly ancient culture where certain techniques and materials have been available for millennia. So, it’s hard to draw a comparison between the two because they’re different. In India, there’s still a lot of precious jewellery and there’s a huge market for that. I don’t know if there are that many similarities apart from certain jewellery-making techniques.

Ami Doshi Shah

Lee Nxumalo: You’ve moved around quite a lot from early childhood, all the way up into adulthood. We’ve talked about Kenya and India, but you’ve also lived in Oman, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Do you think any of the other places have left an impression on you creatively?

Ami Doshi Shah: I think all of them have, but I would say that the UK has had a profound influence on my creativity because I spent a significant amount of time there. There is definitely an element of European design education that informs my work – particularly the minimalistic approach.

I learned a big lesson when I lived in the States. I lived in the Deep South – in Alabama and Texas, during the mid-80s where there were not many people of colour in certain schools and areas. My mom was a staunch sari wearer – you can imagine growing up in Alabama! She was this beautiful woman draped in a sari, wearing a bindi, but it was something so foreign from any imaginable frame of reference for American people at the time. There was a need to conform and be like everybody else.

I remember having an argument with my mom and being like: ‘Why do you have to always wear a sari? Like I know you have trousers, and you have a t-shirt, and you could just look normal.’ She was so stoic. She said: ‘Ami, I know you’re very upset, but I am so far from home, and this is part of who I am. This is important to me. One day you will realise that being different is beautiful.’ It was a huge lesson for me in owning my individuality and essence.

Lee Nxumalo: You’ve been very successful with the brand, but I see that you are interested in expanding into furniture and product design next?

Ami Doshi Shah: I think I have undiagnosed ADHD [laughs]. I have been making jewellery for quite a long time. It’s given me so much joy and I really do love it, but it’s also exciting to create an object that has more to do with functionality than aesthetic beauty. An object that is more concerned with form and technique rather than how it appears on the body. That is one of the reasons I want to explore different mediums or designs.

Ami Doshi Shah

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