Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spotlight on ZOLA (A piece of Earth)

ZOLA” is an Indian jewelry brand that explores the many rich arts and crafts of India, making it accessible to the contemporary global market in the form of bold pieces of wearable art. Each jewelry piece narrates a story of the ethnographic background, history of the art and the artisan, their brilliant craftsmanship and the artisan community. Owner and Founder of brand Zola, “Gina Joseph” gives a new lease of life to the concept of wearable art, creating stunning avant-garde jewelry that celebrates not only the arts and crafts of India but also echoes Zola punchline of "celebrating the art of being a woman”. Through Zola, she aspires to be an advocate for significant issues such as: 
~ Creating sustainable livelihoods for rural artisans (especially women). 
~ Preservation and global showcase of the cultural and crafts heritage of India there by bridging the gap between the rural artisans and the global customer who appreciates a great piece of jewelry but many a times doesn't know its exact origin and technique.
~ And finally, bringing about a new dimension to the concept of wearable art.
Let’s meet the inspiring lady and non-conformist soul behind the brand Zola and chat up with her, about her passion for jewelry designing, the innovative concept of wearable art and her creative journey so far.

TECD: Hello and welcome to TECD Gina! So excited to have you here. I recently spotted creations from the Zola line on Jaypore and was completely smitten with the concept, design and style. I immediately knew I had to reach out and showcase this wonderful jewelryline on TECD. Let’s start by asking you what does the name Zola signify and when was the idea for Zola conceived? 

Gina: “Thank you for the showcase on TECD, Sruthi. Truly honored to be the featured artist of this month! 

Zola in Italian means a piece of the earth. I have always believed that jewelry is one of the most powerful vehicles of self-expression and celebration of one’s personal style. Jewelry in India has always fascinated me and the tales from her rich cultural heritage and folklore, her colors, her emotions, her passion, the fine workmanship and the seamless Indian beauty was what I wanted to explore with Zola. It all started, with my first line of necklaces that were inspired by the women in Indian temple architecture. For this collection, I worked along with the wood carvers of Raghurajpur in Odisha. It was exciting to create these uniquely styled and artistically beautiful necklaces for my Indian Art project and I wanted to explore further. As a result, Zola was born.” 
TECD: We’d love to hear about the journey of how an individual who has worked in the advertising, journalism and corporate communication arena decided to tread on a whole different path to pursue her passion?

Gina: “I did my graduation in Visual Communication 10 years ago from Loyola in Chennai. I started off my career in advertising, later I was a journalist for about 5 years and then was part of the corporate world for 2 years. But all along have been an appreciator of art. I did not have any specific training in jewelry design; it was more of a hidden passion that surfaced at the right time in my life. I think that my background in literature was very important when it came to my foray into the creative field. 

I took a break from work and did an Arts Management program from Dakshinachitra in Chennai; before that I had a peripheral knowledge about art. I appreciated art but did not know nuances of the art of painting or sculpture. So, while doing this program, as part of my Indian Art Project, I created my first three pieces of jewelry. I was very fascinated by the temple women in Indian sculpture, that is the salabanjikas (tree huggers), madanikas and yakshis (goddesses of fertility) so I got them carved in wood and put it together with semi-precious stones. The concept was 'to wear a piece of history on you'. 

If not for what I had been exposed to in my Indian art, western art, temple architecture and cultural studies classes, I wouldn't have been able to start Zola and make it what it is today.” 
TECD: What are the different arts/crafts of India that you have explored through Zola?

Gina: “Zola’s collection includes jewelry of the Dhokra Damar tribes of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha that use the lost wax casting technique with an alloy of nickel, brass and zinc that lends an antique appeal to the casting. I’ve experimented with the Patachitra technique of painting in Odisha and have designed beautiful hand painted earrings on wood. These exclusive earrings and are inspired by the Devadasis of Konark and other mythological and folk tales of India. Another addition to Zola's collection is an exclusive range of Leather puppetry jewelry by the traditional artisans of Andhra Pradesh. The leather puppets, because of their transparency and jewel like glow, are most popular. I’ve also conducted a workshop in Aranmula, where an exclusive range of necklaces and earrings were created using the traditional Aranmula mirror of Kerala. My most recent workshop was with the lacquer and wood turnery artisans in a small village called Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh.

There are many more crafts across the country that I want to explore and bring into my designs. Right now I have visits and workshops scheduled in Gujrat, Rajasthan and Kerala. Am sure something exciting will come out.”

TECD: Tell us a little about the design process behind a Zola creation?

Gina: “Each collection is a new experience for me - new materials, new techniques and new ideas. I don't have designs planned out in advance before going for the workshop. It's all done on the floor while I interact with the artisans and see and feel the material and learn about the techniques. It’s very hands on. I make sure that the style of art is not tampered with. I let the artist/craftsman do what he is comfortable with, only the form changes, in my case they become pretty jewelry with a story.” 
TECD: What has been your most rewarding experience through Zola? 

Gina: “It's been a year since I started Zola, very recently one of my artisan told me that he could now afford better education for his two children and also improve his standard of living significantly after he started working with me. Another artisan from Andhra said he has started paying part of his house loan from the earnings of Zola. In Orissa the women artisans I work with have promised to continue sending their daughters to school as a part of the income goes towards the girl child's education. It gives me a lot of happiness and a sense of fulfilment when I hear about the little changes Zola has brought in their lives. These are just small drops in the mighty ocean and Zola has a long way to go and along the way hope to change many many more lives.”
TECD: Before we wind up, is there a special thought/message that you would want to share with my readers?

Gina: “Educate your children about the rich cultural heritage of our country. We are not taught the cultural history in most schools here and only the political history is focused upon, which is sad because the child has no clue about the rich cultural wealth of his/ her country when he grows up. Preservation is not just the job of art museums or organizations; it starts from the very grassroots, in your own homes by educating yourself and your children about it. This will go a long way in not only making them appreciate what our country has to offer but also keeping the rural arts and crafts alive by buying the work of these artisans and keeping their livelihood going and not letting the craft die.” 
Let’s hold that thought and continue to support our artists and craftsmen by making a conscious decision to source and buy handcrafted treasures. To get your piece of Zola head to Zola’s Facebook pageChamiers and Shilpi (Chennai), Seamstress (Kerala), Paperboat collectives (Goa) and online at and Zola will soon be retailing in Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore and Kenya too. For detailed price enquiries or to get in touch with Gina write to her at

Thank you Gina for taking the time to share your incredible work and inspiring story with the TECD readers. We wish you success in every step of the way, be it your creative journey or your endeavor to support artisans and in keeping alive the culture, arts and crafts of India!

Images Copyright/Credit: Zola, Jaypore and Gaatha 

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, and truly unique, eye-catching pieces!


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