Transforming ordinary materials into extraordinary jewelry, upcycled paper artist Devi Chand takes scraps of paper and creates handmade beads which she then fashions into unique necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Things that most of us would toss or recycle find a beautiful new life in Devi’s hands.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
As a little kid, I loved to make things. My favorite things to make were glittery baubles and tiny gift boxes from candy wrappers. I proudly hung them on the Christmas tree, and then it felt like Christmas. My parents were super supportive in my crafty adventures and ignored the mess. I grew up and studied design in college. College inspired me to dream, design and make more things.
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Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
I get inspired from the little everyday things of life. I also take inspiration from nature, a lot. Sometimes, designs come in my dreams!
Why paper? How does that medium best express what you want to communicate through your art?
Paper is humble, yet so versatile. Through my art, I find it exciting to give an unimagined second life to a simple, everyday material that we take for granted.
How do you source the materials you use to create your jewelry?
I obsessively collect all kinds of papers – newspapers, magazines, calendars, gift wraps, paper bags and pamphlets to name a few. And most amazingly, I have a network of friends and well-wishers who unconditionally pass on the vibrant paper stash they collect for this offbeat artist. All supportive beads, cords and silver findings are sourced locally from small home-run businesses.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I use simple hand tools and no machinery in production because my hands are usually enough. I work with papers that have irregular designs and colors, so it’s hard to predict the patterns the beads will decide to have. So, when they are finished, I’m as surprised as anybody else. And I love that suspense in my work.
When you started to make paper bead jewelry, were you making just for fun or did you always envision it becoming a business?
When I decided to start my handmade business, all I had was an enthusiastic me and a colourful stash of paper, thanks to my design education. During one of my experiments, I made my first paper bead by rolling a paper strip over a toothpick. I loved how unusual and delicate it looked. That was the first of the many, many hours I spent making paper beads, perfecting the art, and experimenting to make them durable.
Over time, I’ve fallen in love with working with paper, and the magic it creates.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
A bit of both. I plan my collections ahead of time, but also make changes depending on time in hand, availability of materials and sometimes simply because a new spontaneous idea strikes that I can’t wait to execute.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
My studio consists of a big old table and lots and lots of storage for paper, tools and finished pieces. I have chosen the sunniest spot at home for my studio as there’s something about natural light that inspires me to create.
What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies?
I use neatly labelled recycled chocolate boxes and shoe boxes to store almost all of my supplies. They work wonderfully well for me as they come in all sorts of sizes and can be stacked easily in racks.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
A lot more paper than you can imagine, plus glue, varnish, scissor, cutter, ruler, pencil and cutting mat.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
When a new idea strikes, I sketch it down immediately or I may not remember it later. Sometimes I like to curl up on the sofa and fill up my sketchbook with ideas and this can go on for hours. When I’m in a creative rut, it helps to go through all that I have sketched, and I know which one to bring to life.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I like to listen to podcasts when I do repetitive work that does not require much of my attention. However, when I’m working on new ideas, I like blissful silence.
How does your formal design education help your work develop? Does it ever get in the way?
My design education helped me practice the process of bringing a design to life. This would mean coming up with several variations of an idea, tirelessly sourcing the right materials, thinking of multiple possibilities in prototyping and more than anything, to keep trying until I get there.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
Don’t wait to perfect your art before you put it out there. Because your audience can be a powerful influence in deciding how you evolve as an artist.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think both. Some people are inherently creative. But I don’t think that matters as much as practice. I believe frugal living can help creativity blossom. When buying something is not always an option, we tend to think of ways to reuse or repurpose what we already have. And this can be incredibly beneficial to practice creativity as a habit that can make you a creative person overall.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
I play with my daughter. Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious and helps me get unstuck almost every time.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
Sarah K Benning – I not only adore her work but also love the way she documents her process and her honest communication with her audience. Her passion and business values intrigue me.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website (Papermelon.com) is where you can read more about my artistic journey and also browse my current collection of paper jewelry and decor. My work is incredibly time consuming and tedious, however, the final result always makes me smile. I hope it brings you the same joy 🙂
Interview posted December 2022
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