Jewelry designer Marlar Maw talks exclusively to Ashwrites about her incredible journey
The very first time I met Marlar Maw was at my daughter’s school. She was one amongst the many new mommies who anxiously waited by the main entrance, eager to know all about her child’s first day of school. Back then, I didn’t know much about Marlar, except that her son went to Year 1 and that she had a sophisticated yet edgy sense of fashion. Our interactions in the following years, though friendly, were often limited to a few courteous smiles and customary hellos.
But there was always something special about Marlar. Not sure if it was the serene aura that surrounded her or just the sheer positivity and calm that she embodied. And once I saw pictures of some of the exquisite pieces of jewelry she had designed, I was certain that I wanted to know more about her story.
And there she was…after innumerable hellos and smiles across the school multipurpose room at class assemblies, she now sat in my living room enjoying a cup of Indian ginger tea recollecting the days she spent honeymooning with her husband in India, her life in Melbourne, China and most importantly her home that is Myanmar.
“Yangon has always been my home. Except for the four short years I spent finishing up my University education in Bangkok due to my father’s posting, this is where I have spent all my growing up years.” But life in Burma for this entrepreneur was far from being a bed of roses. In the year 2004, Marlar’s father and her older brother were imprisoned. “The country was in a complete state of turmoil. We were not allowed to travel and it was a very difficult time for our entire family,” recalls Marlar
But things were only starting to get more complicated for this new designer. “A year later following my father’s arrest, I met my husband Nigel, who was a British Diplomat. We fell in love, got married and were really looking forward to starting our life together.” Nigel had finished his tenure in Yangon and was moving to Shanghai when things took an unfortunate turn for the Blackwood family.
“I still remember the time as if it was just yesterday. We had shipped off all our belongings to the new location and were at the airport looking forward to a fresh start when I was unexpectedly stopped by the immigration officer.” Marlar was told that she wasn’t allowed to leave and was forced to stay within the British embassy compound for fear of arrest. “For three whole months, I stayed in; my freedom completely taken away from me. I couldn’t work, travel or even step out of the embassy compound. It was one of the most difficult times of my life.”
The one big positive that did churn out from the unfortunate scenario was that Marlar finally discovered her one true passion which was jewelry designing. “I always had an interest for it and loved designing and adding a little twist to my own personal pieces. But for the very first time I had all the time to truly develop my creativity and imagination.”
Talking about her biggest support system Marlar says, “Nigel has always been the biggest positive force in my life. He kept encouraging me and believing in me even when I wasn’t sure about myself.” Today Nigel is as involved in Marlar Maw designs as she is…be it creating the logo to naming each of her exquisite pieces and designing some of them himself.
Marlar Maw jewelry today is a premium luxury brand producing contemporary yet timeless pieces ranging from bracelets, necklaces, pendants, statement rings, ear-rings and cufflinks… all set in silver or gold and hand crafted using traditional techniques by local artisans. “I wanted to produce something that was unconventional yet extremely wearable using local resources,” says Marlar.
Another unique feature of her designs is the use of different types of stones ranging from spinel, tourmaline, colored sapphire, garnet and moonstone just to name a few. The range includes cabochon, uncut, sculpted stones as well as pearls. “If you look at each of my pieces, you will see that they are all a little rugged, unusual and to an extent imperfect. I don’t do or like ‘perfect,’ she says.
Each of Marlar’s pieces is not only different but also tells a unique story. “My designs are greatly inspired by the greek mythology hence the names Astrea, Phyrgia, Calliope, Chloris…just to name a few.” And the reason behind this obsession with Greek Mythology? “Greek mythology tells stories of heroism, strength, beauty, love and passion along with tales of tragedy, jealousy, lust and revenge all set during a time of unrest and conflict. It somehow reminds me of the turbulent history of my own country.”
Elaborating about the design process, Marlar adds, “ I work very closely with my artisans, telling them exactly what I have in my mind. Each day is a different day and I might have a completely different design in my mind. On a particular day, it could be the texture on a leaf that has inspired me.” And challenges? “The biggest one is communicating what I have in my mind to the artisan. He might completely nail it or it could be a complete miss. In short I end up adding a ton of pieces to my own personal collection,” she laughs. “But when it’s a hit, we create something extremely beautiful and one of a kind.”
From a sheer idea that developed in a tiny single room to the luxury brand it is today…Marlar Maw has indeed come a long way. In just a year she has added over 100 customers that also include soul singer and grammy award winner Joss Stone, who wore a custom made Lapis Lazuli necklace and a hammered silver cuff with embedded blue sapphires from Marlar’s METTA collection during her performance in Yangon.
For more information on Marlar Maw Designs please log on to:
https://www.marlarmaw.com or like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marlarmawjewellery/