Tag Archives: people

OF PRIZED POSSESSIONS & TIMELESS TREASURES

From losing her prized possessions to creating timeless treasures, it has indeed been an incredible journey for this passionate jewelry designer. Ashwrites in conversation with Natalie Elverd, owner Elverd designs, a unique, vibrant and timeless collection of rings, pendants and ear-rings set in hand-selected gemstones

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Elverd Designs comprise a unique collection of jewelry, set in hand-selected, hand-cut gemstones

Where opulence meets elegance, where boldness meets simplicity and conventional intermingles with contemporary…Probably the best way to describe jewelry designer Natalie Elverd, her vibrant personality clearly visible in each of the exquisite designs that she creates. Owner of Elverd designs, Natalie has been on a mission, creating timeless pieces of jewelry ranging from rings, ear-rings and pendants in hand-cut, hand-selected gemstones.

Looking at the exquisite pieces of jewelry set in blue topaz, amethyst, smoky quarts, onyx, tourmaline, agate amongst many others, it is almost impossible to believe that jewelry designing was something that happened by chance for this designer and that too not very long ago.

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“It all began, 9 years ago when we were in Cambodia and a few of my precious pieces of personal jewelry were stolen. I was heartbroken. Not because they were expensive but they were all pieces that held special meaning and also a special place in my heart.”

Natalie knew they had to be replaced and took up on the task of designing the new pieces herself and also finding the right stones to compliment her designs. “What unveiled before me was something I never imagined. I was amazed by what the local markets had in store for me; whether it was the sheer number of stones, the colors or the variety that lay before me.”

Following the overwhelming feedback from her friends for her personal designs and constant encouragement from her husband Brad, Natalie finally decided to take it up as a full-time profession and launched her own designer label, once she moved to Singapore. “One of my friends had asked me to get whatever little pieces I had designed to a local boutique bazaar. I sold out instantly and was completely taken aback by the kind of response I received. It’s at that moment when I experienced the kind of trust and confidence, people had in me and my designs that I knew this was something I had to do.”

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Natalie displaying her designs at one of the boutique bazaars

And since then there has been no looking back for the Australian-born designer currently based in Yangon, who has been focused on providing affordable yet high-fashion and high-quality gemstone jewelry to her loyal clientele spread across the globe from Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and now even in Myanmar. Talking about her designs, Natalie says that ‘trend’ is something that she never follows when creating her masterpieces. “I simply don’t like the term, ‘trend’ as it’s just too short-term. I want my pieces to be elegant and timeless that will never really go out of style.”

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Lapis and gold ring from her latest TBar Collection

Talking about her biggest inspiration, Natalie says that she doesn’t need to look far or hard to be inspired. “How can one live in South East Asia and not be inspired, she says.” “Be it it’s beautiful colors, the energy of its cities, the warmth of it’s people or it’s rich vibrant culture. It makes me happy and then I am inspired. “

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Despite coming with new designs to add to her collection and constantly evolving her brand, Natalie is also a mom to two beautiful daughters Paige and Chloe. Has playing these two different roles been challenging? “Not really,” she says. “Fortunately for me, my daughters are older now and my working hours, flexible. One daughter will finish high school this year and my youngest one is preparing for a move back to school in Melbourne. My timing has been quite perfect.”

Each daughter has a special collection named after them, that which Natalie considers one of her most prized pieces amongst her entire collection. The Chloe ring is a more classic cut, simple and elegant design whereas the Paige collection available in  green amethyst and blue topaz is a checkerboard cut statement piece, quite bold and contemporary.

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The bold statement ring in green amethyst from the Paige Collection, named after Natalie’s oldest daughter

 

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The classic and elegant Chloe ring in blue topaz

So what’s next for this passionate designer. “Oh there is so much to look forward to,” Natalie says. “I am already working on a few custom-made engagement rings and have also started working on a Freedom range that will be available later this year. I also plan to add more pieces like stackable rings and even some bracelets.”

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A sneak-peek into Natalie’s upcoming Freedom Range

Natalie currently lives with her husband, Brad and daughter Chloe in Yangon. For more information on her collection and to pre-order from the Freedom Range collection, please log onto her website  http://www.elverddesigns.com  or like her Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/ElverdDesigns/ or follow on instagram  https://www.instagram.com/elverddesigns/

Getting Quirkyi with Indu Sathyendran

Ashwrites in conversation with the creative genius behind Quirkyi; a bright, colorful and cheerful collection of home decor goods ranging from trays, coasters & jewelry boxes, all inspired by the artist’s love for art, travel, photography and most importantly her love for her hometown, Kerala

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Indu with her favorite Aana collection inspired by her pet elephant Vaijaynti

A sneak-peek into Indu’s Facebook page and you are sure to be greeted by a serious explosion of vivid colors. Vibrant hues of greens, yellows and reds stare right back at you, reeling you into a state of visual wonder. Being a malayali myself, I tend to be trapped in a strange kind of nostalgia every time I see Indu’s Instagram page or see a latest FB post. Be it the familiar sight of a mustachioed mundu-clad malayali lazing outside the road-side tea-stall, the hullabaloo from a nearby temple procession making its way through the verdant green-fields, the concoction of colors from the hanging garlands at a flower market and local pullikali performers with their faces painted in bright strokes of yellow and black to imitate that of a tiger or leopard, have all found their way into several of Indu’s designs.

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“It all began with my two major loves: my love for photography and everything Kerala. Quirkyi is not just a home-decor product for me. It is a reflection of my love for art, architecture, photography, elephants and more than anything, a way to project the colorful splendor that’s my homeland. It is what I call, a celebration of the true spirit of Kerala.”

Talking about her work, Indu says that she didn’t have to look long for an inspiration. “It was right there in front of me, all around me. Be it the flowers in my home-garden or the vibrant designs on my mother’s sari. Even Shibu, my painter served as my inspiration and became a key factor in my designs behind the Theyyam collection.

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The artist and her inspiration

And is there any collection, she holds close to he heart? “Of course, she says. My personal favorite is the Aana series inspired by my dear pet elephant Vaijayanti.” Though she lost her last year, Indu intends to keep her true spirit alive through her collections and designs inspired by her favorite pet.

And why Quirkyi? “I had always loved to travel and have a passion for photography. Seeing my pictures, a friend once told me that I had a Quirky eye. And that name just stuck. I first started my blog titled myquirkyeye, then my instagram account, quirkyeye, so when it came to choosing a name for my products, there was no better. Just that I had to quirky it up a bit by messing with the spelling.”

Within a short time post launch, Quirkyi has already travelled far, finding a place in the homes of Malayali’s settled in Dubai, London, Toronto to name just a few. “Quirkyi is my little way of giving every Malayali a little piece of Kerala to take back with them.” Though currently Quirkyi only ships within India, Indu says plans are already underway to further expand her business. “We are already working on a new website and also plan to add some more products like cushions and a few decoupage products, that I am really excited about. And as far as the Quirky me is concerned, I continue my quest to find new inspiration and ideas for Quirkyi.”

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For more information on Quirkyi, please like them on https://www.facebook.com/quirkyi/

 

Eat, pray, love Yangon

From devouring its exquisite cuisine to treading the holy grounds of the innumerable pagodas and falling in love with the simplicity and humility, its streets have to offer, here are my top 5 reasons why Yangon should be on your list of places to visit

By Aswathy Kumar

‘What about Macau?’ Bali? Fine at least let’s do Bangkok.’
These were probably the constant suggestions we got from our friends every time we insisted that they visit us in Yangon. You see, there are plenty of perks of living the expatriate life here, but the distance from your loved ones can really take its toll sometimes. Though we have been extremely successful in convincing our family and friends to visit us in our previous two postings, DC & Nairobi, we haven’t had much luck when it came to Yangon.
‘There is nothing to do there.’
‘We have heard, that there aren’t even any shopping malls or multiplexes,’ our friends would say.
And I agree… Yangon has no fancy shopping malls like in Bangkok, strong cultural scene like in China nor any family friendly hot-spots like in Singapore. But Yangon is a place like no other and here’s what makes it unique and truly exceptional.

The Shwedagon Pagoda

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It would be almost wrong or even to an extend inauspicious to talk about Yangon, without mentioning the Shwedagon Pagoda that epitomizes the very warmth and serenity that defines the city of Yangon. Probably the very first thing that you will see as you enter the city, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a shrine you need to see to believe. Towering at a 325 feet, no visit to the city is considered complete without paying your respects here. Housed in a sprawling area, extending up to 114 acres, not only is the Shwedagon a complete architectural wonder, it is also the symbol of hope, divinity and reverence. Watching it glimmer in all its glory during sunrise or sunset, courtesy the 1800 carat diamond orb at the very top, is something beyond spectacular. During sunset you can also marvel at the sight of over 1000’s of oil lamps encircling the pagoda shimmering to life, hear the silent whispers of hundreds of monks chanting or listen to the bustle of devotees as they offer their prayers at the several shrines and temples in gold, housed all around its premises.

Markets

Market scene

Agreed Yangon definitely lacks glitzy shopping malls and finding your favorite brands here can almost be next to impossible. As expats, we even struggle with finding basic stuff like socks, shoes or decent clothes for our little ones, often making us run to nearby Bangkok to fulfill all our shopping needs. But that being said, Yangon’s markets are truly a class apart. Take the famous Bogyoke market. Visiting this market is almost like exploring a
hidden treasure chest, offering a new surprise every time you dig a little deeper. I still remember the first time I visited Bogyoke. It reminded me of the local markets I had explored back home in Delhi… though a stroll around quickly ensured that the riches that adorned its streets was something I had never experienced before in any part of the world.

Sparkly jewels in possibly every color lay scattered all over the little glass cases in the innumerable shops aligning every nook and corner of the market. I had carried $100 with me, thinking it was way sufficient to return with a bag-load of goodies. Little did I know that, these sparkly stones that lay around in these unguarded unimpressive cases where in fact real precious stones, some costing even upto a $60,000.
From blue sapphires to pigeon blood rubies to amethyst, blue topaz, citron, garnet to what not; glitterred in the dull orange light. Forget jewels and semi precious stones, there is a lot the market has to offer if you are on a budget and looking for some retail therapy at a lot less, like hand woven longyis, accessories, colorful flip flops, paintings by local artists, wood carvings, exquisite lacquerware, silverware and religious artifacts to name just a few.

To also experience Yangon in its true self and understand more about how the locals live, head out to the various wet markets like the ones in China town or the popular Thiri Minglar Zei. Witness a burst of colors as you see hoards and hoards of vegetables, fruits and flowers being sold in plenty at these local markets. What I call, Yangon’s own version of a farmer’s market, here you can find fresh produce for as cheap as 300-1000Kyat. Believe it or not a whole bunch of orchids cost a mere 3000Kyat (Less than $3) and who wouldn’t love a brilliant bargain?

Food

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When I was in DC, my idea of the Burmese cuisine would begin and end with Khow Suey (Curried egg noodles in coconut milk). One visit to the innumerable local tea shops and road-side restaurants in Yangon, proved how ignorant I had been all these years.
When it comes to Burmese food, the choices are simply unlimited comprising a large number of noodle based dishes like the famous breakfast dish of rice noodles in a fish based soup and topped with fried fritters called the Mohinga, Kyah oh, vermicelli noodles in a pork based soup; salads dishes like the popular pickled tea leaf salad, Lahpet and Htamin thoke, a popular rice salad with tomato puree, potato and dried shrimp to several Chinese influenced dishes like the steamed pork buns or Pauk see, Htamin gyaw (Fried rice with egg) and Kaw yay khauk swè (curried noodles with duck or pork and eggs) and Indian-inspired dishes like the palatas (similar to our layered paratha) and Dan bauk (biryani).

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Though there is new restaurant cropping up in the city every week offering a variety of international cuisine ranging from Mexican, Indian to Thai, Italian and French, to experience the real flavor of Yangon, head to these tiny tea shops embellished by their neatly aligned colorful miniature plastic chairs selling chai, fried local savories and dishes. For a complete Myanmar barbecue & beer experience, you can also head to the famous 19th street aka China town where you can see glass cabinets displaying a variety of fish, meats and veggies in skewers. A glass of chilled local Myanmar beer and you are ready to rock the night, Yangon style


People…

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…one of the many reasons, I fell head over heels in love with this city. Though I loved DC and truly cherish the friendships I made during my stay there, I wont be lying if I said that I was grateful to be finally free from the suited bureaucrats I encountered everyday in the metro, their faces permanently glued to their iPhones, appointment-only playdates and the oh-so-artificial hellos and greetings in the elevators.

Extremely friendly, helpful and enchanting, people in Yangon always have a smile on their thanaka smeared faces, that can almost instantly relax anyone. And what’s more… they love taking pictures, so click away without having to worry that someone may call the cops. Go to any supermarket with a toddler and they are certain to fuss all over your little one and may even offer to baby sit while you shopped around.

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Always eager to help, I still remember the time I tripped on one of my market trips. A crowd had gathered almost instantly, and unlike in India where they would just stand around and enjoy the show or like in DC, where they would simply carry on with their affairs as if you were invisible, here each one of them were seriously concerned about my injury. While one boy ran and came back with a traditional ointment for my twisted angle, another grabbed a seat for me to rest and a third guy, quickly returned with a cold coffee from a nearby cafe.

That’s Yangon for you. Okay, maybe they dont speak a word of English or barely understand you…and maybe even the waiters at restaurants may not have received any formal training in the hospitality industry, but their constant friendly and dazzling smiles are more than enough to brighten up any day.

Travel back in time

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Ever wondered how life would have been in the good old days? Where people had time to sit around in front of little tea shops and discuss the daily news while sipping a cup of hot chai, or splash around in small rain water puddles in the middle of a hot summer afternoon. A time when people where not caught up in some mad rat race and actually had the time to say hello. A time of unreliable wifi connections, zero flyovers and nonexistent skyscrapers. A time when the only way to find out what’s on the menu in a restaurant was by actually going there and not by scrolling through any website.
If yes, then Yangon is probably your best bet to take you back to the past, where everything was a lot simpler and more beautiful. Travel back in time as you stroll amidst the colonial buildings in downtown Yangon, watch the local men play a game of Chinlon ( a traditional game where you are expected to keep a single rattan ball in the air by using a combination of knees, feet and heads) on an early Monday morning, take a slow ride on the famous circular train to absorb the wondrous sights this charming city has to offer or take a ferry or a trishaw ride to imbibe the true feeling of Yangon, a city that seem to have completely frozen in time.