The trained gemologist and jewelry designer Neha Dani has spent the past few months isolating and social-distancing amid the outbreak of COVID-19. Based in New Delhi, her eponymous label has transitioned to operating from in-person to online—with plenty of emails and WhatsApp messages.
Aside from business, she’s at home reminding herself how grateful she is to have family, a fulfilling career, and some extra time to cook and care for her daughter. Whitewall spoke with Dani about what she’s working on now and how she’s as focused as ever.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
NEHA DANI: First of all, thank you for asking. It’s such an important question, really, especially right now. I’m trying my best to ask this as much as possible. I’m doing my best to check-in, to see how our loved ones, or even total strangers, are doing. Listening as they voice concerns and express fears. Doing so takes you out of yourself. It lessens some of the stress, some of the worry, and the many concerns, that seems so unrelenting in times like these.
The past few weeks have certainly been a challenge for us all, globally, and quite frightening. But this pandemic, too, has reminded me how important it is to be grateful. I’m grateful that my family and friends are safe and healthy. I’m thankful that I have a career I find truly fulfilling; a career I fought hard for. I’m blessed to be curious, by nature, and to create.
WW: What are you listening to, reading, watching?
ND: I’m constantly reading about various cultures and art forms. In whatever spare time I have, I love to read and learn! In these times, when the opportunities to travel and experience things firsthand have been severely limited, I’m finding new ways to seek out and absorb information. I’m possibly spending more time than I should looking at social media, but there’s a lot of interesting material out there. It’s also inspiring to see how creativity, out of necessity, is sort of blossoming right now. People are finding ingenious ways to make art, entertain, and to communicate. It’s moving and motivating.
WW: What are you cooking?
ND: I’ve been cooking and bonding with my family over a number of dishes; trying out various cuisine that require a lot of planning and thought from different cultures. I feel my kitchen has become a substitute for my workshop—and working with my hands is therapeutic to me. I’m cherishing the time shared together in the kitchen, and at the dinner table.
WW: How are you staying connected?
ND: I am staying connected with my team in India and around the world through e-mail and WhatsApp. Business may not be “as usual,” per se, but we are all finding ways to keep up the momentum and to stay focused and engaged. And I am regularly in touch with family, friends, and loved ones. I have a young daughter, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with her, which has been such a blessing.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
ND: I continue to work, and I’m as focused as ever. I’ve always been rather imaginative—drawing, sketching, working with my hands. Though it is challenging at times, I strongly believe feeling and projecting positive energy helps one find internal strength and joy. I bring this into my work and creations. That emotional connection to my work grants me moments of freedom from the current situation.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
ND: The natural world, or sometimes more abstract matter, such as human emotions or spirituality. I imagine what those things look like and then interpret my visions via carved wax models until the idea becomes a totally realized figure. Something imagined becomes tangible. From there, I source and hand-select the perfect gemstones that complement each piece. The final design always evokes an emotional connection to the visual representation.