Garden Of Ether's Ethical Handcrafted Jewellery Channels The Fragile Transience Of Life

Garden Of Ether's Ethical Handcrafted Jewellery Channels The Fragile Transience Of Life
Garden of Ether

As someone who spends most of her time chronically online, every time I do get the chance to take a break, I try to get as far away from city life and technology as I can. There is this innate beauty that exists in nature that never ceases to amaze me in grounding one. It is almost like magic. To truly study how nature and its many elements have metamorphosed for the sake of survival, is an undertaking that would take more than a single lifetime to achieve.

For Pune-based artist Vidhi Goyal, nature has always been the biggest source of her inspiration - especially the many ways in which it can be used as a tool to explore bigger concepts and themes. The 26-year-old refers to herself as a lifelong artist, and she has a BFA in painting and drawing to go with that. But currently working out of her tiny studio in Pune, Vidhi creates wearable art that combines her varied interests in preservation, design and illustration that feature flora in many ways. In starting our conversation on ‘Garden of Ether’ - her art/design project she mentioned how she wants to “use the magic of nature as a tool to explore themes such as beauty, fragility, life, and death. I have a never-ending fascination with nature, and how it manages so effortlessly to be both beautiful and functional.”

What started as an attempt to try out a new medium of expression during the pandemic is essentially how Garden of Ether began. Vidhi who had been working service industry jobs for almost 2 years, and had been in a creative rut, started this project with only resin material and her small collection of pressed flowers, plants and organic objects. She initially made a couple of resin coasters but came away feeling the experience of working with the medium as life-changing. She went on to say, “When I started working with resin, I felt so peaceful and focused being in the moment with my work; it had been a while since I felt that, having been in a long creative rut. But the most surprising and unexpected shift was working with specimens. I’d like to think this was a calling from the universe and that’s where Garden of Ether was born.”

Garden Of Ether's Ethical Handcrafted Jewellery Channels The Fragile Transience Of Life
Motifs, Stories, and More: Indian Brands Creating Handcrafted Wearable Works of Art

Vidhi’s one-woman-run artisanal shop where she works with a spectrum of natural materials to create jewellery and select home goods that are sculptural, refined and beautifully imperfect. In speaking to us about her process, Vidhi said, “I work intuitively with a spectrum of materials from precious metals and stones, crystals, to found and organic objects such flowers, shells, feathers to create unique, bespoke and made-to-order pieces. All are slow-made and one-of-a-kind. I strive to create arrangements that honour the earth’s magical creatures, in life and death.” While the dark feminine energy aesthetic that radiates from Garden of Ether (even the name) seemed like a genuine branding choice to this writer, the artist set me straight. 

“While working a design job and hustling, the little space (or may I say garden) I created for myself became a fated form of expression. I have always been fascinated with mysticism and fantasy, and the Garden of Ether eventually became an embodiment of that. It was like coming into my own. A space where I could tap more into my feminine and sensual self.”

Vidhi Goyal, Artist, Garden of Ether

Started with the intention of wanting to invoke a sense of awe at the world around us, Garden of Ether is how Vidhi shares the emotions she feels while working closely with organic botanicals and specimens and the sheer beauty and genius of their natural design. As she astutely said, “Nature does not rush. It demands me to slow down, which is something I found most challenging in the beginning. Preservation is permanent, and I hold a sincerity when being chosen to work on these projects.”

Drawing parallels between the ever-changing character of nature as a whole, and of humans as an entity within it, she attempts to capture the many facets of life, death, growth and more through her practice. The fantasy-addled mind of this writer still can’t help but notice the nature nymph-esque mindset that comes through while in conversation with the artist. This was further cemented when Vidhi went on to say, “I believe that new ideas or arts do not arise from the logic centres of the brain alone – but from dream thinking, of mythic, ritual, and poetic communication between us and our environment. I feel more interconnected when walking in nature, it feels like I’m hyper-aware.”

During her initial days of creating resin art, while also contemplating the many ideas she had to do something of her own, she finally felt like she was finding herself again. As an artist, she’d always been involved in drawing and painting, but the act of learning a new medium and making original, unique pieces featuring real, tangible, natural materials brought her to an elevated state mindset of creativity, and even a sense of peace. Having never quite had a similar experience with any other medium before, she continued to work and evolve with her chosen medium of resin and organic materials that truly spoke to her. In her quest to figure out who she is, the discovery of this medium of expression felt like the fruition of her life-long admiration for the many wonders of the natural world. 

When it comes to the actual process of creating one of her pieces, she said that her artistic process is primarily focused on being present with herself and the materials of choice, every step of the way - essentially creating what she feels called to make in the moment. For Vidhi, “all butterflies and flowers have a different spirit, a different look, a different feel.  For this reason, every piece is intentionally created and unique and anomalies are always embraced. I glaze them, softly polish the wings & coat them in protective layers. I create my best work when I am not overthinking and simply surrendering to the flow, and most importantly constantly reminding myself - nothing is a failure, everything is simply an exercise or exploration.”

Garden of Ether

While there is an element of darkness that many associate with featuring found objects like butterflies or moth wings or even the practice of taxidermy, Vidhi looks to them as a chance for her to learn about them. She went on to mention how “exploring beauty and fragility became a meditative practice for me. But there is something about working with the dead that made me feel more and more alive. It’s very deeply personal, but is also something that reflects in every piece I put out.”

While Vidhi is currently working on a 5-part elemental series that is an amalgamation of flora, butterflies, embroidery and collaging, she also talked about how some of her most experimental pieces have been her personal favourites or the best-received. The experimental Sea Star Dangler earrings she made on a whim from a hybrid of the wings of real blue bottle, yellow-orange tip, and spectacle swordtail butterflies adorned with vintage crystals is her personal favourite. But the earrings made from the hind wings of a rare Chinese Moon Moth (Actias Dubernardi) are the best-loved by her patrons. She said, “ Neon-pink and yellow in appearance with long elegant tails, these wings are most difficult to come by and it’s their otherworldly and ethereal appearance that sets them apart from others.  But it is also the piece that made one of our customers literally thank us for fulfilling their fairy core fantasy!” 

Garden Of Ether's Ethical Handcrafted Jewellery Channels The Fragile Transience Of Life
Barbiecore & More: Western 'Core-Aesthetics' Shaping South Asian Fashion

Building a homegrown fashion brand that is truly unique like ‘Garden of Ether’ also comes with its unique challenges and learnings. For Vidhi, it has been about having to field questions and concerns regarding her work with specimens. In the past few decades, preservation methods have increasingly been used for non-scientific and non-corporate purposes and artworks featuring them do bring up these questions. But all the butterflies that Vidhi works with have lived out their natural life cycle in conservation farms all over the world. She went on to say, “None are harmed to be sold or killed. All farms are checked to ensure that the butterflies are sourced responsibly and the farms meet the quality standards. These expansive farms create an eco-friendly habitat not only for the butterfly population but also help protect the rainforests with its plants, flowers, trees & other living species. Many insects have also been donated to me by friends who have found them in the same way.”

As a single-person-run business/project has Vidhi donning many hats and running on fumes, the demands of being self-employed are offset by her love of the art that she makes. When asked about her journey with Garden of Ether, she summed it up as having been a journey of finding herself, accepting her circumstances, and growing through challenges, while still getting to do something she is grateful to be able to. In looking ahead, Vidhi sees that her love for preservation is growing and part of the process is also realising that she wants to bring more of her art into the physical community. She went on to say, “ I want to put more effort towards building up collections to sell at festivals, shops, and markets beyond the online space. I eventually hope to offer workshops around nature-centred creative expression as well.”

While she wants to support herself by answering the call of her art, she recognises that it is not a small thing to be able to move through life dedicated to her practice. “By creating what I enjoy and what I want to create, not what I think will sell, adds a level of intention to my work that characterises my pieces and others have responded to”, Vidhi said, but then befittingly added on - “I’m slowly planting new seeds for future projects and hoping to see what happens when they burst open.”

You can follow Garden Of Ether here.

If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown:

3 Indian Jewellery Brands Redefining Modern Adornment Using Craft & Visual Storytelling

Tanzire's Demi-Fine Jewellery Sets A Progressive & Modern Standard Of Homegrown Adornment

Prachi Dharani's Textile Art Merges Nature, Culture, Fantasy, & Storytelling