Idli Dosai ear studs, Filter Kaapi pendant, mallipoo pendant or the sprinkles ring - the pieces from Unbaked shop are inspired by the everyday motifs that we know and love. Founded by a 27-year-old from Chennai, the brand is quirky, youthful and part of the soaring DIY Jewellery trend. Samriddhi Balasubramaniam started making polymer clay jewellery as a hobby in 2019, but she made it her full-time focus during the pandemic. With the DIY Jewellery trends of the late 90s-early 2000s being truly embraced by Gen-Zers, Samriddhi’s Unbaked has been embraced with open hands.
After studying Fashion Design, Samriddhi worked with a myriad of small sustainable fashion labels for three years. But sometime during 2019 when she was going through a particularly hard mental health phase, she started dabbling in making polymer clay jewellery. During the time, Unbaked was one of the few brands that were making pieces of this kind. But Samriddhi doesn’t mark the inception of the brand that far back. When she lost her job in 2020 during the pandemic, she turned to Unbaked to keep her going and that is where the true journey began for her. Up until then, her pieces were only sold to friends and family. But capitalising on the increased screen time that we all clocked in during the pandemic, Samriddhi started being more active on the brand’s instagram. The popularity that she found during that time has continued to be, even when life went back to some place of remote normalcy.
When someone talks about jewellery, there are so many different approaches to it. but what drew Samriddhi to polymer clay was its sheer versatility. She went on to say, “A block of clay can become absolutely anything you want it to be, and what I love the most is that it's the perfect medium for every artist or maker to be able to express their individuality so clearly. The possibilities are limitless! And of course, it's not as high an investment with the materials and equipment that makes it quite accessible. I also really like the fact that this medium has empowered so many people globally, especially women, to start their businesses and make their own money!”
But successfully running a jewellery business entails being much more than a designer or artisan. Sure, it includes coming up with the designs, making the jewellery, assembling and finishing. But there is also the business side of things that Samriddhi keeps up as a one-woman show that includes costing, sourcing, scaling, and operations such as packing and logistics. But she has realised that marketing is the most important part of the business. She has become a full-time content creator, as that is what drives most of the sales for Unbaked. While it is a 24x7 gig, she feels that she does love being her own boss.
Having creative freedom is something that Samriddhi has always loved and Unbaked is the perfect way for her to exercise and experiment to her heart’s content. As someone who has never liked to be stuck with inside-the-box ideas, Unbaked has been a great way for Samriddhi to exercise her creative freedom. She says, “I feel like everything I do must have meaning, and a concept, most importantly! After 2-3 years of trying to find my "style", I'm at this point where I want my work to be a reflection of what I feel as an individual. And right now, I want to make products that emotionally connect with my audience through themes of culture, nostalgia etc through visual imagery.”
Even the packaging, branding and website of Unbaked follow the same approach. Keeping in mind the fact that humans value items that they can connect with emotionally, she creates accessories that would be cherished, rather than discarded in due time. But on a personal note, being able to be excited and connected to her work on an individual level holds value for Samriddhi as she believes that her authenticity helps customers connect better with her brand and with her.
In talking about projects that hold value for her, Samriddhi mentioned how much she loves creating custom pieces. However, her latest collection ‘Candles and Cake’ is one that she loved creating. The collection is a step in the direction that she wants to take the brand. The collection inspired by childhood birthday parties features fun, colourful pieces that are a nod towards iconic elements from birthdays gone by. From streamers to black forest cake, these pieces have an element of play and tactility. She even introduced a series of scented candles to compliment the sensory experience of the collection. This includes nostalgia-inducing candles that capture the scent of birthday cakes and fresh-cut oranges that could take one to simpler times. She celebrated the collection truly while doing the photoshoot for the collection, wherein she invited her girlfriends and threw a birthday party (a day before her actual birthday). They all dressed up in colourful outfits, wore pieces from the collection, ate snacks and cakes and had a truly good time. She even shared birthday party invites with her top 50 customers, who got a special discount on the upcoming collection.
But even though her work with Unbaked involves playing with colours and fun marketing tactics that inspired Samriddhi, she talked to us about the sense of imposter syndrome that she felt. While the business was good and she was realising her vision, after the release of her ‘Ode To Madras’ collection, she felt no other idea was good enough. While it made her stagnate for a while, she eventually pulled herself out of the funk and moved on to create more interesting collections. In talking about challenges, she also mentioned the difficulty that she often faces with figuring out Instagram. As the platform that brings her sales, she has found it hard to keep up with Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm and trends.
All this being said, Samriddhi continues to work on her vision. Her upcoming collection is also inspired by her Madras roots. The collection is going to be loosely inspired by the things one would in their mom’s cupboard. She is also planning on launching signature fragrances, as she has always harboured a fascination for the connection between scents and their power to evoke core memories.
In talking about her memories, Samriddhi mentioned how the work that she has been doing with Unbaked as a homegrown jewellery brand with an innately Indian identity has helped her reconnect with her own roots. She went on to say, “Growing up in a traditional Tamil household, I was constantly reminded that expressing my cultural identity had its limitations. It was an all-or-nothing kind of deal, with no room for middle ground. But my journey with Unbaked has helped me connect with my roots and embrace my cultural identity in my own unique way.”
But drawing heavily from a culture whose motifs mean so much to so many people can be a tricky situation. Samriddhi believes firmly in being respectful in this regard. She chooses elements that she personally resonates with, rather than forcing connections or mimicking someone else’s culture. This attempt to be genuine and stay true to herself is something she values above all else for herself and her brand. But creating a brand like Unbaked and hoping to build a global appeal is something that she is still figuring out. But she says, “I'm still trying to strike that perfect balance. I want the jewellery to flow seamlessly, without compromising its distinctive style. Finding that harmony between personal expression and global appeal is a work in progress, but I'm determined to figure it out.”
While she figures out the big questions of finding global appeal every day, she is focusing on the smaller goals back home. She is hoping to move to a dedicated studio space for Unbaked so that the business can finally stop taking over her room at home. But in the long term, Samriddhi hopes to do her Master’s in Fashion Management, to come back and build a team to take Unbaked to the next level. She hopes to work with more craft communities directly to create more Unbaked pieces that feature her modern yet culturally rooted designs.
If you’d like to learn more about Unbaked, you can follow them on instagram here.
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