Neha Dani is an artist with a deep connection to her innermost emotions. And she translates her inspirations into sculptural forms and three-dimensional silhouettes that make her designs unique – like poetic compositions. Her design process is meditative and begins with her carving out the details with her favourite medium – jeweller’s wax.
An art form that is dwindling in popularity in a world driven by digital design, Neha learnt the art of wax carving at GIA, in California. Instead of following the prevalent path of designing with computer-aided software, she discovered the joy of experimenting with form, using her hands and a carver’s tools.
Wax carving allows me to think as I work. You can make more organic shapes that are hard to achieve with traditional sheet metal and wire. My intricately detailed designs can be meticulously worked and re-worked on wax, like a sculptor working with stone or clay.
An ancient tradition in jewellery making that goes back 6000 years, the work starts with a block of wax which is a compound that allows filing and shaping. The wax comes in different colours based on hardness. Neha works a lot with green wax which is very hard, it can’t be flexed but is ideal for sharp edges and for intricate carvings and delicate engraving – a constant trademark of her jewels are the intricacies, which are first detailed on wax. Her workshop table also has blue and purple wax which have different degrees of flexibility for various details.
Neha and her team of craftsmen design, experiment and create with the wax until they get the design just right–cutting away, adding on or removing – continuing to perfect the design until they have a wax model that’s just right for casting. Using fine tools to saw, file, chisel and carve, fine miniature sculptures in the shapes of petals, leaves, feathers or abstract shapes take form, almost magically.
It’s a laborious and skill-intensive process that I enjoy immensely. It allows me to visualize in many layers which make my designs so intricate.
Once she is satisfied with her creation, the wax models are sent to her designated workshops around the world to be cast in a metal of her choice – gold or titanium and then studded with precious gemstones that she selects herself from the best sources.
As a young artist Neha is a treading the more difficult path of wax-carving over computer aided design because she believes that this part of her creative process has been crucial to the way she has envisaged each piece. She continuously mentors her team of craftsmen, challenging them with new ideas that need to be sculpted in wax. The collaboration within this team at her workshop in Delhi and the manufacturing studios across the world – which transform wax to precious metal for the final pieces – is a journey of dedication to an artform that should be preserved.