It's not easy to describe Arpana Rayamajhi, and actually, I think she prefers it that way. She is a multihyphenate being that has been described as a jewelry maker, model, musician, and painter who can be seen looking enviably gorgeous on Instagram and in various magazines.
Arpana welcomed our crew into her home in Manhattan as though we were all long lost friends. She is a nimble conversationalist bouncing between topics that are barely connected in content or tone easily, keeping us a captive audience. She is wickedly funny and cheeky one moment and dead serious and passionate the next. Smart, soulful, and utterly sincere, we had a delightful afternoon getting to know this uplifting human being.
Can you start by introducing yourself?
Sure. My name is Arpana Rayamajhi. I’m from Katmandu, Nepal. I was born and raised there, and I’ve been living in New York for about seven years now.
And what do you do?
I like to think I’m an artist. At the moment, I am focusing predominantly on jewelry, but I like to think I’m a jack of all trades, master of some. My background in music and art has helped me with my jewelry practice. So I kind of see myself in a more multidisciplinary way rather than just as a jewelry designer.
What inspires you when you’re designing your jewelry? What is your process?
Music is always very important. I can’t make any work without music. I love what I do, but if there’s no music, I get very, very bored. I would say that I’m very lucky because I’m inspired by everything. I love art. I love film, some books. So I feel like inspiration is endless, in that sense, I’m very lucky because if it wasn’t, I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing right now.
So walk me through how you make a piece from beginning to end.
The way I go about making anything is I have an idea in my head already. It’s fully formed in some ways, and I start working with different materials. Materials for me are not limited to what one would consider just for jewelry. I use synthetic hair. I use erasers. I’ve used, I mean, anything and everything that I can find that can inspire me. So, generally, the process is pretty simple. I put on music. I have an idea in my head and I just go with it.
That sounds fun.
It’s actually a lot of fun.
You hand make all your jewelry, is that right?
Yes. But that model is going to change very soon because the demand for my work is not allowing me enough time to make everything on my own. However, I would still like to keep that one-of-a-kind model for my jewelry because it’s initially what inspired me to work in the first place. I wanted to own and wear things that I only had in the entire world, the entire universe.
And, tell me a little bit about your recent collaboration with Australian Diamonds?
It was one of the most challenging projects I have ever undertaken. Diamonds with a Story is the name of the project, and there were six designers selected to make a capsule collection for the project. All the diamonds can be traced from the mine to the suppliers, so it’s as ethical as it can get. Being able to produce work where I am being as responsible as I can be—I don’t think anybody can be 100 percent ethical really, but that’s what we’re striving for.
So this project was featuring these beautiful, gorgeous, Australian diamonds that can be traced from the mine to the market. And it was a really interesting project because I’d never actually worked with diamonds before. I went straight from working with beads to diamonds. So it was very, very, very challenging in many ways, but I could not be happier with the results.
How would you describe your personal style. Where do you find the pieces that you wear?
I’ve been asked how I would describe myself and my style many times. I think the most sincere answer that I’ve come up with very recently is that I’m going through a phase. Ever since I was young, I always really loved traditional ethnic things. I don’t mean something that just was sacred. And I’ve always loved jewelry and hair ornaments and patterns.
I’d like to think my style is a reflection of my interests outside of clothes that I think look good style is a reflection of one’s self — as cliché as that sounds. I think it’s a way for me to not fit in. And it’s not forceful. It actually becomes an extension of your personality. I think style is not just about looking good or hot and sexy. I want it to be fun. I want it to be sincere. And, I want it to be a reflection of myself.
You have such confidence in your sense of self, in your style. Do you know where that comes from? Can you give any advice to young girls who are struggling to find that confidence in themselves?
Well, first of all, thank you. I’ve been through so many different things in my life, and I’ve tried so many different forms of art making, for the lack of better words. In the last eight years or so, I lost my mom, and I think confronting her death was a more holistic experience than just losing somebody. I think it started making me realize my own mortality and that I didn’t have enough time, probably not as much time as I like to think I have, to live. With that understanding, came this desire to be sincere and live a fuller life because the concept of yourself and the world completely crumbles and you have nothing left. You’re faced with your own limitations, and you’re faced with your own potential. And that feeling of I had nothing to hide; it was very scary back then. But in retrospect, I’m very happy because it really allowed me to spend a lot of time with myself. I think when I spent a lot of time with myself is when I started figuring out how to be more myself and less a version of what I think I should be.
I think New York really helped me in that process, especially with style. New Yorkers are actually nice and care about each other, [but] everyone’s really busy and they don’t have the time to sit back and be like, “Oh, let me look at this thing.” Unless they’re really, really into it. The sense of freedom of not being watched all the time gave me more freedom in my mind to wear what I wanted to wear without having to conform to a standard.
Living in a city where there are so many people, what was I going to do to stand out? Not in an attention-craving way, but if I moved so far to live in New York, why would I want to be lost? So I think with finding myself, came finding my work and also my style. When a person finds themself, their work gets better.
That’s lovely. Thank you for sharing that. My next question was going to be, what does the future hold for you?
A lot of change, a lot of uncertainty. But one thing that is certain is that as long as I’m healthy and have the opportunity to make work, I will continue making work, whether it’s jewelry, whether it’s paintings.I really believe in investing one’s energy in building something gets better with time. I don’t know if people are going to be interested in me in a month or two. I don’t know where my work is going to go in terms of popularity and visibility, But, the one thing that is certain is that I’m going to continue making work, and I’ll do my best.
*this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Photography: Lee O'Connor
Video: Laura Jones
Video Editor: Antalya Atkinson
Make-Up: Chichi Saito
Hair: Kiri Yoshiki
Words and Styling: Laura Jones