Motifs are required for designing any art. Whether it is jewellery, fashion, furniture, textile or visual arts. What are these motifs, the motif can be an idea, an object or creativity, or we can say a motif differs from a theme. So, Motif means a design that consists of recurring shapes or colors, a theme that is elaborated on in a piece of music & unifying idea that is a recurrent element in a literary or artistic work. Motif is a unit of design, a particular motif is used in every design that is selected by designer, so a good designer should always be well informed about art, and current events. It is the designers responsibility to translate the stylist concept, with the help of reference material.
Motifs have played an important role in the designing of Jewellery. Designer has always found a way to usually express his abstract ideas. Motif has always been a driving force in jewellery design. Natural motifs are widely used in entire world. An expertly crafted piece of jewellery can capture forever the life-like qualities of an animal on the run, a bird in flight, blooming flowers, butterflies, insects or fish. Such jewellery remains a perennial favourite, never seeming to go out of style.
Indian Jewellery reveals an amazing variety of motif and designs which depict the unceasing process if evaluation in Indian jewellery/ornaments. Most of jewellery have floral and figurative motifs. These motifs have been taken from nature and surrounding environment.
Nothing can out do the simplicity of traditional Indian motifs. When it comes to jewellery designing, the 'aam' or paisley, the floral patterns, the peacock and the curvaceous creeper, top the list as they can easily and beautifully blend in with. "Traditional designs are popular with women. The Indian culture is very relative to the Indian women; even a woman who dresses up in western wear holds the Indian traditions quite close to her heart, which is why even contemporary designs do have traditional motifs. Traditional designs add character to the entire Indian ensemble and they are a statement by themselves."
Jewelry designers are reinterpreting paisleys found in embroidery fabrics and lace motifs of this time period. They are spinning these looks, which range from richly ornate and colorful to embellished yet subtle, into gold with diamond and gemstone accents.
Floral Motifs: Floral motifs have been the most common and best selling pieces for past several years. A design with floral or other plants can be more realistic and stylized in compare of other forms. The Floral design is among the popular motifs in Indian jewellery. The ear ornament, Kanphool, is in the shape of a blooming Motia flower and is a symbol of happiness and prosperity. The Pipal patra (leaf), of Northern India and Gujarat, has a central motif of leaf from which bunches of finely shaped Pipal leaves cascade. It is a symbol of auspicious occasions and abundance.
The Champa, Jasmine flower, is symbolic of fertility. The Champakali motif is a jasmine bud shaped necklace. Each pendant in the shape of a bud is strung together on a thread.
Gajra and Paunchi are worn on the wrist and these too are floral motifs. The Gajra is made in gold and pearls. From a distance they appear as if the base of intertwined gold wire is of golden grass. Paunchi is made of a number of pieces in the shape of a flower. These are strung together and made into a bracelet.
Animal Motifs: Animal motifs are "hot" in the US, with butterflies the best seller. Jewellers try to make animal designs as realistic as possible. "Black, pink, yellow and blue are currently the most popular colours for this type of motif."
Animal and bird motifs have been a favorite with the Indian craftsmen through centuries. It has been a distinct feature of Indian jewellery and has not been seen anywhere else in the world.
The bracelets which have heads of lion and elephants too have their own significance. Lions stand for strength, courage and sovereignty, while the Elephants stand for strength, visibility, calmness and gentleness. Makar (crocodile) Signifies life force of the water and parrot signifies love because lord
Kamdevas chariot is drawn by parrot. Among the south Indian jewellery, the Kirtimukha (lion faced) motif is very popular. The mythical bird gandabherunda (two heads and body) is a beautiful piece of art.
Peacock motif too is eye catching as the royal bird is intertwined in the form of a gorgeous diamond studded necklace, earrings and finger ring that is contemporary in its appeal yet has flashes of the eternally traditional motif.
Motifs of Fish make beautiful ornaments of the Head, Neck ear ornaments. It represents the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and is also one of the eight auspicious symbols, signifying abundance since fish breeds fast. Serpent is the most favorite motif adopted by jewellers all over India. It symbolizes the eternity of cyclic time because of its capacity to discard its skin and its apparent immortality. It also stands symbolic of courage, quick and violent potency.
Galaxy Motifs: Sun motif is very popular in ornaments. The sun represents infinite knowledge and is a personification of cosmic order. It also signifies majestic & royal personality.
Moon, stars and crescents have also been widely used in ornaments meant for head and ear. Moon is symbols of gladness and coolness. Crescents is preferable to the full orb as the crescent represents the noblest sacrificer who offers himself day by day to be beaten up by the celestial gods to sustain themselves by him ambrosial digito.
Mughal Motifs: The Mughal patronage of the jewellery brought distinct changes to the art of jewellery making. The Hindu designs were gently modified to incorporate various geometrical and floral designs.
Hindu jewellery depicts scenes from the ancient scriptures and gods and goddesses formed the main themes. But since the depiction of human figures is prohibited in Islam, the existing art of engraving figures took a back seat. These gave way to floral and animal designs.
The combination of crescent and stem dominated the Muslim jewellery. Earrings had a small stem at the top of a crescent from which was suspended a fish, which further led to a bunch of pearls. These became a regular feature of the Mughal jewellery.
Besides the above stated symbols and motifs, there have been various other objects to be used such as the Zodiac signs, organizational signs & Geometrical symbols, occupational symbols, monograms & logos, fraternal good motifs and source of design, If a designer thinks with an open mind he can realize a deep concept or theme in every art form and the same way he can incorporate & express a variety of themes & motifs in jewellery designs. Magazines, Catalogues, Books, Photographs, visits to jewellery stores, exhibitions & museums are some other useful sources to generate new motifs, but Flowers, Sun, Moon, Stars, birds & animals are frequently used in Indian Jewellery. The heavenly bodies have been source of awe and inspiration for human since time immemorial and no wonder these found a way into jewellery too.
The author is Asst. Professor of Jewellery Design.