Harvinder Keila was thrown for a loop when she became a stay-at-home mom to a newborn daughter who had colic the first nine months of her life.
But within a few years, long after the problem had resolved itself, she felt blessed to have had a “difficult” baby, because it focused her creativity, brought her inner strength and led to a promising career in jewelry.
Keila had dabbled in making jewelry and selling it on Etsy before her daughter was born. In 2008, she’d taken a metalsmithing class; she loves, she says, hammering rings. “It was a fun hobby,” she says.
But her profession had been in environmental science.
Preparing for her daughter’s birth, she closed her home jewelry workshop and thought she’d get back to it much later.
Keila had left her full-time job, too.
In her unfamiliar role as a stay-at home mom with a crying infant, she found herself off balance and uncharacteristically unmotivated.
But her scholarly curiosity was intact.
As a child growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Canada, she hadn’t had much exposure to her Indian heritage. So she decided to spend what time she had studying Indian history, inspired by stories her grandfather had told her.
“I found a book with a lot of shields and swords made out of gold and ruby and emeralds and engraved with beautiful animal imagery. Something connected. I felt like if I wore something that represented protection, like a shield or a sword, then maybe I’d feel strength or balance within me.”
She was inspired to create a distinctive double-headed horse pendant that represented her and her daughter. Each horse head was equal in size. The piece felt protective to her and just knowing it existed already made her feel better.
“The problem was I didn’t know how to make such a complicated piece,” she says.
A caster she knew recommended a wax carver. “I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had created or thought of,” she says.
She held onto it for a while and in her search for a manufacturer, she found Victor Velyan’s website and learned that he produces jewelry for select, emerging designers.
She went to see him.
“I was so intimidated because he has this python in his office that is 6 feet long,” she says. “He has these parrots. And huge dogs, really, really, tall dogs, all black. I was a little scared when I walked in there. All I had was this wax carving of this horse pendant. He said, 'Give it to me, I’ll take care of it.' We worked together for two years, talking about manufacturing and the art of design and keeping things unique. I saw him maybe once a month and he was literally my mentor in those 10 to 15 minutes a month.”
Velyan says he admires Harvinder’s dedication to her craft.
“Life is always a challenge and it always will be, but I know how to find strength inside me.” — Harvinder Keila
“She has an incredible work ethic, and from the very moment she started designing, she has worked incredibly hard and has refused to give up on achieving her goals. That kind of determination is going to serve her well now and in the future.”
After she’d made about 20 pieces, Velyan suggested she apply to the JCK Rising Star program in 2014.
"I got it! JCK Rising Star. I was amazed and happy and shocked and I felt like I received this difficult child as a blessing.
"Ever since then I have felt acknowledged and happy and I wanted to keep going in this direction. I got into branding and everything came together, and the collections kept growing."
She had found her balance, along with protection, strength and clarity, which her jewelry represents.
But, as she began to think about the future of her business, she knew competition was tough, and her sales skills limited.
So, resourceful as ever, she landed a job in sales in the Neiman Marcus jewelry department, where she worked for a year.
In particular, she learned which brands appealed to which types of people.
After the sales job, she began to develop the Bindi Collection and found the confidence to begin telling her story in an artistic way. She enlisted a model and a film producer and made a short film for her website to begin to tell the story of her brand.
Although her jewelry has been available intermittently in stores, Keila has sold her work primarily by meeting people who connect with her story -- cancer survivors, new moms and the divorced; people like her, who are trying to find strength.
Her latest collection, Bindi, represents both her nickname and a symbol – the red dot – that shows inner strength in the Indian tradition. “When I realized how meaningful my nickname was, I was inspired to create a collection around it,” she says. “Bindis are beautiful and their symbolism should be shared.”
When she thought about what it would look like she envisioned the red dot not as a ruby but as the perfect shade of red enamel.
Again, she sought out an expert, working with enamelist Sinork Agdere of Lord Jewelry in Los Angeles, a kindred soul. “When I work with enamel,” Agdere has said, “I am reminded that life is colorful and joyful.”
The pieces are also accented with diamonds, but otherwise are the epitome of simplicity. “They stand out because they’re so simple,” Keila says.
With the Bindi Collection, she wants to emphasize the importance of slowing down to reflect and devote more time to self, which leads to inner peace.
“When humans need strength to move on, it’s always found inside,” she says. “Life is always a challenge and it always will be, but I know how to find strength inside me.”
This story is an INSTORE Online extra.