Meet the Maker – Paulomi from Handmade by Tinni
Paulomi Debnath from Handmade by Tinni makes vibrant textile jewellery inspired by her love of colour, her travels and the rich heritage of her birthplace, Kolkata in India. Here Paulomi talks to fellow Folksy maker Monika from Blue Toucan about sustainability, her new zero-waste range, being bold with colour, shape and pattern, and the comfort of repetition that is intrinsic to the craft of knotting. She also opens up her jewellery box to reveal some of the incredible pieces in her own personal collection.
Treat yourself to 10% off Handmade by Tinni and free delivery in the UK with code ‘SAVE10’. Shop here – https://folksy.com/shops/HandmadebyTinni
Handmade by Tinni is all about sustainability and vibrant, bold colour. I want my designs to bring joy, inspire confidence and encourage ethical living.Paulomi, Handmade by Tinni
Hi Paulomi. Could you introduce yourself?
Hello, I’m Paulomi and I am a textile jewellery designer and the face behind Handmade by Tinni. My brand is all about sustainability and vibrant, bold colour. I want my designs to bring joy, inspire confidence and encourage ethical living. I’m based in London and make all my designs from my home studio.
I am a coffee lover, passionate about jewellery (read obsessed!), slightly eccentric, a pretty good cook (Asian mainly and certified by my other half!) and a proud small independent business owner.
I was born in Kolkata, India – a colonial city with a rich heritage and history. Charming and extremely busy, my birth city holds a special place in my heart and I am very proud to have strong roots there. I originally studied sales and marketing and started my career in hotel sales in India. In 2004 I met the love of my life and we got married two years later. Soon after that, I joined my husband in London to start a new chapter of our journey together, where I again worked in hotel sales management.
When I finally set up my own creative business finally in 2020, I drew inspiration from the bright colours of nature, the amazing places I have travelled to over the years and, most importantly, from the rich heritage of India.
I have been on Folksy since 2020 and it has shaped my business and my brand’s presence profoundly. Plus, I absolutely love the Folksy community and fellow makers.
It has been a challenge: managing a creative business while working full time as a senior buyer, a wife and a mother of a 10-year-old boy (who always keeps me on my toes). You constantly need to juggle a busy work and social life with loads of multi-tasking. But with support from my family, I always have been able to overcome that. When it has come to living my dream, I don’t want to resign into a life of missed callings.
I have been on Folksy since 2020 and it has shaped my business and my brand’s presence profoundly. I absolutely love the Folksy community and fellow makers.Paulomi, Handmade by Tinni
What’s the story behind the name? Why Handmade by Tinni?
Tinni is my pet name – it’s the name my family lovingly call me. It’s like my alternate personality: cheeky, colourful and full of fun! When I was searching for an ideal brand name, I really wanted it to represent my soul and my passion for jewellery. AND… I am totally addicted to jewellery. My mum often teases me, saying that I’m building a secret jewellery museum. Being an Indian by origin, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to jewellery. I am extremely proud of my eccentric collection, which is a mix of vintage and contemporary design.
When I started Handmade By Tinni last year, I wasn’t even sure how far I could go with it, because everything was uncertain at the time. But I knew I wanted a brand name that would mirror my passion and my hard work. My designs are handmade, and hence, it’s Handmade by Tinni.
Nothing inspires you more than the multitude of traditional art and craft, the people and textiles from different countries and cultures.Paulomi, Handmade by Tinni
You say you’re inspired by your travels and heritage. Can you tell us more?
I am a bohemian traveller at heart, and I have been very lucky to have travelled to many places over the years due to my work or simply holidays. Nothing inspires you more than the multitude of traditional art and craft, the people and textiles from different countries and cultures.
My birth country, India, will always hold a special place for me, and my art is very influenced by the traditions and festivals that I grew up with. Even our spices evoke emotions and drown your senses with colours. Our century-old sarees and their crafting process would inspire any artist, especially if you are born at the centre of that culture!
Why did you choose to rope knotting as your craft?
There are some who would say you don’t choose the craft, the craft chooses you.
I love the whole look and feel of knotted jewellery but I am also very drawn to the art of repetition. I love the feel of knotting, the comfort of making the same movement over and over, and the oozy happiness when you create something with it. I take great pride in making modern wearable pieces of art using this traditional craft technique.
I’m self-taught in the art of rope knotting and I spent many days perfecting and learning the craft. Even today, I get excited about learning a new knotting technique, which I may or may not be able to use in my upcoming designs, but it is thrilling to do something new. The experimentation of mixing and matching different knots excites me too. Some of these techniques are ones I learned when I was trekking in the Himalayas.
Could you explain your creative process?
I am a dreamer! I dream a design and then work my way to it. Ideas can hit me at any time, so I carry my small sketchbook with my everywhere. It’s full of scribbles and sketches of designs. I also keep an eye on popular colour trends (Pantone has a helpful library of colour palettes to experiment with). Once I have an idea, I play around with the material, colours, different knots and patterns to find the best combination to create a wearable piece – although some of my designs are so intricate they are only for galleries and exhibitions.
I like to find a quiet corner and just get busy with my ropes and accessories. Some days it’s easy and I can make the final design in one go. However, there are days when I need to work longer and harder before I can transform that thought in my mind into a design. Some days, I have to start again from scratch. I guess that’s the life of an artist! It’s the best feeling, though, when you see your idea coming to life exactly how you imagined it.
Who are your artistic heroes and why?
My ultimate rope knotting hero is Windy Chien. She is best known for her 2016 work, The Year of Knots, in which she learned a new knot every day for a year. Her work ranges in size from a knot that can fit in the palm of a child’s hand to room-sized installations that are sought after by private collectors.
I’m also in love with OBJECT-MATTER “O-M”, a Los Angeles-based ceramic and design studio focused on minimal and contemporary design, created by Carrie Lau. Beautiful, modern, abstract art with a bit of chaos and romance.
The colourful, modern and playful designs of Kate Spade have inspired me throughout my adulthood. Such an inspiration and tragic early loss. RIP.
The Nua Nua are another small independent brand, based in Sydney, Australia, that inspires me every day.
Is it important to you that your creative business is environmentally responsible?
My brand is all about sustainability and joyful colour. I believe that doing business ethically is the only way to do business. I am dedicated to creating a legacy of change for a cleaner, greener planet.
Fundamentally every piece I create is made by hand, without using any machines or electricity (except lighting and heating!), and therefore with minimal impact on the environment. I use cotton as my main design medium because it is biodegradable, soft to wear, anti-allergic, colourful and extremely flexible, which allows my imagination flow. I spent a considerable time sourcing the perfect organic variety and the right cotton with lots of colour choices (28 and counting).
My latest collection is made from scrap rope endings to reduce any waste from my materials – I currently have three products in my shop that are based on zero-waste materials. I have also partnered Ecologi to plant 32 trees monthly and assist with reforestation.
Describe your workspace?
My home studio is a bit chaotic. I am constantly spread around the entire house.
I have a desk area where I do all my administrative tasks – adding listing details (certainly not my biggest strength!), PR pitch emails etc.
Then I have my craft area – this is more interesting! In the morning, I work from my dining table where I do all my social media ‘lives’ to connect with my community. I also do all my initial sketches and drawings here. After that I move on to the living room table and floor to take images, as it has the best windows for natural daylight.
Evenings are generally about making time and that happens on our large cosy recliner sofa. I settle down with my cotton ropes, findings, sketchbook and strings on the largest corner, with my feet up and just get lost in making and designing – the best feeling in the world! My poor husband has given up hope of ever recovering his side of the double lounger sofa – he gets the single sofa! We catch up over a drink, crime and thriller series, while I continue making.
I do hope to have my own studio room one day when we can finally have an extra room in the house. Until then, my creative business is truly a ‘kitchen table saga’ and I would like to confirm to all budding artists out there that if you dream of creating something of your own, a kitchen table or a living room is enough to launch a successful business.
Is the rest of your home and your personal jewellery collection is as bold and colourful as your work?
My home is somewhat as eccentric and as colourful as I am. It doesn’t follow any aesthetic rules but as you walk in, you’re greeted with a warm décor that pulls you in with open arms… However, my personal jewellery collection is exactly as bold and as colourful as I am!
I have always been an avid collector of antique and hand-crafted jewellery. Here are some of the pieces from my own collection that are truly treasured and valued antiques. They hold very dear memories for me…
Pic 1: Gifted on my wedding by my Grandmother-in-law, who received this as a wedding gift from her mother-in-law. This armlet is at least 100 years. It is one of my treasured vintage pieces. I am truly humbled to own it.
Pic 2: Another weird-shaped silver piece! This was part of an elaborate Indian anklet. I only received this part and wear it as a choker. Thankfully, I don’t have thick neck!
Pic 3: This was a gift from my mother-in-law. The armlet belonged to her great grandmother. The main piece of the earring is a bit bent as it is part of an armlet (I only got them as those pieces) and I then designed it as a earring pair.
Pic 4: This was an heirloom hair accessory used by aristocratic ladies in a traditional Indian household. I transformed it into a statement neckpiece.
Pic 5: An original piece of antique Afghan jewellery, I bought this necklace and anklet set on a trip to Dubai, from a little shop in the souk. I absolutely love this piece – it’s entirely unique and was very hard to find.
Pic 6: Look at this riot of colours! This awesome piece is from Sorrento in Italy. It features original Italian semi-precious stones and is very heavy but such a head-turner.
Pic 7: An amazing piece given to me from my sister who bought it from a local designer in my home town of Kolkata. I love the colours and simplicity.
Pic 8: This is another gift from my sister and was chosen by my little boy. My darling sister took him to a jewellery exhibition and apparently he wouldn’t leave until my sister bought this necklace for his mumma. He know I would LOVE it.
Pic 9: This is pure silver jhumka. It is extremely dear to me, although it’s quite heavy and not for the faint hearted! Gifted by my Ma.
What does craft mean to you?
Craft is a way of self-expression. Art finds a way to reveal our soul to the world. Craft is that special way we can share our love for art and ultimately express our soul.
We are blessed to have so many varieties of art form and craft choices. I believe everyone should adopt their inner child when creating; free from any worldly views, full of childlike innocence and something that showcases our passion.
Get 10% off Handmade by Tinni (and free delivery within the UK) – add discount code ‘SAVE10’ when you check out
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is Monika from Blue Toucan.
Read more about Monika here – https://blog.folksy.com/2021/10/15/meet-monika-from-blue-toucan
Shop Blue Toucan on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/BlueToucan