The art of casting of the expressions of hands and feet in metal finishes like gold, silver, bronze and framing them to make memorable keepsakes for life is a niche form of sculpture. Enterprising pioneer Bhavna Jasra introduced First Impression, and with an enviable and exclusive clientele ranging from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bal Thackeray, to Bollywood celebrities like Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone to cricketers and industrialists, she has been on a roll.
She has been honoured with the prestigious central government backed Stree Shakti Award for Excellence in Innovation in a Creative Field and also awards for her entrepreneurship on several prestigious platforms including the recent ‘I Am Woman’ platform. She takes pride that her organisation is empowered by all women employees, who have helped her build her company from strength to strength over the last 17 years. Excerpts from the interview:
How did this niche art form crystalise as your profession?
3D casting is a very beautiful extension in preserving the actual feel of the relationship. The fact that this concept did not exist in India made me all the more determined to launch First Impression and turn my passion into my all-time profession. During a visit to my friend’s place in London, I chanced upon a frame with her baby’s tiny feet and was so mesmerised by the concept I thought to myself that this is so new to India and it is most appropriate for people like us who are emotionally charged.
What is the formal training you took to learn this art?
I landed at the London studio, which had made my friend’s baby’s feet, the very next day, and when I finally met the artist, I asked her if she would teach me the art form. After an hour of negotiation and paying a hefty franchise fee, we convinced her to take me on as an apprentice. I launched First Impression on the 11th day after the birth of my daughter Tia, and I’ve never looked back.
How did you reach out to people, initially?
I got my first client in the hospital where I gave birth to Tia, when I took the cast of my newborn’s hands and feet. My friends were amazed and soon became patrons of my work. Naturally, the word kept spreading due to the novelty of my art. To share an instance of when Anjali Tendulkar first decided to have an impression customised. It was when she wanted to welcome Sachin Tendulkar home after the 2003 Cricket World Cup with something special. That is when she spotted my work on the walls of her friend’s house and welcomed home the proud father with impressions of their children. My customer base has built organically since the personalised pieces I make emote the correct aesthetics.
What were the challenges you faced?
For customising impressions, it is very important for me to meet the clients personally and understand their feelings behind making this impression. I also see and evaluate the space in which the piece will be displayed, so that everything is in perfect sync. The Impressions are taken in a specialised mousse that sets in seconds so I have to be quick in action, and then it requires multiple processes over the next few days before the final product takes shape. The 3D casts can be plated with any material of one’s choice, according to one’s budget — bronze, silver, pearls, gold, along with various accessories and pictures. Every little detail is given attention to. Teakwood is used for frames and the materials are said to be non-toxic. I ensure that the final masterpiece is flawless, and this itself is challenging, considering how much work we do and the travel involved.
What keeps you going?
An inherent part of my creative process is to meet people, gauge their lives and tastes through conversations and make aesthetic frames, which aren’t chosen from a brochure. Emotions are really important to me, which translate into my work. The frame has to call out to you.
Despite the challenges involved, the love and passion I have for my work and the gratification I get from my clients keeps me going. This product satisfies your heart, soul and mind ultimately making my product a winner.
How do you keep up with the change in the industry?
In keeping with today’s luxury market I use Swarovski crystals and diamonds along with gold. We have come up with the innovative “Royal Baby Series”. These are masterpieces embellished with original Swarovski figurines to match the expressions of the hands and feet of the little ones. We customise silk backdrops with the baby’s name on a personalised monogram bejeweled with Swarovski crystals. A dedicated photoshoot adds to the final finishing of the masterpieces created.
A moment that gave you utmost pride in having chosen this field?
I felt real pride in casting Prime Minister Modi’s hand print, because it was a huge opportunity for me to interact with him.
Who is the one person left whose impression you would wish to cast?
I would ideally love to cast the impressions of the Dalai Lama. I am highly inspired by his teachings and the aura of positivity and wit that surrounds him.
What is your advice for aspiring artists?
Be brave and follow your heart if this profession speaks to you. Remember, emotions are very important, which will translate into your work. Learn your craft, prioritize quality over everything.