It's always impossible to predict what designer Kali Arulpragasam will dream up next for Super Fertile, her line of jewelry. In the past her imagination has bounced from casting rice and beans in silver and gold to mounting mini statues of endangered species on knuckle dusters. Her new collection, The Real Super Stars takes the heads of the world's most prolific inventors and makes them into gigantic good luck charms. The London-based designer comes from an advertising background and sees her jewelry as a vehicle for musings on the world at large. We talked to Arulpragasam about billboards and DNA fingerprinting, and what people will make of her work 500,000 years from now.
How did Super Fertile come about?
It came about because I was in advertising and wanted to do something completely different. In advertising you create these things that hang on a billboard for a week. I wanted to make something lasting that had a meaningful message behind it. You know something they’ll dig up in 500,000 years and the message will still be valid and show how people were living at this time.
What attracted you to jewelry in the first place?
It’s my calling. When I was working in advertising, I was always figuring out how to make a more intimate connection, a more personal communication. To me jewelry is one of the oldest form of adornment—without even opening your mouth we can tell what kind of person this person is. You can tell their religion, whether they’re single or they’re married. You can tell if they’re wealthy or they’re poor, young or old.
It’s like a personal billboard.
Yeah, it is. It is. And for me it’s perfect because I have such a broad audience and I want to reach out to everyone with these messages.
With the Superstars, I went into a little bit of scarf painting too. They are hand-panted by the local artists in India. It’s funny because I lived in NY and I hung out with artists and wherever you go they’re all the same. They hang out in a lofts with paint all over the walls and they don’t eat.
Tell me more about process behind Superstars.
I think the most difficult part was to get images of these inventors.
How and why did you narrow it down to ten inventors?
Because I had to stop somewhere. I think ten was a good number to show the variety of the everyday objects and things we use almost every day. Eight out of the ten inventors are still alive apart from Garrett Morgan with the traffic light and Christiaan Bernard, the heart surgery. Kumar Patel, he’s a professor at UCLA, who invented the medical laser that we do all the operations on these days. Alec Jeffreys, he’s the DNA fingerprinter. He developed that in 1984. These guys, we don’t even know their names, but they have touched every single life on this planet. It’s so important to me that these people are recognized while they’re alive and not when they’re on the back page of an obituary somewhere. All we care about now is if Kate Moss is putting weight on.
Have the inventors seen the collection yet?
I don’t know yet if they’ve seen it. I think I’ve emailed them saying it’s up there. I hope they like it. John Shepherd, the inventor of the ATM machine did ask me for some jewelry to give to his family and friends, which is really sweet.