Written by Olivia Patt
Photos and illustrations by Amarpaul Kalirai
23 Saturday 23rd July 2011

Before Superfertile, you worked in advertising. What made you decide to move into the world of jewellery design?

I was an art and design student graduating from Central Saint Martins. There was always a yearning in me to use my skills in bringing awareness, raise questions and tackle global issues, to make wearable art that pushed form, design and reason. I soon quit my job and came back to London and started Superfertile. To create a label; something that was precious, artistic, political and forward thinking. It's not always easy going against the grain, but I'm making up my own rules as I go along. I answer to no one. So it's very liberating. I do what I want to and it's really wonderful that people respect and recognise my work. It makes it all worthwhile. I didn't start this to make a lot of money, I just wanted to reflect my views and make some change, put the question of morals out there. I'm interested in right and wrong. People's opinions are so important. I'm here on this planet. I'm living in these times and I create what I see and feel. I'm the voice of the underdogs, the silenced victims being buried alive.

Murder, Autumn 2011

Each season’s offering is so different and unexpected - what’s your biggest influence when creating your collections?

Life, I watch a lot of news. I don't look at the past for inspiration. I just feel and throw myself into something that angers or upsets me. Issues that may have been there for [some] time, or be quite current. If I'm troubled I begin my research into the subject, sometimes for months.

It's quite spontaneous; it’s just me doing the designs. I don't have a team of people telling me what I should do and what’s good for me next. I usually know how everything will look and work immediately, including the end lookbook images. They are worked out in seconds. Then I sit and wait to see if I need to change anything, usually I change nothing. There is no muse, no experimentation with background materials. No accidents. No surprises. I usually go to production companies that I feel are right for the collection. It is important to be fluid, and [have] freedom when I am creative. If I stay with the same production, I start to hear “No, we can't do this, no this is not possible" so the secret to getting my crazy ideas done is I guess I keep them wanting my business.

The biggest influence is our world. The frustrations of [being] unable to make things better for those who are not in a position to speak out, reach out to the people in power, make them listen. The drive I have to get to the end of a collection is the hope it may bring some awareness and importance to the issue I'm talking about and the cause.

Crash, Summer 2010

One of your more unusual collections might be The Real Super Stars, where you created portrait pieces of various inventors. What made you want to do it, and why these particular inventors?

I wanted to make our future generations get excited about creating and improving the world for the better. We use all these inventions yet we don't know who the inventors are. So I thought maybe if I make them superstars, the young kids might be inspired to do something more than sing and act. I just wanted to pay tribute to the shapers of society whilst they were alive. John

Shepperd Barron, he invented the ATM machine and PIN. He passed away a few years after I did the collection. He actually gave me photos of himself because I didn't have any good enough images. There were only a few tiny photos of him on the Internet, so I wrote to him, asking if I could have his photos to do a casting of his head. I created 3D heads with a sculptor in Japan, then in India we made moulds and made the jewels. It was the most touching as he was aware of my collection.

Alex Jeffery, the inventor of DNA finger printing is also a friend of Superfertile, after I sent him a link to my website. We use these inventors’ inventions everyday and their ideas have given us more and more possibilities and technologies. It's a domino effect. It's how we build our future. Not through singing and acting. There should be public rewards and encouragement, and support to inventions that will benefit all our lives and the lives of generations to come. I wanted to shine light on the scientists.

The Real Super Stars, Summer 2009

Your jewellery obviously has a political and social conscience, making you quite an unusual designer. Are there any other designers out there at the moment that you admire?

I admire Alexander Mc Queen, it's with deep sadness and regret that I continue my work, never really having the chance to work with him. His work is just outstanding. His shows are perfection and so exciting. Designs that makes you feel like a queen. I think I haven’t found many who meet his standard of work. He really raised the bar on fashion. I try to do the same with my jewels. Conceptual artists such as Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin and everyone who I stalk on the internet.

Crash, 2010

My favourite collection is Crash - I love the idea of wearing the worst effects of the recession around your neck. Which collection is your personal favourite?

I like Murder because it works with the body. It has to be worn on the body to work. I also like Crash. Pie charts and bar charts. But Tourism was my lucky collection. It’s the one where I took all the risks. I tested it out. I'm glad it worked but I was petrified to unleash something so new and strange to the world. I was ready to be slated but the New York Times came to my living room and exposed it to the world. So, it's nice of them. But I think I'm proud of all of them. I worked on them day and night. It's my blood, sweat and tears. Each one is special to me. They are my children. You cannot ask me which one is my personal favourite. But right now, my newest baby Murder is my pride and joy.

Murder, Autumn 2011

Does any specific collection stand out to you as having a particularly important message?
I think Hunger and Murder are important, as these problems have been around for so long, and we can actually prevent and solve them. You basically stop spending money on wars and build some sustainable food and water storage and build a system in Africa that works long-term even in droughts and wars.

Violence, horrors of wars, killings, these subjects are so dated.  We need to find a better way to resolve our problems in a civilised way. And solve hunger issues around the world. We have the money and power to do that.

Hunger, Spring 2009

You moved from Sri Lanka to London at a young age. Do you see more of Sri Lanka or more of London in your work?

I see the world in my work. I'm a child of the world. But this last collection, Murder was created in a passion, a drive within me. I felt like I was possessed by the ghosts of the Tamils in Sri Lanka who were murdered. I couldn't rest, they haunted me, the images of their deaths haunt me. I am merely a vehicle, they control me. What I created, what I say about this collection, all comes from them. They won’t leave me alone. When they get the murderers, then they will leave me alone. The Sri Lankan government committed war crimes, killing innocent civilians.

The murdered Tamils number almost 70,000, in a few months in 2009; it's their ghosts, the ghosts of the civilians who met their violent ends, their torture and rapes, that has possessed me. They won't let me rest, they won't rest till those murderers are punished. My voice belongs to the Tamil people right now. I speak for the Sri Lankan Tamils. They ask [for] the Sri Lankan Government [to be] punished for the war crimes. To be brought to the stand. Their lives, they want their murders to be counted. Their souls will only rest when all the world leaders we have elected to prevent such horrors, the human rights organisations, and the UN, peace keepers, and all the people who can do something in making a small change to help the Tamils who met their violent ends. Their lives are equal to ours. They want justice.


And finally, anything exciting in the pipeline?  Here as Don’t Panic we’ve been seeing a lot of art and design using human by-products such as nails and hair lately – tempted? 

I think I can only do what the good spirits of the world want me to do. So you’ll have to see what possesses me next.

Check out Superfertile’s Murder collection here, and to see the rest of Kali’s work visit

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