Although Amita Bhalla was always artistic, it wasn’t until her 40s that she made the deliberate choice to dedicate time to making jewelry and other art. That choice changed her life, taking her around the world and helping her share her creativity with hundreds of people. She joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about her creative practice, how it complements her work as a physician, and how her art wound up on a door in Valloria, Italy. Read the episode transcript below.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. Today, my guest is Amita Bhalla. Amita is a board-certified physician as well as a jewelry designer and founder of the jewelry line Amita Bhalla Jewelry. Today, she’ll tell us about her own jewelry journey and the lessons and inspiration we can take from it. Amita, welcome to the program.
Amita: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so glad to be here.
Sharon: I’m so glad to connect with you. Can you tell us about your jewelry journey? It’s such an interesting combination, being a physician and a jewelry designer. How did that come about?
Amita: Well, I can’t take much credit for that. I think it was genetically wired that way for me. My mother and mothers of the family are doctors and scientists. My father is very artistic and he is a commercial artist, so I had that in my genes. Growing up, I always knew in my heart I wanted to be a doctor, but I had the artistic side that I expressed. As I went along with my career, training to become a physician and then residency and practice, I often went back to my artistic roots whenever I felt the need to take some time out for myself from the busyness of it all. My 30s were really busy with getting educated and starting a career, but then in my 40s, it became more deliberate.
Sharon: I couldn’t hear it. Say it again.
Amita: Deliberate. My going back to art was not just time to rest, but it was more deliberate. I wanted to make it intentionally. I sought to carve out time to go back to art because I realized that was the missing piece for me. Even though I had accomplished all my academic dreams, my career dreams—I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful family—I still felt like the self-love part of my life was missing. I think that a lot of women can connect with that because we are intrinsic givers. I realized art, for me, was so fulfilling and such a joy to make that I started making it for myself, for my friends as gifts. This was about six years ago. Then it was word of mouth; people asked me to make custom pieces for them. Two years ago—actually in 2018, in the fall—I decided to launch my jewelry line, and that’s how it came about. It was a journey towards self-nurturing and self-care and self-love.
Sharon: I’m amazed that you found time to launch a jewelry line, being a doctor and a mother. There’s so much on your plate already. It’s amazing to me.
Amita: Thank you. I think it’s in all of us to do something we’ve always dreamed of. It’s scary to take that first step. It was scary for me, and there were all these questions, like would people even want to buy my jewelry, spend their hard-earned money to purchase what I’m creating. There are all these insecurities. I love the name of the podcast, because I felt like the creation of my business and exposing my art to the world has been very cathartic and has healed a lot of my wounds related to low self-esteem and all of that, because art was something I didn’t want to share with the world.
A friend of mine, my childhood friend, wanted a painting for his wedding and I said, “Yes, I will,” but I didn’t feel like my painting was good enough to gift for their wedding. I always painted over my canvases and kept them in my garage or just put them in my house. I never felt like my art was good enough. I’ve had to work through a lot, heal a lot of my wounds. Art has helped me do that, specifically in launching my brand on a world stage and being O.K. with it. I make it because it gives me joy and that’s it. I just leave it out there, and if it helps me connect with somebody who purchases it or wants to know more about it, like you are doing right now, that’s the cherry on top. That’s an extra gift. It’s helped me connect with so many amazing people, like you and your audience. If it inspires somebody to pick up something they’re thinking of doing that is fulfilling to them, then I feel it energetically creates ripples of joy in the world.
Sharon: That’s interesting. Most of the people I’ve talked to on the podcast feel the same way you do exposing their art. I don’t think about that so much, because I don’t want to hear about people who won’t read their poetry or their short stories. I relate to that a lot more as opposed to, here’s a piece of art that’s open with a trench coat, in a way. Was there a certain catalyst that made you say it’s time to launch? Can you think back?
Amita: It was not to do with jewelry making. The catalyst was my invitation I received to paint a door in Italy. Again, I had never dreamed that big for myself. I had a very good friend, one of my best friends, Isabelle, who lived in Monaco. She was one of those special ones, just had a zeal for life and for art and to connect with people. She and I met serendipitously, and it instantly became one of those connections where you just know, like your souls have known each other before in a previous lifetime; it was instantaneous. Anyhow, Isabelle, unfortunately, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. She was doing well, and she and I always talked about doing a trip together when she could travel again. So, in 2017, it was time for that trip because she was doing good. She planned this trip for us, so I went to Monaco. Unfortunately, two days before I went there, she got sick again and was in the hospital, so of course I was with her a lot in the hospital.
Before I came back to the U.S., she said, “There’s one place I had planned for us to go that I need you to go to,” and it was Valloria. It’s a town of painted doors. It’s perched on a little hillock with olive trees overlooking the Mediterranean in Italy. Of course I insisted I didn’t want to go because I wanted to spend it with her; it was my last day there, but she said I had to do it for her. So, I go reluctantly to this town, and oh my gosh, time stood still when I went there. Every door to the houses in this town has been painted by an artist from Italy, Europe, different parts of the world. I was mesmerized. There are no cars in this town; it’s like stopping time. There’s one restaurant and children and people walking, views of the Mediterranean, olive trees and beautiful churches. It took my breath away, and it dawned on me that Isa, which I lovingly called her, wanted me to go there because I was going through a dry spell with my painting. I hadn’t painted in so long, and she wanted to jump start my creativity again and, boy, did it do that for me.
I was so grateful that she planned that for me. We said our good-byes, and I came home and started painting again. I made a big canvas painting inspired by my time in Valloria. Sadly, my friend passed away in the fall of 2017, but before she went, every time we spoke, she used to say to me, “You don’t have a door in Valloria yet,” and I just laughed it off. She kept mentioning that to me, and I thought “Why?”. Why would she think I could do something like that? It was almost silly, and I just laughed it off.
I was working through this painting in the fall of that year, and I used to show glimpses of that painting to her every time we video chatted. That literally was the first painting I finished and shared with my little world, so to speak, on Facebook, and I got quite a response. That was my first, “Wow, people actually liked this painting” moment. That was the first time it was my own style; I hadn’t copied another artist or been inspired by another artist. I was just inspired by my time in Valloria, by life, by Isa, by love, by colors. It was the first time I was actually in that meditative state when I painted, like a real channel between heaven and earth. I was so grateful. I felt so blessed that people loved that painting.
Right after that, one of Isa’s very good friends saw the painting, and she reminded me of Isa’s wish for me, which was to paint a door in Valloria. She said, “Amita, you have to find out how to do that.” Because of that conversation, I emailed the people of this town and said, “How does one go about painting a door there?” They said it was a jury process. You have to send your portfolio and they choose artists from different parts of the world. They choose two every year. Of course, I don’t have a portfolio, I don’t have formal training, so I just selected a few pictures on my phone and emailed them, and I got a response two weeks later saying I was one of the artists chosen in 2018.
As you can imagine, I couldn’t wrap my head around it for a long time, but in July of 2018, fourth of July weekend, I was there with my family and some friends I had made through Isabelle from Monaco, and two videographers from France who followed the journey of me painting the door. I was there in Valloria, painting this door at the door painting festival. They have thousands of people coming from neighboring villages who were watching while I was painting. I was one of those painters who needed a quiet space and was so shy to share my work, and here I was, doing it in front of hundreds and thousands of people. That was the moment it cracked open this creative side of me, and it came out in a very, very bold manner. I felt so much joy that weekend: the joy of connecting with people over art, food and good wine that was flowing—the wine made in Valloria, the food they cooked there that they were sharing with us. Even though we didn’t understand the language, we connected over art. It’s the door, the painting on the door, that brought us together. On so many levels, it was such a big lesson for me, and I found it so fulfilling. I felt this divine sense of connection to the source. I just knew I had to create and share, and that was my calling in life.
Sharon: The joy and fulfillment you get from the creativity, the jewelry, the art, does it differ from what you feel being a physician? I presume that you get a lot of fulfillment from that.
Sharon: How does it differ?
Amita: That’s a great question. For me, it’s a 3D versus 5D thing. I get a lot of gratitude to be able to serve others and to take care of people’s health. I’m so grateful to be put in the position of serving, and my patients giving me love back and being grateful for my service is definitely a joy-provoking feeling. It is joy, but when I do art, it is a divine experience. When I’m in my studio or anywhere in the world where I’m creating something, or I’m talking to another creative who’s teaching me, or I am engaged in conversations about art and creations, it’s that energy that one feels when they are in a meditative state of complete detachment and surrender to your physical, 100% connection to the divine. Anyone who has felt that, even it’s for a momentary second during meditation, understands that feeling.
For me, when I’m creating, I could be in my studio for hours, and time just doesn’t factor in. It’s a complete trance, a meditative process when I am truly in a creative state of flow. It’s a divine experience, creating, for me. It’s bliss; it’s joy; it’s everything we felt when we were children, that inner-child feeling before the layers of the world start making their way around us, so to speak. I’ve had to unpeel a lot of layers, a lot of masks I had put on myself as armor, this false armor we put on ourselves to protect our hearts. I’ve had to peel all of that off, and that’s been in the last few years since I started my journey with art and jewelry. I can honestly say that before today I have never been authentic. I feel I am completely authentic, but I’m sure there are more layers that need to be peeled that I’m not aware of. But to answer your question, creating for me is divine versus my job of being a physician. I love what I do, and being creative helps me be a better doctor, too, and get more joy out of it.
Sharon: I’m curious how you got from art to jewelry. Were you always interested in jewelry? Did you come home and say, “O.K., now I’m going to make this?”
Amita: I dabble with different mediums, and that’s been my thing. I’m like a flitting butterfly, so to speak. That’s how I’ve identified myself. That’s the closest I can explain my energy to you. Whenever I travel, which I love traveling, I’ll always seek out different creatives in different parts of the world. I learned how to make Greek pottery when I was in Santorini. I’ve been to Murano and learned how to blow glass pieces for my jewelry. When I was in Portugal, I learned how to make azulejo tiles. I had dabbled with clay before. Actually, within the first couple of years when I came to the U.S. back in 1998, I took a clay handling course at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, North Carolina. I love handling clay; it’s very therapeutic for me.
So, clay was not a new medium. I just picked it up again six years ago. I was experimenting and I made some gifts for friends. I used to make gifts every year for friends and some for my staff. One year I made Christmas ornaments for everybody with clay, and they were so well-received. On a small scale, I started doing art shows around Houston. Because I was getting requested to do more jewelry, requests from friends or friends of friends, I felt that at that moment in 2018—I had just come back from Italy, and I felt like I had all these ideas in my head swirling for jewelry designs from all my travels. I go with a sketchbook and sketch everywhere I go—architectural designs in different places, people, colors all inspired my sketches. I have sketched so many designs over the years in my sketchbook, jewelry designs, and I also love stones. I’ve picked them up in different parts of the world. It was in the fall of 2018 that I said, “I need to share all of this.” For me, it was about sharing my art with the jewelry. I felt guided to do it is the best way I can put it.
Sharon: I didn’t mean to skip over a question. You said something important. How does the fact that you are doing things that creatively fulfill you outside of work help you be a better doctor working with patients?
Amita: Another good question.
Sharon: I realize they’re not simple questions.
Amita: No, it’s wonderful because it’s helping me reflect. I think it makes me more present. Now that I feel complete, now that I am honoring every aspect of my life, I’m not ignoring my artistic side, that side that gives me so much joy, which for decades I put on hold. I came to it maybe once in six months to do a painting, or sometimes once a year because I was so devoted to my career, to raising a family, to everything, taking care of everything and everyone. Then I started honoring my wants and needs, and not just with art. I started this journey of self-care, deliberately creating time for art and travel and inspiration. I’ve also become very fierce about the thoughts I allow in my mind, the food I allow in my body. It’s been a holistic transformation for me. Since I feel so content, no matter what’s going on around me, I always have a very, very positive outlook of abundance, that everything happens for a reason. Life always works out perfectly. It’s helped me become peaceful. There’s this knowing that I’m on my journey, and I’m present in the moment and there is no looking back. There is definitely dreaming about the future, but there’s no rush to get there; I’m just enjoying the moment.
That, I think, has helped me become a more empathetic person, and certainly a more empathetic physician. Even in this day of insurances and insurance payments and having to see such a number of patients a day and all of that, it just takes a moment to connect on a soul level, on a divine level, with whoever you’re talking to. Let’s say my patients are doing well, everything’s on track. It’s just a moment where you ask them about something that’s not pertinent to the visit you’re having. Maybe it’s about their child or their job or something they mentioned to you in the past and you remember it, and you ask them about it and let them know you care. It can be so meaningful. Not only that, it allows me to channel that same divine energy I have received in mediation through art to others, and they will, from the experience they’ve had, spread it to others around them. That’s how energy flows. I believe everything is energy, and it creates ripples of positive energy all around us and makes the world a better place to live in.
Sharon: Wow! It’s a sentiment that if it were more widespread, we wouldn’t be having some of the issues we have in the world.
Sharon: When you talk about dreaming about the future, what do you see? Do you want to make this a business? Do you want your jewelry to grow into a business? How do you see the future with your jewelry?
Amita: Yes, my jewelry is currently a business. I have a website. It’s AmitaBhalla.com. I also sell through my Instagram, and I sell through a few boutiques and I do pop-ups and art shows. Every piece is one-of-a-kind and inspired by my travels and experiences. In the future, I would love to see my jewelry in different parts of world in art spaces, in art boutiques in different parts of the world. I have already been blessed to do one fashion show with Saks Fifth Avenue. It was their beautiful designer clothes and my jewelry. I would love to collaborate with other creatives, be it in fashion or jewelry design, and create items together or pair them together in a fashion show. I also want my jewelry to be used to give back. I do currently give back 10% of all my proceeds to a cause that’s very close to my heart. It’s called Magic Bus. I’m also going to partner with another amazing local organization here in Houston called The Arts of Healing and give back that way. I just want to grow. Down the road, I have dreams of having courses or workshops for women combining spirituality and creativity. I would love to teach different art forms for people to find themselves, because when you do art, you have to be still. You have to create space and you have to create time, and it’s in those moments that a lot of epiphanies happen.
Sharon: It sounds beautiful, actually. It sounds wonderful.
Amita: It is, it really is. I’ve never been happier. It’s a beautiful process. It doesn’t come overnight; I’m still a work in progress, like we all are. I’m so excited about the future and seeing the evolution happen.
Sharon: Well, we’ll be watching and looking. You really are on a journey and have described it as a jewelry journey. I really appreciate it. We’ll be watching for the rest of the journey.
Amita: Thank you.
Sharon: We’d love to hear more about it in the future. Amita, thank you so much for being on today and for talking with us, and for giving us the inspiration to say, “Now might be time,” or “It’s time to start carving out some time,” for people listening. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Sharon: We’ll talk with you again. Thank you.
Amita: Thank you for having me. Seize the day, everyone, and again, thank you for listening and letting me share. Love to you and your audience, abundant love and joy.
We will have images posted on the website. You can find us wherever you download your podcasts, and please rate us. Please join us next time when our guest will be another jewelry industry professional who will share their experience and expertise. Thank you so much for listening.
Thank you again for listening. Please leave us a rating and review so we can help others start their own jewelry journey.