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Rising Stars: Meet Manju Narmada Ulaganathan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manju Narmada Ulaganathan.

Hi Manju Narmada, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?

I was born and raised in the Southern part of India in the city of Chennai. I have an undergraduate degree in Manufacturing Engineering and a master’s degree in Geography from India as well. I moved to Los Angeles eight years ago following which I completed a master’s degree in Geography from Cal State Long Beach. However, my first daughter was born in 2016 post which I decided to take a break from academia to raise my child. My second daughter was born in 2020. I realized that it was very important for me to be there with my children during their childhood and decided not to take up a full-time job as I would do justice neither to the job nor the children. But during my stay-at-home endeavor, I tried not to just get stuck with the mundane. I tried my hand at yoga, jewelry, cake decorating, painting, etc. just to keep my sanity. It helped me forge a connection with my creative side as well as nurture a creative interest in my children. I was getting better at what I was doing. So, what started as a hobby turned into a business that I launched in 2020. My business is in the nascent stages and I hope to take it further by building my portfolio and expanding it.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Of course, it was never a smooth road. I have had creative mind blocks. Sometimes, I have felt that I never have enough time with my kids around. I wish I had someone in my family around to occasionally babysit them. I am an immigrant here. So getting used to the multicultural potpourri of Los Angeles was a struggle too. During the initial years, I used to pester my husband to take me to bead shows just to get beads. Then now, I have figured out places online to buy the type of raw material that I need to make my style of jewelry.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?

I create contemporary unique modern-day jewelry. I primarily work with gemstone and wood beads. I am trying to integrate an ethnic vibe into modern-day designs by trying to include African trade beads etc. I am also trying to infuse Indian jewelry design elements when trying to make statement necklaces with a boho vibe.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?

I always liked the artwork, be it painting or looking at works of art or learning about it, getting to know about the history of art, etc. Anything about “creating ” piqued my interest. Eight years ago, when I was in India, I was enamored by people on Youtube showing how they made this and that. I was blown away by the sheer variety of things that people said, showed, and did. I could take advantage of the exposure to knowledge that people were willing to share by having to physically go nowhere. But my artistic side was always in the background. I focused on getting a degree and getting a job. I was also interested in academia so arts went to the background.

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Image Credits:

Vinith Raj

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