Why Jewelry Designer Arpana Rayamajhi Is Inspired By Death

Photographer Martin Brown

In a sea of black, Arpana Rayamajhi is New York’s eccentric print-mashing hero. Raised in Nepal, Rayamajhi’s natural talent was clear at an early age, landing her a highly-competitive slot in Copper Union’s art program. Since graduating, she’s rocked the fashion world with her namesake jewelry line. A modern-day Renaissance woman, Rayamajhi loves her alone time, blending hair oils, and being a multihyphenate. As she works on a new series of jewelry for an up-and-coming project called SARDIN, we talk to Rayamajhi about the hard work behind the art of creating, her foray into acting, and why the definition of beauty looks different to everyone.

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How did you start your path into art?

I have been interested in ‘art’ for as long as I can remember. I definitely am a visual person and have always loved storytelling. When I was younger, I would ask my parents, and pretty much every ‘grown-up,’ to pleaseee tell me at least one story. My dad would often draw and his work was just beautifulthat opened me up the creative world and led me to pick up music as a teenager. For college, I went to Cooper Union School of Art because I wanted to learn how to paint and draw. From there, I started making jewelry, and now I am in acting school.


Coming from a creative family in Nepal, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As you can imagine, I have a long list! Artist, musician, actor, environmentalist, animal rights activist, astronomer, or philosopher. I also wanted to run for office because I felt like Nepali politics were so badonly to realize the entire world’s politics are messed up, so I have given that up…for now. At some point, I wanted to be the Editor-in-Chief of Voguethis still makes me laugh! And sometimes, I think I would have loved to be a model because of all the amazing clothes you could wear. Now I do ‘art,’ for lack of a better word, despite the fact that money doesn’t fall into the art equation so easily. And guess what? I am still growing up.”


You’re an ‘It-girl’, multi-hyphenate, and creative muse who has a coveted resume most of us could only fantasize about. What inspires you?

Ah! Am I an ‘It- girl”? I don’t know what to make of that, because that label makes me feel like it doesn’t last long. But, I do think I am a multi-hyphenate, not only because I struggle with labels in general, but also because my practice is getting bigger and much more complex. I have a fairly good education in music, I do consider myself an artist even though I am a jeweler and I might not be painting or drawing or making sculpture full-time. And right now, my focus has been on acting. Despite all this, I weirdly don’t think I am spreading myself thin. I feel like I am on a journey of finding myself through creativityas cheesy and cliche as that might sound.


“I also think it’s pretty hard for a foreigner to carve one particular identity in the arts, especially today. But I understand that I am very fortunate to have had the visibility and recognition for my work so early on in my career. It’s really a blessing.


“I am inspired by pretty much everything I am surrounded by. But mostly, I am inspired by death. I don’t fully understand why I am drawn to the arts or how creativity, the mind, and how the subconscious works, but I do know thisI can’t not be creating. I really feel great about myself when I am creating. Maybe it comes from my desire to outlive my body? I’m not sure yet, but at this point, I don’t even really think about where my creativity comes from. When I am inspired, I work.”

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Tell me about any beliefs that you have that maybe could point to your path to success.

“I work A LOT. That is one habit that I refuse to let go of. For me, work isn’t just a means to an endbut rather, it’s what I love to do. I feel like I have so many ideas and projects I want to complete that sometimes I get so overwhelmed and literally stop everything. I’m not kidding. To counteract that, I spend a lot of time on my own and will just sit with myself and ask: What is the point of all this? What am I trying to achieve in life, not just in my career? Because for someone like me who values honest people, truthfulness, and happiness, it’s a hard thing to balance and find.  


“Overall, I work way more than I hang out with people. I need to find some type of balance, but life is really short and, apart from spending meaningful and fun times with some few close friends, I really can’t spend time socializing.


“I believe that when one’s intentions are pure and honest and that person is willing to spend time, and I mean serious time, practicing their skill, then things should ‘technically’ fall in place. But honestly, life doesn’t work that way. Luck, and being at the right time and right placeall these things that are out of our control but also play a role in success.”


What does your typical day look like?

I wake up, drink hot water, and then eat a banana or avocado or whatever I have. Then I whisk up some matcha and drink two bowls of that. If I am disciplined, I will do some yoga and breath work. If not, I will completely waste time watching stupid baby animal videos (I am so embarrassed to admit this!).  


“Depending on how deep I am into my current project, sometimes I’ll dive right into it. Then I’ll take a long lunch, almost always alone, which always includes a long walk. At around 2-ish, I am back in my studio, and I usually work until the end of the night. I know I need to get in the habit of not eating so late, but I am also a night owl so it works for now.


“The one thing I really want to change about myself is to not be on my phone so much. I want to go back to what it was like being a teenager when I lived in Nepal. I barely used the internet. I would love to go back to when I spent the majority of my leisure time doing something fun, like drawing or reading a book. Now I’ve been consumed by my phone, and it’s really just become an addiction. It’s awful.”

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Tell us about your beauty routine.

Green tea is definitely part of it. It’s important for me to take a plant-based route without contributing to waste or destruction of our environment. I’m much more interested in having a very simple but solid beauty regimen. I do have PCOS, so I have times when I break out more than usual. I’ve tried serums and essences and all of that, but I find that they are just too much for my skin. I generally never wear foundation and I wash my face with a mild cleanser, like Caudalie Foaming Face Wash, and use a moisturizer. Aesop Fabulous Face Oil is the only one I’ve ever used and it works for me. About twice a week I will exfoliate, and if I am feeling inspired, I’ll use a face mask. I would love to do more facials, but I’m generally freaked out about trying new things. I think eating super well with mostly plants and exercising works for me. Also, I am a fan of massages and acupuncture.”


Your hair is so insanely shinywhat do you do to it?

“I love hair oils. I do oil massages with olive, almond, mustard, and coconut oils—no particular brand, just simple, good oils. Lately, I’ve been very into TSUBAKI hair oil and shampoo— they might be my favorite hair products I’ve ever used. But for the oil massage, ideally, I do it overnight, and if not, at least 1-2 hours before I wash my hair. I warm the oil and put a lot (I’m a greasy type that doesn’t mind it) and just do a scalp massage for as long as I can to stimulate the hair follicles. I like to wear it overnight, especially when my scalp dries out in the winter, and I put a towel over my pillow when sleeping. Very dense oils are hard to wash off, so I do this whole routine less than I used to because I don’t want to waste water.”


Do you have any new obsessions or discoveries in terms of beauty?

“I recently did a silk peel facial and that was amazing! I am also really into face oils right now.”


What does beauty mean to you?

“Beauty is what we all aspire to, in one form or another. It’s also what we want to surround ourselves with. To me, beauty is this thing that causes you to do a double-take, whether it is a person or nature or even the space you live in or what you eat. I think being nice, genuine, intelligent, and creative is beautiful.”

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