The true passion of people, artists specifically, is when you see their process to create or creations in close proximity to them. For photographers, a camera is always within reach, for some artists, a paint brush. For Jahnavi Sievert, it was always without question, jewelry. When she opened up Mana Culture with her husband in October of 2009, a jewelry boutique located in South Austin, the city embraced the store and her effort to sell a collection of original pieces from jewelry designers. "70% of our jewelry is local. Other things come from meeting people, traveling, and sometimes people find us," she says, quick to cite the support of Mana Culture's popularity. "It's really interesting, the jewelry world is much smaller than you'd expect. We're all linked into the jewelry community somehow, especially if you're tapped into the local scenes."
Jahnavi not only believes in the art she sells, but she wears it, adorning herself with various metals and gold. Jewelry for her is not a casual accessory, but a thoughtful one. The honesty of her passion is evident by the multiple necklaces across her neck, and the animated way she talks about the world of jewelry and its community with her hands, gestures that glint from her wrists towards the Texas sun. Her biggest inspiration is the natural earth elements in the environment around her. "I am obsessed with stones and rocks, and the gifts from nature. I love the metals and crystals, and the way they look, and the rawness of these materials. When there are these raw materials that are out there that are affordable, that are beautiful and genuine that the earth is providing, there's no need to use synthetics."
Moving around a lot when she was younger also gave her nontraditional influences. Born in London, she later grew up in Kansas City and traveled with her family around the world, giving her a lasting impression of different cultures, offering her a perspective that was limitless. "My parents raised me with traveling all over Southeast Asia, visiting the temples. Growing up and seeing the tropical style of Asia definitely influenced me, there are so many colors and so much richness from that country," she says.
Traveling helped inspire her belief to pursue her passion of jewelry, but she claims that idea of a career in jewelry was rooted long before then. "I have this picture from when I was four years old, and I was draped in gold chains, gold earrings and gold bangles. And by the time I was 19, I was working with a woman selling sterling silver, and doing shows, and that's when I saw the sales aspect in me. I really found my passion at 19. I'm 32 now and I've been selling jewelry this entire time," she says, while lightly grasping a gold chain around her neck. It is evident that her work is her art and it is part of who she is. She also lived in Hawaii for six years, and her easy going spirit seems as though she was profoundly inspired by the culture of living on an island. "From living in Hawaii, I used those influences and brought it to Austin. Here we're light and love," she says, motioning around her. "It's fun to compile this artsy, funky style, mixed with the island style and I think that's what we've done."
Jahnavi also opened up with news that has been a life long dream of hers: designer her own line of jewelry. "It's always been a goal of mine to design, to be a designer, so we launched our own jewelry line, and I'm partnering up with Charlie to create and design a jewelry line for Mana Culture." Austin is a city that allows a lot of freedom for fashion, and Jahnavi wanted to continue with that style by creating jewelry that is both earthy and chic. "We are at a time and age where there are no more rules. It's just beautiful to combine different metals and give yourself a unique look. My biggest goal with our new line is to make it attainable and offer genuine metals at a cost you can afford. A notch below fine jewelry."
Another big aspect of her desire to create and sell jewelry has been rooted in her belief of empowering women, and making women feel beautiful in what they're wearing. The importance of that is not always an industry standard. Jahnavi offers a varied perspective from a mainstream one, with a desire to let women feel beautiful for themselves, and wear what works for them individually. "I am passionate about women. I love women, I love to feel beautiful, I love to surround myself with other women, and co-support," she says. In addition to selling jewelry, Mana Culture has been expanding the brand, focusing on all aspects of fashion, including dresses and shoes, summer clothes and Brazilian spray tans, that uses organic products gentle for the skin. Mana Culture's products have become so popular, and the demand for the original style of the store has increased, that Mana Culture will be opening a second location this summer. "We will be opening on the East side, right at East 11th, near Black Dahlia, in another funky house and across from a yoga studio. Our goal is to have the soft opening July 1, and grand opening in August with a party."
Mana's own culture of community and artistic talent must have each within the other; and Austin is a city where the love and passion of that art has grown. "I had dreams and I thought we would end up back in Hawaii, and that's what inspired the first Mana, this Mana," she says, pointing to the coral house. "But I've realized Austin has become our home. And now Mana has influences from Hawaii, but also from Austin. We're building roots here."
Mana Culture is located at 2214 S. 1st in Austin, Texas
Grand Opening of Mana Culture's second location will be in August 2013