Welcome to this month’s edition of A Common Thread — a beautiful intersection of fashion and cancer. This column provides me with such a unique platform to share innovative fashion brands that are both stylish and functional, as well as introduce you to the designers behind them.
Please meet my new friend Teeru Bihani, founder of Bihani Jewelry. We met on Instagram (how most of us meet these days), but I feel like I’ve known her forever!
Teeru is so unique because she’s a cancer biologist by day and a jewelry designer by night. I sat down with her to talk about her medical career, what drives her creative inspiration and how these two parts of her life intersect.
Cancer Fashionista: How and why did you decide to launch Bihani Jewelry? What drives your passion for designing jewelry?
Teeru Bihani: During my childhood, I had the fortunate opportunity to play a small part in my mother’s jewelry business where she sold handcrafted pieces that she and I would create together. Little did I know that the skills I gained during this time would come back to help me many years later. After graduate school, I moved to Boston and found myself struggling to make rent on my post-doc research stipend. To make ends meet, I started teaching jewelry classes at night and creating my own pieces to sell at craft fairs. Over time, the purpose of my jewelry business evolved — at first, helping to make rent; later, being a creative outlet from my “day job,” and now serving as an opportunity to donate to important cancer organizations that support the community.
CF: Where do you draw the inspiration for your designs from?
TB: My inspiration comes from many different places. Sometimes it comes from the semi-precious stones that I use, whose natural hues can truly stimulate artistic creativity. Other times, I will be out and about and see an aesthetically interesting geometric shape and try to recreate it in metal.
CF: Tell us about Bihani Jewelry’s fundraising campaign; do you give back to a different organization each month?
TB: While my career has been focused on developing new medicines, I have learned along the way that people affected by cancer need more, including reliable information, resources and a supportive community. Last fall, I found a way to fuse my passion for impacting the cancer community with my love for jewelry design. Each month, I donate a portion of Bihani Jewelry sales to an organization that provides direct support to patients, survivors, thrivers and previvors. Recent contributions have gone to incredible organizations such as the Breasties, the White Ribbon Project, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Cervivor. A huge thank you to those who have purchased from Bihani Jewelry to help make this happen!
CF: What inspires the names of your designs?
TB: My designs are named after people who inspire me. These are often amazing women in STEM — many of whom I have worked with side by side through the ups and downs of cancer research. I also look to pay tribute to those in education. I am in constant awe of educators at all levels and what it takes to do their jobs well, the challenges they endure and the responsibility they bear to ensure the next generation is equipped to better this world. The Mina necklace, for example, is named after an inspiring and dedicated educator in the Boston public school system.
CF: What materials do you use, and do you incorporate any special techniques?
TB: Most of my pieces are made with sterling silver, 14kt gold-filled or rose gold-filled metals and semi-precious stones. I use techniques including wire working, hammering and even crocheting wire in my handcrafted pieces. Something to look for are necklaces where I wire wrap each bead to individual chain segments to build a truly handcrafted product. I also love hammering to mold a piece of metal and change its texture and appearance. Not a bad stress reliever, either!
CF: How often do you add new styles to the collection?
TB: It comes in waves. I wish it was more consistent, but it depends on my cancer research workload, of course. Oftentimes I’ll think of a design and make a sketch of it, although making the actual piece might not happen until I have time. I love creating one-of-a-kind pieces when inspiration strikes, but I also bring back crowd favorites in different forms.
CF: Your Instagram profile says, “Cancer research by day, jewelry design by night.” Tell us about that — how do you find the time to do it all?
TB: Coffee helps! Truthfully, time management is something I am always working on. I try to remind myself that the use of each side of my brain gives the other respite and hopefully makes each better in the long run. I strive for balance, though I do not always achieve it.