Dr. Alexis Gopal Goes From Practicing Medicine To Making Jewelry
Monday, November 30, 2009
Posted by: Kerri McCabe
( from: CountyTimes.com)
Going from practicing medicine to making jewelry is a career switch made by few, but for Alexis Gopal M.D. of Bridgewater, it was the right one. Having recently opened Alexis Studio Design in New Milford, Dr. Gopal said her decision came down to seeing her children more often.
"I have two daughters, and being a doctor, I would never get to see them," Dr. Gopal said. "I'd leave in the morning and they'd be sleeping, and then come home at night and they'd be sleeping again; I even had to hire a nanny. So in an effort to take care of them and see them more, I started staying home with them, making lampshades and jewelry. Eventually, I was able to turn it into a full-time business."
"Working as a doctor was very rewarding and I really miss it, but between the lifestyle, the hours, working with insurance companies, I just couldn't do it anymore," Dr. Gopal explained. "I wouldn't say this is necessarily more rewarding, but it's rewarding in a different way."
She has not found every aspect of running her new Alexis Studio Design gallery at 337 Kent Road (Route 7) to be easier, though.
"It's very difficult to do it all on my own. I have to be the artist, the decorator, work the cash register ... trying to do everything myself and wearing all those different hats, it's definitely a challenge. Dealing with going from a steady income to a non-steady income is also very difficult."
A graduate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, Dr. Gopal spent 15 years working as an internist in New Milford and Danbury. However, she has always had a deep interest in art, and is self-taught as a painter, designer, and jewelry maker.
"I used to do it as a kid and do oil paintings as a kid, and I learned to make oil lampshades as a kid, although I kind of let it go when I went to med school," she said.
Dr. Gopal's first realization of the impact that jewelry can have came a decade ago when she purchased a ring while going through a divorce.
"It was a dark time in my life, and I needed something to pick me up and give me hope. So I bought this band as a gift to myself, to cheer me up. It's very sparkly and bright and has diamonds and sapphires, which are my birth sign. To me, it became symbolic of the fact that I'm going to have a bright future. It was striking to me that jewelry had that much significance; it became like an amulet to me. It reflects what I wrote in my mission statement: that I hope the pieces that I produce have the same special meanings for people as well. I hope that my art has deep significance for whomever buys it."
Dr. Gopal has had a longtime interest in Eastern philosophy, especially the writings of early-20th century yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. Her deep appreciation for Eastern ideas is reflected in both the store's décor and the care she puts into the items she crafts.
"It's got a very Asian theme, very relaxed in atmosphere. It has a waterfall and a lot of Buddhist items in the store, products that one wouldn't find anywhere else. I have a huge Buddha collection, there's a lot of OM-themed jewelry, a lot of Asian symbols and materials used in my jewelry. A lot of my Eastern philosophy is represented in my jewelry, in the sense that these religions encourage people to live a simple lifestyle and stay in the present. My pieces tend to be very simple and I design them with hope that they inspire and resonate with someone in that way, to give them peace of mind and give some beauty to their lives. So lot of the values I have, I keep in mind when I make my jewelry."
In addition to jewelry, Alexis Studio Design offers handmade lampshades using rice paper imported from Thailand. They range in price from $75 to $200.
"I use silver, gold, gemstone, antique brass, all kinds of things in my work," Dr. Gopal said. "I go to different shows in various states to look for unique beads and other materials, and I also use a lot of unique materials like chiffon and different fabrics. I try to look for things that are not commonly found in pieces of jewelry and lampshades."
She also displays work from local art photographers Nancy Taylor Stein and Kari Delvecchio, including a recent series of photographs by Ms. Delvecchio of fishermen from Barbados.
"I always said to myself and others that if I ever had my own gallery, I would want to give a leg up to local artists and friends who are struggling to get their businesses up off the ground. That's also why I keep a lot of business cards at the front register; it's kind of a karmic way of paying for the good fortune of having my own store. Nancy and Kari are both very talented artists, and I'm constantly asking amongst my friends and local businesses for more work around the gallery."
Response from the New Milford community has been immensely positive, she said.
"It's been great so far. People have come in, and have a lot of nice things to say, and find things very unique. I had a wine and cheese reception on Nov. 6 that was fabulous, very well attended and received. I'll also be doing children's beading parties, ladies' nights and beading classes in the near future, and perhaps next year go to the International Gift Fair at the Jacob Javits Center in New York."
Alexis Studio Design is located at 337 Kent Road in New Milford and can be reached at 860-799-7382.