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  • Writer's pictureBarressential

inspire: saskia fernando

This month's "inspire" segment meets with the ethereal & multi-talented Saskia Fernando, owner of Saskia Fernando Gallery & Papillon du Thé.

1. Where did your love of art originate from and how did it lead to Saskia Fernando Gallery?

I have had a passion for the arts for as long as I can remember. My parents are both creative people and as children we watched them working in predominantly creative industries; it was an informal education that started at a young age for my sister and I. It took me a while to be ready to open my own gallery. I experimented in different industries before doing so and it gave me the know-how to finally begin my career as an entrepreneur.

I feel I learned a lot of from all of my experiences but we often learn much more from the mistakes. The business model of the gallery was such that I was able to take a few works on consignment and invest only in the construction of a small white cube space. I worked seven days a week until I could afford to hire somebody to work weekends and slowly, nine years later, the business has grown into two companies managing a physical and online gallery space of a total of more than 6000 works of art.

My work in the art industry is more of a calling than a choice, I would find it difficult to feel fulfilled without being involved in some way or another in the art industry; many who work in this industry will tell you the same.

2. What do you look for when you curate the works at Saskia Fernando Gallery?

I look for skill, authenticity and individuality. We represent young emerging artists in their twenties but also established mature artists. These are two complete opposite sides of the spectrum and it has been my personal choice to work with the established artists I admire, but also work closely with young artists who prove to be incredibly skilful and persistent in their practice.

We have different ways in which we approach the work of different categories of artists and we have found that this is what our collectors enjoy about working with us; the diversity of artists we represent.

You will always find a style and image to each and every gallery, it comes from the personal choices that the gallerist makes. I see others influences in my choices but also a very distinct direction that I work with in selecting - its a never-ending evolution of taste and preference but I believe today we have established an identity for the quality of work we exhibit.

3. What advice would you have for anyone wanting to enter the art space?

I always encourage people to get opinions from experts in the industry. Approaching people who will give you an honest response and constructive criticism makes a world of difference. There are a handful of galleries whose doors are open to sharing opinions. I personally try to respond to every artist who writes in to us, even if we don't feel their work is right for either one of our platforms.

Studying art, even if it is self-taught, is also a very important part of entering the art industry. You can be good at drawing but the contemporary art scene today is not an easy one to enter in to, you have to stand out and have a strong signature. The understanding of different mediums and forms of practicing artistic expression are not restricted to paper, canvas or sculpting, they go far beyond this and limiting oneself can be a disadvantage.

6. Let's talk about Papillon du Thé - your designs are vastly different from the rest of the market - what inspires you?

I am inspired by everything I come across, from antique jewellery and the amazing stones I am able to source from our industry locally.I think the lines I design change with my own mood and that's the fun behind designing a small boutique brand. I follow trends a little but that is also because my own tastes change and I will suddenly find myself wanting to wear larger stones or more delicate pieces. I don't have to create pieces in large quantities so I can play with the ideas I have.

I don't try to be different but my tastes are not for diamond covered jewellery. I think there are women who relate to this sense of style and have been wearing my brand from the beginning; they inspire me!

7. How does your work help sustain craftsmanship in the country?

As we are a small boutique brand we can't help in sustaining craftsmanship on a large scale, but working with certain craftspeople enables me to expose traditional craft which hopefully influences the larger brands to do the same. I am passionate about incorporating both antique pieces and traditionally crafted jewellery into the brand.

We work with a couple of very small time craftsman who live in the rural areas, I am happy that I give them some kind of income as it is difficult for them to continue their trade and they often find that the next generation is not interested in pursuing the same field.

3. What does a healthy lifestyle mean to you? How do you balance your time between work, travel, home making & wellness?

I used to believe that a healthy lifestyle was about drinking green juices every morning and working out. In my late thirties I have learned that a healthy lifestyle is about doing those things as well as making sure that your work and personal life is equally balanced. I love to bake, although I don't get much time to do so, and I love to eat, so I eat consciously during the weekdays and indulge on weekends.

My husband and I always try to travel together because it's only during these times that we really switch off. There is nothing like a quick drive to the south to wake up by the beach and relax in the sun. I love my work and can't imagine my life without it, but I never take work home. They are small things but they make a huge difference to my wellbeing, just like a piece of chocolate cake a couple of times a week does.

It's the never-ending strife between trying to maintain the balance and then just letting go. I don't think we ever get it quite perfect but I try to put less pressure on myself about that.

4. We love having you at Barressential, what keeps you coming back for more?

The first time I visited Barre classes I had muscle pain in all the right places for three days straight afterwards, it was much less after the second class but I knew I had found something that was targeting the right areas, which is what all us women (and men) want.

Private sessions with Nare helped me regain my strength when I needed to take my workouts a little easy but Nare is able to adjust the workout to suit different levels in her group classes as well. The movements in Barre combined with breathing and focus mean that you can jump in at any level and build on your own from there, this makes it easier and more pleasant for individuals who don't want to dive right into high intensive when they start working out.

Nowadays my prenatal classes make me feel so energised and they really set me up for the day. I want to know that my body is strong and well at all stages and you can feel the effect Barre & Pilates have on your balance, your core strength and also your mind. Some of the exercises seem so small in their movements, but it's all about precision in building core strength whilst focusing on firing the correct muscles and breathing. The tension I used to have in my shoulders has disappeared and I feel my fitness increasing steadily - something I was struggling to build in the gym for a long time.

Barressential becomes more a part of your lifestyle than just a workout, I feel it has similarities to yoga in that it is about a holistic gentle approach to wellness that takes time and patience while building your core strength.

Want to try Saskia's workout? Visit our schedule here for group classes or email us for pre-natal classes.

Saskia Fernando Gallery

( is located at 41 Horton Place, Colombo 07


Instagram: @saskiafernandogallery

Papillon du Thé

( is available at PR Colombo at 41 Horton Place, Colombo 07


Instagram: @papillonduthe

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