Shoppers, stop! Check these out!

Ambika Shaligram
Monday, 16 September 2019

Standing out in the midst of big brands and retail chains are small entrepreneurs who are coming up with fun, quirky, ethnic gifting options. Ambika Shaligram talks to a few who are changing the market, slowly but surely

It’s the season of celebration when you get together with friends and families. And, to remind them of these happy moments, you bring in tow gifts. 

Whether big or small, gifts surely make your day when presented with love and thoughtful consideration of your interests! It’s a time-honoured tradition to not visit someone empty-handed. 

Of course, over the years, the scale of celebrations and the gifts exchanged have changed. With the opening up of economy, the markets were flooded with mass-produced goods for years. Now the wheels have rolled and there are some enterprising individuals, who are working on adding their creative, experimental touch to gifts. Their products are imaginative, fun and edgy.

We talk to a few small entrepreneurs who are working on a new line of products for the festive season by making use of social media and of course, the always reliable word-of-mouth publicity.

All things homely and ethnic
Artist-designer Deepti Palsule always has her hands full. If she is not organising exhibitions, fashioning fairylights from electric wires, painting, or making lampshades and decoupage boxes, then she is learning something new to introduce as her next line of products.

“I attended a workshop to make soaps and bathcare essentials and then I started making them under Bubble Tree brand. I sell handmade soaps, water-based body mists, foot salts and scrubs. I also sell home decor products like tea coasters, centrepieces and dining sets and trays under Naherni brand,” says the Pune-based lady.

She sources all her raw material from city vendors and suppliers. “I also participate in exhibitions where there is a stress on self-designed products or which promote small businesses,” says Palsule, adding, “I have noticed that there is now a thrust on experimentation. Earlier, people would buy something in bulk from Surat or Baroda for instance, and sell it in Pune or Mumbai. Now, people are actually experimenting and designing. They are showcasing their creativity.” 

On her part, she emphasises ethnicity in her home décor line of products. “I got into this line because I had too many left-over fabrics and I wanted to make something beautiful out of them. Too many people were making cloth bags, so I decided to make tea coasters with fabrics like Ajrakh and brocade. I get the basic model for coasters and bowls and trays designed by local artisans. Then, I process it. It takes about two days to make one home décor product, while I require about four or five hours to make one unit of soap,” she adds. 

You can check out her work at www.instagram.com/naherin

Little notes 
A visual artist who worked with NGOs illustrating books and then with firms that focussed on booklayout and graphic designing, Sujata Bhagwat wanted to utilise her illustrations and designs into products.

“In December 2015, I started my brand Stone Paper Scissor and currently I am working on three product lines — I have notebooks that come in two-three sizes like pockets books or diaries with my illustrations on the cover. In the second category I have gift cards. We made lots of them for Rakshabandhan. And the third category is of handmade jewellery in which we make copper-enamelled earrings and brasswire jewellery. We also started making cotton bags after plastic ban came into force,” says Bhagwat, who majored in graphic designing.

The designer, who wants to make a difference through her products, avers that to achieve her goal, she has to reach out to a large number of people. And, for that, she has to keep her prices reasonable.

“My products are not overpriced — they start from Rs 160-180. I also make sure that the products reach the right people and so my jewellery is showcased in stores, which are visited by handloom buyers. In Pune, you can buy my jewellery range at Suti in Deccan. I have a presence in Mumbai at Wishbox, Lower Parel as also Tuk Tuk in Goa. The notebooks can be directly purchased from our website spsarts.com. We also offer combos, matching jewellery with bags in a budget. Such combo packs are sold easily,” adds Bhagwat.

The artist observes that there has been a good conversion rate from social media sites. “The Rakhi cards were shopped by people across India through instagram handle www.instagram.com/stonepaperscissor_studio. The studio sale was also good and I also exhibit regularly. On September 21 and 22, we are going to display at Aazad Awaaz at FC Road Social and at Unwind, Koregaon Park. It’s an art festival taking place simultaneously at select venues,” she informs.

Blue and white!
Old shutterbugs would remember cyanotype as a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print using two chemicals, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. It was previously used by engineers to make blueprints, and is now emerging as an art form.

Meghana Joshi, a technical writer in biomedical digital content space, is experimenting with cyanotype art, under the umbrella of her fairly new brand, Luna Blue. Joshi, who is in tune with both the technical and creative side of her personality, started practising the ‘blue art’ after she learnt the technique at a workshop.

“I spent some time learning, refining and figuring out the right combination of chemicals for different kinds of prints. At the moment, I am making A4 size prints, postcard size prints of images — original photographs, art work that is then reproduced in blue and white combination — that people can frame and hang on their walls or on desks. I have also started to make bookmarks so that people who don’t want to spend on more expensive prints, can buy these. My idea is to introduce art into everyday life and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. I just want to brighten up the viewer’s day with a splash of blue,” she adds.

As far as putting out her work in exhibitions is concerned, the city-based entrepreneur says, “My work is very niche, so I am open to displaying my work at exhibitions if I find the right kind of platform, where the focus is on curated art. I am also exploring the options of licensing out my artwork to be printed on coasters, travel mugs, notebooks, mobile covers, mats, etc through print-on-demand websites, and conducting workshops in the future.”

Her work can be seen on her FB page www.facebook.com/LunaBlueByMeg/ and her instagram handle www.instagram.com/indianneyes

For an Indian look
An IT professional, Ruta Sensharma took a break six years ago and was looking to do something that she could do part-time which would also be creatively fulfilling. She did a course in portrait painting and then learnt about a lady who made terracotta jewellery. 

“I thought I should try making terracotta jewellery and took training in it. Soon I started making and selling such pieces,” says the artist-entrepreneur who is based in Bengaluru. 

In South, she learnt that there is a great demand for terracotta jewellery, as compared to Maharashtra, her home-state. “Many Tamilians and Malayalis are making terracotta jewellery here. It can also work as replacement for gold jewellery. One of my clients wanted to wear designer terracotta jewellery for her engagement. To match her attire, we designed peacock blue-green jewellery set comprising maang tikka, kamarpatta (waist belt) and so on. This jewellery goes well with handloom, linen and Kalamkari outfits and sarees and in South, you find many women opting for the handloom-teracotta jewellery look,”says Sensharma.

Before she set up an electric furnace at home, Sensharma would go to a potter’s village to get her products baked. “If you want to do professional work, you have to invest in a furnace. There are some home baking methods that you can employ, but they don’t give you good results,” she says.

The artist has a website and initially she hoped that it would fuel her business. “Although people are willing to spend between Rs 300-1000 and more for terracotta jewellery, they want to be sure of its durability and finish. So I have many buyers who would visit my website www.rutus-creations.com and then come home to check out their selected pieces. Eventually, this May, I started my retail store,” says Sensharma.

Talking about her designs, Sensharma makes sets in temple designs and also modern pieces which incorporate mixed media art practices like one stroke painting and fashioning something out of beads.

Answer to plastic
A post-graduate diploma holder in fashion designing, Prachi Wagh designed costumes for Marathi films, music videos and advertisements for more than nine years. “I wanted to do something during the time I had in between two projects. And then there were also talks of plastic ban and opposition to Chinese goods. I had some friends who wanted to buy some return gifts for their children’s birthdays. But what was available at local stores were rubber, China-made or plastic toys. Later, some schools asked students to not get their art and craft supplies in plastic containers or bags and that’s how I started making bags and pouches that could hold art and craft supplies. I started making them under my brand Chi Chi,” says Wagh.

In December 2016, the designer contacted Pune-based Venus store if they would stock her pouches and bags. “I started with a consignment of 40 pouches and they were sold out by the week-end. Currently, my annual sale only through Venus is 5,500-6000 pieces. I have around 25 designs in bags and pouches and I have also forayed into home decor products like curtains, matching cushion covers, hot pot mats, tea coasters. I am promoting them through exhibitions and my Instagram page — www.instagram.com/prachipramodwagh,” she says.

Wagh observes that buyers are more conscientious now. They are not willing to buy plastic goods. In her products too, she doesn’t use synthetic material. “I use pure cotton — you can wash it at home and it’s durable. I haven’t got complaints yet about zips not working, stitches coming off or colour bleeding. My number and instagram handle are mentioned on the label, so that people can directly get in touch with me,” she adds.  

For Diwali gift options, Wagh has started making torans of brocade and silk. “I am also making goggle cases and passport holders made from block cotton fabric. And, there are windchimes, tea-light candle holders which can be used with rangoli or double up as a centerpiece on a table,” says Wagh, who is displaying some of these products on September 22 at an exhibition being held at Manohar Mangal Hall, Erandwane.

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