Tag: Storyteller

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Welcome to Day 2 of the Storyteller series! Is being creative something to do with just the arts? Is calling someone a creative identifying them as an artist, musician, poet or sculptor? Or is it a way of thinking, of being, of practicing? Or even better, as Mary Lou Cook said, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”


Meera D'Souza / Storyteller/ Collectivitea
My story:

“Professionally, I lead the Training and Development function of a BPO company where I oversee Operational and Leadership Training. My education is an eclectic mix of an undergraduate degree in Statistics and Mathematics, a graduate degree in HR, and an MBA. I usually have no answer for those that ask me why I would have chosen two very opposite fields of study- one very logical, and the other very people centric. I enjoy the unique combination of both disciplines. On a personal level, I have always enjoyed the arts- especially theater and paper crafts. I grew up in India and relocated to the US after getting married. My husband and I live outside of Detroit, MI, and we have 2 children. ”

What does creativity/ being creative mean to you?

Meera D'Souza / Creativity Quotes/ Collectivitea
When I think of creativity in others, I am drawn to their interpretations of themes and ideas. I see other creatives as having original and unique ideas. People with a special gift. I love seeing creative interpretations via theater, films, art, music and writing. Museums and boutiques always make me happy. All those ideas in one place to admire and be energized by.
When others say I am creative- I don’t feel like I meet the same definition of original and unique. I definitely tend to be more “crafty”- where I may combine two or more traditional ideas to come up with a new interpretation of a theme. It’s a mix-and-match philosophy. Whether this is in creative problem solving in a corporate setting, combining vintage with graphic in home decor, or a western-desi aesthetic with my wardrobe. I think my creativity is in bringing an element of the unexpected into a traditional theme. Its about introducing a subtle newness to an existing idea. I will say that I am rarely bold in my creative expression. While I don’t play it completely safe, there is a certain deliberateness to my creative expression.

Do you consider yourself creative? If yes, has your environment (childhood experiences, current situations, etc.) help shaped your creativity? What helped? What didn’t?
I don’t have the same idea of creativity for myself as I have of others. Where I see other creatives as having a true and natural gift, my own abilities feel a notch lower. More like above-average talents. A talent to recognize patterns, mix-and-match and combine ideas. In my work, this helps me bring a unique perspective to business problems. I enjoy the creativity that business problem solving and instructional and training design provide.
My earliest exposure to creativity in the home setting was seeing my father draw. He was very good at sketching. But he only sketched when there was a purpose. Usually it was a school project for my sister or myself.  Creativity was not discouraged in my home. But I took away the subtle message that it is best showcased in the context of education or building an accomplished professional career.

I was also very influenced by the work of Edward De Bono from a very young age. I was in high school when my father had brought home his book on Lateral Thinking and the 6 Thinking Hats. This book was fascinating to me. It introduced a structured process to creative thinking- my sweet spot. It’s here that I was introduced to the concept of combining two unrelated things to come up with something new and different. I think this was my first time realizing that we can all be creative. I also learned that creativity is not always inspired. It can be a deliberate and structured process.Creativity Quotes/ Collectivitea

I always found it easy to use creative techniques in my school work and professional pursuits. These were very acceptable platforms for a creative outlet because they supported the success formula of impeccable educational credentials that would lead to a successful corporate career. The corporate setting has always been my playground to try new ideas- whether its process design or use of technology to scale ideas. I remember getting the opportunity to pursue a business process reengineering project at my first job at the age of 22. We designed a financial process that needed technology that did not exist at the time- mobile hand-held devices, mobile signature capture, freely available internet access. All this, in Bombay, in 1995. It was so futuristic.  I had so much fun working on that project. The end outcome was completely impractical at the time and not executable. But the thought that we could think like this in a work setting was very exciting to me. Eventually all of these ideas did come to fruition. I remain intrigued with ideas like this in the corporate setting- the possibilities of dreaming up things that seem impossible in the moment. I thrive in an environment where I can use lateral thinking to solve business problems. I gravitate towards organizational roles with a high degree of creativity.
Of course, growing up, the more artistic pursuits were relegated to a “hobby” status. Hobbies also meant that you could develop these talents further only if you had the luxury of time and money. They could be pursued, but had to be in addition to your traditional success model of education and professional career. Never a career in itself. In some ways I felt guilty spending any money on art supplies. But it also forced me to get creative. Like using glossy magazines for paper crafts, cards and origami, saving up my bus or rickshaw money to buy crepe paper to make paper flowers. Using potatoes to carve out stamps for fabric printing- my diy version of block-printing. Old habits die- hard! I still collect acorns, pista shells, buttons, pinecones etc. I love thinking that I can transform these throw-aways into something pretty.
When I came to the US, my first year was very hard. I went from an active working life to staying home till I figured out how to drive and get around! My inventiveness with kitchen supplies, a hotel sewing kit, make-up and a few colored pens helped me spend time creating cards. My husband then made two mistakes (I say this in jest of course)- he showed me how to get to Michaels and how to surf the internet (even in pre-google times, you could type in “cards”, “rubber stamping”, “paper crafts” in the Yahoo search box and there would be ideas to try!).  Slowly we expanded to art fairs, craft shows, visiting unique boutique stores. Conversations with artists that opened up the vast world of creativity for me. Blogging and social media have come later- but still very much a strong influence in learning new ideas.

I decided in my 30s that I wanted to see if I really was as creative as i imagined myself to be. It’s one thing to find pretty things for home decor or make a casual card or two and call yourself a hobbyist. But totally a different ball game to put yourself out there in the “creative” world.  I will admit that I feared judgement from others to take it any further than a hobby. The fear of rejection or ridicule were very strong. But I decided to set myself a challenge. I would submit my paper craft ideas to the leading Paper Crafting magazines at the time and become a published crafter. The first few tries proved futile. There were no takers for  my extreme inventiveness in making cards that used recycled materials. But I didn’t want to give up. I studied the ideas that were accepted. Eventually I got my first idea accepted. I then set a goal to get 100 ideas published. At the time, there just a handful of us South-Asians in the craft world. The other ladies were much more gifted than me. But I persevered. I stayed true to my lateral thinking mix-and-match style of creativity, and reached my goal. It was very fulfilling to achieve this small milestone outside of my professional career.

The most important thing that you would tell your younger self? 
I think I would tell my younger self what I tell my daughter these days. Pursue your creative side. Make it more than a hobby. It could translate into a career choice. Or it could give you something to practice as an activity for yourself- as a way to relax, to meet new people, as a mindfulness activity. I also tell her to set a deliberate plan to practice getting her ideas out in whatever form of expression- be it art, writing or music. The more you provide an outlet for your creativity, the more mastery and fulfillment you will achieve. Conquer your need for perfection and fear of rejection. You will only regret the chances you never took.

 

Meera D'Souza/ Creativity Quotes/ Collectivitea

 

Image courtesy of Meera D’Souza. You can find Meera on Instagram here.

 


 

 

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Welcome to the first in the series of interviews and stories where I asked people from different walks of life what they thought of creativity. Did they think of themselves as creative? What helped the process? What didn’t? What’s the one takeaway lesson? My goal with this direction is to see if there are common threads that run through it all, and if yes, to identify and share those ideas. After all, as Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.”



My story:  

“I work on my designs in Singapore where I live, and collaborate with artisan workshops in Jaipur, India and Bali, Indonesia to produce my designs in small batches. It is a crazy circus because I focus almost entirely on idea development based on instinct. My concepts throw curve balls during executions. Multiple iterations across borders, phone calls and emails are normal for me. When you’re a solopreneur building your own brand, you push several faculties; in my case, it is jewellery design, managing production, photography, writing, editing, publicity – and whatever else it takes. I guess that’s what keeps me interested. I thrive in the chaos of the design process as I do working alone. Jewellery is a space for me to question conventional perceptions around things, experiment with what-ifs and to appreciate the world I live in.” 

Vyshnavi Doss/ Dvibhumi/ Collectivitea

“When you’re a solopreneur building your own brand, you push several faculties; in my case, it is jewellery design, managing production, photography, writing, editing, publicity – and whatever else it takes.”- Vyshnavi N. Doss

Vyshnavi Doss/ Dvibhumi/ Collectivitea

 

What does creativity or being creative mean to you? Do you consider yourself creative? If yes, has your environment (childhood experiences, current situations, etc.) help shaped your creativity?

Creativity is the ability to connect the dots in unprecedented and transformative ways. My music teacher once told me that to be an artist you need to be either an amir or a fakir (a rich person or an ascetic). I think that’s true for creativity too. It’s when you have nothing material or spiritual to lose that you can be creative. I like to think of myself as someone who is attempting to walk the creative path, hoping to make new meaning someday. With every new piece of work I break away from the previous experiment and try to find something new to say. I believe creativity is different from routine cleverness or adding a lazy swirl to something. My ideas on creativity will evolve as I go along, as they rightly should. I am right now in a required idealistic phase of my journey. Everything is changing everyday.

“My music teacher once told me that to be an artist you need to be either an amir or a fakir (a rich person or an ascetic). I think that’s true for creativity too. It’s when you have nothing material or spiritual to lose that you can be creative.”- Vyshnavi N. Doss

What helped your creative process? What didn’t?

I feel jewellery lacks the platforms necessary to generate public discourse and appreciation around it. There is a lot of good work out there but it reaches very few people. But I am hopeful. Jewellery is going through an exciting phase. A small niche of forward thinking retailers and enthusiasts is starting to value jewellery as wearable art rather than a product of skill, high intrinsic value or labour intensive processes. I find this gradual riddance of expectations both necessary and encouraging because it broadens the canvas for experimentation and appreciation.When it comes to creative entrepreneurship, we live in a time when anyone can be anything they want to be. The Digital Age has made everything accessible – knowledge, inspiration and easy tools to set things up. It’s a lot easier to reach out, collaborate and do basic marketing. Technology has given me a great start and has allowed me to do my work by instinct, discovery and experimentation.

Vyshnavi Doss/ Dvibhumi/ Collectivitea

 

“…gradual riddance of expectations (is) both necessary and encouraging because it broadens the canvas for experimentation and appreciation.” – Vyshnavi N. Doss

About my new collection

I have just launched my latest work, Ruchi. It is inspired by the industrial elegance of the modern South Indian kitchen which it explores as a sanctuary of lovely objects, creations and magical rituals. It looks for beauty in the ordinary. Kitchen implements, for instance, speak a fascinating visual language. Food preparations – traditional snacks in particular – have innate aesthetic values beyond contrived ideas of plating and presentation. It is a 20 piece range of jewellery and accessories for men and women, with some unisex styles. Ruchi has moments of drama as well as quiet contemplation, and is entirely handcrafted in silver and brass. (Webstore: https://www.dvibhumi.com/collections/ruchi. Ships worldwide.) 

Vyshnavi Doss/ Dvibhumi/ CollectiviteaVyshnavi Doss/ Dvibhumi/ Collectivitea

Images courtesy of Vyshnavi N. Doss.

 


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Aaraa By Avantika / Collectivitea

Hello! You maybe familiar with the India-based jewelry label Aaraa By Avantika. If you aren’t yet, it is my great pleasure to share with you the work of jewelry designer and maker Avantika Kumar. (This post has been months in the making, but I am a firm believer that everything has a way of coming together at the right time.) So without further ado, meet Avantika Kumar! I have followed Avantika’s work for some years now and have always been impressed by its boho maximalism. There is the homage to traditional jewelry lines, but then exuberant creativity takes over and the result is bold, beautiful, and joyous. Flamboyant. Goddess like. Jewelry that you will treasure for a lifetime. Collectivitea is my way of collecting and sharing stories of creatives with you so that they may inspire, and I am sure Avantika’s creative journey will inspire a lot of people! The jewelry featured here are from the designer’s Ista collection (more on that below). Read on for Avantika’s story. – Priya

 


Aaraa By Avantika / CollectiviteaAvantika Kumar: “I was born and brought up in Pune, India which is called the ‘Oxford of the East’. I had a very humble upbringing and drawing, painting and crafts were my favourite pass-time. I had more paints, brushes, crayons, and pencils than I had friends as a kid. Academically, I was a sincere student and performed averagely well which made my parents hope for me to be an engineer. Initially as a teenager, I wanted to be a painter or join a creative field, but the calling towards this at the age of 16 years was not strong enough that I could defy what my parents had thought about my future. While I pursued my engineering course of four years, the creative side in me grew stronger each day. After finishing off my college assignments I would spend hours painting and sketching. Along with my studies, I also started making jewellery out of paper, wood, or any other freely accessible material and began supplying the same to a few local boutiques in and around Pune. For me, academics turned out to be very unsatisfactory at that point of time and by the end of the course I realized that I needed to make a career out of something that I loved doing. Even my parents realized the creative thirst within me and helped me find my calling.”


Aaraa By Avantika / Collectivitea

“I appeared for the entrance test for the Post Graduation course in Lifestyle Accessory Design at National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad and to my amazement, without any design prerequisite and knowledge, I got through.  NID is touted to be India’s most premier and finest design school. The transition from being an engineer to a designer was a difficult one but has been a beautiful journey of self discovery for me. As an engineer I had been disciplined to work from a scenario with many variables and reach to a single conclusion, while as a designer I was being trained to think of as many outcomes to a single question. It was difficult for me to understand these conflicting ideas but with strong passion, hard work, determination and good guidance, I was able to logically balance and equate my thinking with creative ideas. While pursuing my course, I was selected to make my debut at IIJW 2010 (India International Jewellery Week). It happens to be the only platform in India at the moment, exclusively showcasing jewellery on the ramp and showcased my collection of unconventional range of handcrafted jewels titled “Aurum”, I received rave reviews and admiration that encouraged me and stirred up my inclination towards being a jewellery designer. I further went on to work with the prestigious jewellery house Amrapali Jewels, Jaipur for a year where I learnt the fine skills of jewellery making.”

 Aaraa By Avantika / Collectivitea
 

On inspiration…. “Design is not only my profession but a reflection of me and my constant state of mind. I have a strong affinity to Indian history, culture, tradition and architecture along with ancient jewellery making techniques and crafts. Cultural symbols and motifs are some of the mediums which influence me to great lengths.When we talk about inspiration, I feel so proud that I belong to this wonderful country, India where everything, right from food, textiles, jewellery to architecture, performing arts etc has very interesting history and legacy attached to it. Thus traveling acts as a stimulus for me; it allows me to discover so many crafts, craftsmen and lesser known facts about our heritage.I have explored quite a bit with varied materials as a student at NID and so different and unique materials do interest and inspire me a lot. Hence I like to work with a fusion of diverse beads and gemstones creating some unusual, contrasting and yet beautiful colour and texture combinations.”

Aaraa By Avantika / Collectivitea 

About ISTA collection: “Ista (इष्ट) is a Sanskrit word for desire or wish. When I start working on a collection, I first work on the concept, the name and colour palette of the jewellery line. But this time I decided to go the other way round. I named the collection Ista after having completed the entire range of neckpieces. Because once I saw all the pieces laid out in front of me I instantly connected with the desire, the desire of owning each one of them, the desire to touch and feel each one of the pieces. This is one collection where I have worked more intuitively than ever.
The collection boasts of some beautiful and bright colour combinations of gemstones that have been sourced from all over the country. Few of the pieces even have these custom made, handcrafted glass beads that have been sourced directly from the bead craftsmen/makers.
You will also find some out of the box and unusual silver pendants, most of them have been sourced from various parts of the country as well as the world, over a long period of tiIme. Quite a few pendants are antique and vintage in nature. Hence each and every piece has a story of it’s own, right from the texture and finish to the hues of the gemstones.” – Avantika Kumar.
 Aaraa By Avantika / Collectivitea
 Aaraa By Avantika / Collectivitea
To see more, visit Aaraa By Avantika on Facebook and on Instagram.
All images are taken by and courtesy of Avantika Kumar. The model in the picture is Pritika Chakraverty.

To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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The Dreamscape Studio @ Collectivitea

One of the privileges of running Collectivitea is being able to share stories of people doing wonderful things around the world. Today’s storyteller is Nikita Vyas, a trained psychologist, who is based in Chennai, India. She has set up an online, and a small physical space called The Dreamscape Studio as a way to offer counseling, share inspiring stories, and positively impact people. There is an expression that I have heard quoted, seen in Mary Engelbreit’s art, and which is variously attributed to many sources including the Bible, and it is ‘bloom where you are planted’. This is how I interpret it- all of us, and each one of us, can use the resources at our disposal to positively impact our surroundings. Start where you are, do what you can. Do it with joy. Every measure helps. BLOOM! I was reminded of this quote with every line of this story. – Priya


Nikita Vyas – Founder of The Dreamscape Studio

“My name is Nikita Vyas.  I’m a psychologist by profession, and personally, I enjoy writing, poetry and art. I was born in Mumbai and spent most of my childhood days there. I was around 12 years old when my father passed away, and we moved to Chennai. I first discovered Psychology when I was in my Junior college in Sophia College of Arts and Science, Mumbai. I had to move back to Chennai due to my mother’s heart surgery and was late in applying to colleges there for Psychology and eventually had to take up Sociology, at M.O.P Vaishnav College for Women. While I was studying Sociology I was lost because my goal was to study psychology. I was unhappy as well. Chennai was a drastic change for me from Mumbai, from the language, to the people. During the 3rd year of under-graduation, I learnt that it was possible to study Counselling Psychology even though my bachelors was in Sociology. I applied in Madras School of Social Work and went on to do my M.Sc in Counselling Psychology and later a M.Phil.

Nikita Vyas/The Dreamscape Studio @ Collectivitea

I interned (unpaid) and worked (paid) at several places as a clinical and school psychologist. I worked with the issues of schizophrenia, mental retardation, clinical depression, learning disabilities, de-addiction etc. I was not happy with full-time jobs, and started freelancing. I conducted workshops at schools and institutions. At times, I freelanced as a counsellor at the clinics of general physicians for psychological problems of their patients.

However, wherever I worked, my services felt limited. I wanted to make a difference. There was way too much indiscipline at the places I worked; more than a service, it started looking like a business. Nothing can work without money but one must also understand the needs of the patients. I was not allowed to treat the way I wanted to. I decided to start something on my own. It wasn’t exactly a company, but I started counselling people on issues such as self confidence and body Image for teenage girls. . I was hardly earning any money because people in India hesitate to pay for a service such as counselling where they are not given a prescription, and according to them counselling is similar to advising. But I was truly making a difference and my counselling was working.

Being bullied most of my school and college years, not to mention depression, I knew what it meant to lose self confidence and crawl into a hole. I was lucky to have psychology constantly with me during my dark and gloomy days. Along with my personal depression, a pressure from family to get married took a toll. It wasn’t easy to come out of it, but it wasn’t impossible.   My only support was my mom. She never once asked me to settle, and she believed in my dreams and took all the heat from society to be okay with an unmarried daughter at 27! Well, my name means “one you cannot conquer”, and that is exactly how I am. That is when I decided to do something different.

I am a dreamer. I believe in dreams and I dream all the time. I believe that it is important to dream. I find freedom in dreams. In our busy lives ruled by time and society, we forget many critical and crucial things about ourselves. Dreaming is one amongst many such things. I always wanted my own counselling studio. I didn’t want a centre, but a studio where nobody is a patient.  A place where people could come and talk to me about their dreams and the obstacles they face in order to achieve them. So when I decided to name the studio I was confused. I tried to seek help from a few friends to help me find a name that would reflect exactly what I wanted to do. When you name a company or a product it needs to have an impact on you first and your clients next. One late night, I was browsing some articles and came across a word that was new to me, so I opened my dictionary (mobile app), and before I could punch in for my quest, a word flashed across the screen. “DREAMSCAPE”. Now dreamscape means to paint a surreal picture. And voila, I found my studio’s name.

THE DREAMSCAPE STUDIO

At The Dreamscape Studio, my vision is first to work with women and teenage girls. I do not have any issues working with the male population nor am I a feminist. I have seen a lot of women who lose their self identity at such an early age due to several reasons, and I wanted to help such women.  I work towards improving their lifestyle, their self esteem, and confidence. I have always believed that people have all the solutions to their problems all they need is some guidance, a direction, and a push. I like to work via one-on-one sessions. My studio does not work at light’s speed, it’s slow. For me, more than the number of clientele, improving their lives is a lot more important. Second, I work towards relaxation. In our lives, no matter what we do, whether we have our own business or a job or if we work from home or an office, there is always some stress around. The Dreamscape Studio is also a relaxation space where people come for a small session of meditation with a few relaxation techniques. Mediation does not work for everybody. I try to modify relaxation methods according to their needs.I also have online segments such as Dream Tales that features stories of eople who worked towards achieving their dream.  This is a weekly segment. I have always loved stories and this segment gave me the opportunity to come across a lot of talented and creative people out there. The Reading Corner features inspiring book for the week and Ask the therapist is a free online consulting segment where people are free to post their issues or just vent. I reply depending on the queries. Also sometimes people want to maintain their anonymity and this segment helps maintain that.

I have been very happy since this journey started. The only obstacle I face is the stigma of counselling and mental health. People fail to understand that by going to a counsellor you do not necessarily become mental or crazy. Especially in India, people do not mind taking a pill but they find therapists very expensive. I am not conventional and I usually have sessions with clients at a cafe or my house. Usually the relaxation sessions are at my place. People are smart and they have the answers to all their problems, but they are stuck with old patterns of thinking and habits. I only try to brainstorm along with them and always encourage them to take the next step. I am not sure if this is enough, but, I would like to reach to all those who are stuck in their lives and cannot seem to find a way out. I feel as if this is only the beginning. I am a lot wiser than what I started. I hope people believe in dreams and dream fearlessly to witness the magic they crave for.” – Nikita Vyas.

Visit The Dreamscape Studio here

 

Images: 1) Studio Collectivitea; 2) Courtesy of Nikita Vyas


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.). We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us and you are sure to find something you love! You can find us at www.collectivitea.com.

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Hello Monday! Our Storyteller series is gathering steam, and I am excited to share with you the creative journey of Mumbai, India based architect, Dipa Desai. There are many advantages to the internet such as  ready access to news and information. But the views and information presented is often one-dimensional. For example, we all love pretty pictures, but we would also love to hear the stories behind them – who made it, why, and what was the process? Did they wish they had done something differently? Was it easy? How did they get to where they are?  In a creative professional endeavor such as product styling, an art commission, architecture, or interior design, the artist often has to prioritize the client’s ideas over their own. I have always been curious about how they balance their input with that of the clients to produce work that is harmonious, and does justice to both sides. Today, Dipa Desai (pictured below) tells us of her journey, and it’s fascinating to hear the creative professional’s side of the story. I have added pictures of Dipa’s home here as an example of her beautiful work, and I have the complete home tour in the second part of this post. Stay tuned! – Priya


Dipa Desai/ Storyteller/Collectivitea

“I am Dipa Sheth Desai, and I am 48 years old (not feeling the age yet). Mumbai is my home town. I grew up in a Gujarati home. The creative gene comes from my mother, who taught me to hear birds, recognize the flowers, different smells, understanding nature’s color wheel, and so much more. She is an expert embroiderer. I have collected a lot of her work and I will frame them one day. But I am, and will always remain, my father’s daughter. He was an extremely suave, elegant, sophisticated, well-read man, and a successful businessman. He had the natural ability to draw people to him. He exposed me to the life of luxurious things, places… He lived more than a lifetime in his short lifespan of 49 years. I am what I am, only because of him.

My memories of childhood are all about drawing, painting, and anything creative. I was a good student who would finish school work fast to escape to my world of drawings and paintings. So, when the choice came to choose undergraduate study, it was naturally the Fine Arts. My father, the businessman, thought otherwise. He wanted me to pursue architecture which would combine creativity with the sciences. A choice that I don’t regret at all.

I married when I was 25, and took a sabbatical when my son, Dev, was born. We shifted many cities thanks to my husband Ketan’s jobs with multinational organizations. It was a brilliant phase of discovering new places, cultures, arts, crafts and meeting creative people. It was a time for self-discovery. After 9 years, returning to Mumbai led me back to resume my practice. I am always thankful for the opportunities that have kept coming my way.”

Dipa Desai/ Storyteller/Collectivitea

 

My work:

“My first job when I graduated, had led me to an architecture firm. 4 months of boring working drawings and zero creativity, saw me walking out one evening, and to never going back to that kind of practice. My second job with a lady architect, practicing interior architecture, led me to my calling. A year, and one more job later, hating the 9 to 6 routine, I started my own practice. A crazy friend of mine trusted me (I was only 23 yrs old) to design 3 huge bungalows, for his family, with a large budget. That put me on a path of designing luxury homes, ever since.”Dipa Desai/ Storyteller/Collectivitea

“I have designed numerous homes, some offices, and met wonderful people as clients along the way. I set up a home office which allowed me to prioritize my family and work. As the work grew, I sought out talented women who worked from their homes because of young kids to share my workload. This model of lower fixed costs gave me the luxury of choosing the kind of work that I would love to do, and left me with enough time to explore my creative interests. Consequently, we started investing in art, and continue to enjoy it. With my experience of having designed several homes, we started buying apartments as an investment which I would redesign to a completely new level.”

Dipa Desai/ Storyteller/Collectivitea

My Challenges:

“I am known as an architect who designs contemporary, modern homes. When I get a chance to design a home, most of my clients keep showing me images of interiors on an international website or in an international magazine. “This is what we want”, they say. I ask them if they have a story to tell, memories to share, memorabilia to display that will make their home, a living memory of their lives. Often, I get blank stares. I tell them, yes, we can do this, but can we also incorporate our Indian arts, crafts, culture alongside, that which has been an integral part of their growing up??

I say to them, I promise to give our arts a modern twist so that they can blend well with the contemporary look. Often I get told that we grew up with that look in our homes but now we want a modern, affluent looking home without it seeming like an Indian ethnic house. At the most, Indian art comes into their Pooja ghars and mandirs (altars). This ends up making me feel like “A Reluctant Architect”. Thankfully, a few of my clients are willing to experiment on my suggestions. And that’s when I face my biggest challenges and the excitement of sourcing Indian art in a modern context.

When I visit handicraft shows, fairs, exhibitions, I feel that our arts and crafts have stayed back in time. We are still mostly, showing imageries of gods and goddesses, and village scenes, and most of our artisans are struggling to survive. Alongside the prevalent styles, we should also have designs relevant to modern times. Our arts and crafts should go beyond being just a painting, a statue, displaying vintage pots and pans and brass items, etc. We need to do more. India has progressed and our arts need to evolve too. I used to hear the phrase ‘ABCD’, which stood for “American Born Confused Desis.” I think, we need a new one. ‘IBCD’, “Indian Born Confused Desis “:). I love our Indian art and crafts but I want it to also evolve and be relevant with the changing times, and fuse with the modern decors, without losing its unique identity. I want a choice for both styles. Indian ethnic style and a Modern Indian style. Why can’t Kalamkari, Bidri, Madhubani, Gondart, etc. have modern interpretations too??” – Dipa Desai

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Storyteller post which features a tour of Dipa’s home. Update: Home tour is here.

All images are courtesy of Dipa Desai


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Sharing Lessons In Creativity/CollectiviteaHello Monday! Hope you had a great weekend! Welcome to another new week on Collectivitea! This week, in addition to regular posts, I want to invite you to join me on a 5 day (Tue-Sat) journey through creativity. How does it work? Well, everyday, for the next 5 days, I will post some lessons in creativity or in the creative process that I’ve learnt, and I invite you to think about it, add your thoughts and together, we can explore this magical subject. First a disclaimer: I am sharing my experiences. There are many experts and thought leaders on this subject, and I am by no means either. Plus all my educational training, graduate degrees etc. are in the sciences. (Does that mean that the sciences don’t promote creativity? I believe everything can benefit with a dose of creativity!) I am self-taught in everything that is considered creative- writing, photography etc. I journal (picture above is from one of my journals) and I have written multiple posts on this topic before, but this is the first time I am writing a series dedicated to it. The goal of this is not to draw attention to any of my  perceived talents or accomplishments,  but to remind you of the treasures you hold within you. Doesn’t all that sound vaguely mysterious? Come back at 12PM, Pacific Time today to see the first post and shared lesson in creativity. – Priya

Links to the other posts on Shared Lessons In Creativity: Introduction123, 4, 5

Image credit: Artwork: The Daily Biscuit, Jan 23rd, ’17. Studio Collectivitea

 


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Hello! I hope you are enjoying your weekend (and it’s a long weekend for some)! I am here with the latest edition of the Storyteller series on Collectivitea. With every story in this series, my goal is to get to know, and share with you the journey of people who I think of as ‘creative powerhouses’. They are not just creatively inclined in that they are an artist or in a field that we typically think of as creative (art, craft, music, etc.), but the creativity spills over into every aspect of their life. From the way they see beauty in day to day life. In how they are driven to, and persevere in the expression of their creativity. And how they handle life’s blessings and challenges.  Today’s storyteller is Jayashree Rao, a Chicago area-based artist, teacher, all-round creative, and creative entrepreneur. She shares with us her fascinating journey from From Microprocessors to Mannequins to Madhubani.  When I got the interview answers and photographs back from Jayashree, I was reminded of the quote, how you do anything is how you do everything. In Jayashree’s case, it is with joy and exuberance; with style and panache. With dedication, and an exquisite eye for, and attention to detail. Read Jayashree’s story in her own words. -Priya


Jayashree Rao/ Storyteller/Collectivitea       My Journey – From Microprocessors to Mannequins to Madhubani. 

THE PARADIGM SHIFT

“I am Jayashree Rao, teacher and founder at Ethnic India, an art endeavor that focuses on the traditional folk art form of Bihar, India, called MADHUBANI. I hail from Mangalore, a coastal town in Karnataka, India, whose blue skies, sugary beaches and turquoise waters have always fascinated my appreciation for colors and textures. Home decor, fashion and art have been my passion from a very young age. Despite my artistic inclination, I decided to study engineering in Electronics and Telecommunication and after successfully completing my engineering degree, I worked for a couple of years in the engineering field only to realize that I wasn’t too happy with my job and wasn’t enjoying it as much. After much introspection, I decided to take the bold step of following my heart and quitting my engineering job to pursue fashion. Convincing my conservative parents wasn’t easy. But they finally gave in, and in 1994, I packed my bags to travel to Bangalore to study fashion. The paradigm shift happened right there.  A degree in fashion designing and a rigorous training in visual merchandising was followed by marriage, and I moved to Chicago in 1997.  My first job was with AnnTaylor — a women’s specialty apparel retail chain here in the U.S — and I was exposed to several aspects of the Western fashion world. After working for many years for AnnTaylor, I decided to quit my job in the year 2007 to start a family. This was when Madhubani art entered my life, and there has been no looking back ever since. Currently, I reside in the suburbs of Chicago and have been learning and teaching this traditional Indian folk art to both adults and children and have conducted many workshops.”

Madhubani:Pooja Hari:Jayashree Rao

  A sacred force – A creative power – A feminine Shakthi – “Shri Shakthi“, by Jayashree’s student Pooja Hari.

A DECADE OF MADHUBANI

Right after quitting my job in 2007, I had moved into my new house and there was a creative lull in my life during this time. It was around this time that I discovered a new passion for Madhubani. Bright colors, imperfect motifs, paintings of gods and goddesses with mythological stories behind them attracted me to this particular form of art and before I knew, I was in love with it. The big blank walls of my new home became my canvas and the strokes of my brush brought life to the blank walls.  Around the same time, I happened to meet a wonderful lady named Bhagya Nagesh, who is also the founder of “Bollywood Rythyms Dance and Art studio” in Chicago. Impressed by my wall murals and my penchant for art, during one of our dinner get togethers she asked if I would consider teaching Madhubani art at her studio to her young students. My instant reaction was “NO” as I am a self taught artist and I had no prior experience in teaching. She asked me to give it a thought and get back to her. It took me a week or so to decide, and finally I made up my mind to give it a try and go ahead with the idea of teaching this traditional Indian art to young kids.

Year 2017 celebrates the successful completion of 10 years of Madhubani and my journey from microprocessors to mannequins to Madhubani has been quite an incredible one.  Today, I take pride in the fact that many young kids and adults have learnt this art from me. Though I am aware of and appreciate other folk art forms of India, I haven’t deviated from Madhubani just for the reason that I can totally relate to the boldness and the colorful imperfections this art portrays. I cherish the moments when I narrate mythological stories behind this folk art to my little students  with pride and joy. With humility and gratitude, I must say that I am blessed to have a powerful medium like Madhubani in my life through which I can make a difference. Today I have a reason to smile because I have found my calling!

Madhubani:Jayashree Rao & Students:Collectivitea                With students (from left to right) Madhu Prakash, Ria Dhar, Saavi Krishnan and Apsara Attavane.

 

Jayashree Rao:Collectivitea In a vintage Sabyasachi jute saree with a woven Taj Mahal on the border and a Bagru print blouse by the designer.

Jayashree Rao:Collectivitea

The talented and dedicated future stars of Madhubani, diligently understanding, and planning their work

Jayashree Rao:Collectivitea                                                            The wind beneath my wings – my students!

LOVE ACTUALLY

Who would have thought that something that started off as a hobby in 2007, would keep me completely engrossed and change my life in such a positive way. Madhubani has given me love and a tremendous amount of creative balance in the last 10 years. Many of my students who started off with me a decade ago are still learning this art from me and growing along with me artistically. We stand tall absorbing the nuances and the fine details of this intricate art, and today when I look back, I am what I am, solely because of their love, support and their tremendous faith in me. The bonding we share is LOVE – actually!

Megan Kamath/ Jayashree Rao/Collectivitea

Madhubani artwork by student Megan Kamath.

Megan Kamath/ Jayashree Rao/CollectiviteaTaking a minute to admire each others personal style, with student Megan Kamath.

(I am wearing a Sabyasachi flecther ( jute and cotton combination) sari, an ombre blouse with potli buttons and a hand embroidered head band from the designer.)

 

Megan Kamath/ Jayashree Rao/Collectivitea“Jala Kanya” – Megan worked on this 9ft x 6ft tall piece for almost an year with utmost passion and dedication.

Megan Kamath/ Jayashree Rao/CollectiviteaMegan, who is a fine arts student and currently learning graphic art from Benedictine University, Lisle, has been a part of my decade long journey.

ABOUT MADHUBANI

Madhubani art, also known as Mithila art is a form of Indian folk art. Madhubani comes from a village by the same name, meaning forests of honey. It is believed that Madhubani paintings originated during the time of Lord Rama and his wife Sita. These paintings were traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls. Madhubani paintings mostly depict nature and hindu deities like Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. The sun, the moon and the religious plants like Tulsi are also widely painted along with birds, flowers and other geometrical designs.

Jayashree Rao:CollectiviteaA collage of Madhubani art work of my students over the years.

TRIUMPHS vs CHALLENGES

“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Would I consider myself a creative entrepreneur? Absolutely! Loving something dearly is one thing, but believing in it and continuing to pursue it, is passion. I have always maintained that I love all things Indian, and I am happy that I stuck to my belief and continued to make and teach this beautiful Indian art.  Madhubani happened to me by accident, but the love for this art has grown stronger everyday to a point where I have completely surrendered myself to this art now. The wall murals painted in my house was my first tryst with Madhubani but once I decided to teach this art form, there was no looking back. I completely stuck to this art form by understanding and learning its fine details . Over the years, as I started gathering more knowledge about this art, though I did try to get a little innovative by adding my own touch, I didn’t deviate from the basic rules and essence of Madhubani.

Well, there are challenges in every walk of life and art is no different. But I consider myself lucky because in my case the triumphs have outnumbered the challenges. There are many students who have learnt from me for a while and have moved on but there are also students who have been with me throughout this artistic journey and are still learning and growing with me.

 

Jayashree Rao:Collectivitea

My Madhubani wall mural at the studio.

Jayashree Rao:CollectiviteaSeen here in a cotton voile Sabyasachi by Sabyasachi sari, and intricately hand embroidered backless blouse by the designer.

 

Jayashree Rao:CollectiviteaMy crazy bunch – their love for me and the art keeps me going! Pictured here with students, from L to R, Tanisha Dogra, Dia Saini, Shweta Subramanian, Bianca Dharamshi and Samhita Subramanian.

 

Jayashree Rao:Collectivitea

A moment of pride and joy as I stand here, teaching this traditional art to my students.

 

NEVER SAY NEVER

People often ask me – how long does it take to learn this art?, to which, my answer is – “the saga between the art and the artist is an ongoing one and one should continue to create art because the best is yet to come”. My advice to everyone who wants to learn something new in their life is – Never say never, go for it with 100% conviction and make it happen!

FASHION AND ART

 

Jayashree Rao:CollectiviteaWith my fashion guru Sabyasachi on his birthday – treating him to his favorite dessert – Tiramisu!

If art washes away from my soul the dust of everyday life, fashion completes me as a person. To me, fashion and art are the two sides of the same coin and I see a deep creative connection between the two.  As a kid, I was fascinated to see my mother, dress up to go to work in her “Garden Vareli” and “Only Vimal” chiffon and georgette crepe saris. The ease with which she draped her saris, her choice of colors and textiles made a huge impact on me. Today, I can attribute my love for saris and colors to her as she was my true fashion inspiration during my growing up years.

I feel that one cannot buy style, as it’s very innate. Having studied fashion and having a fairly good understanding of the fabrics, cut and color – my personal style is very edgy and unconventional. Again, I don’t follow the rules, instead I follow my heart. I like earthy handwovens in natural fabrics (sans any bling or glitter) and I love wearing clothes by many Indian designers, who share similar aesthetics like mine.

I am a huge Sabyasachi fan and proud to own his stuff from the time when he had just started, to the recent years. He is one Indian designer who was largely responsible in bringing back the sari to modern India in a major way. He drew inspiration from India and gave it back to Indians in a beautiful package.  Apart from him, I love the works of many other Indian designers like Anamika Khanna, Payal Khandwala, Pero, Rimzim Dadu and Kallol Dutta, to name a few. With Western designers I admire the works of Jason Wu, Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana.” – Jayashree Rao

Coming soon, a tour of Jayashree Rao’s Chicago area home. Stay tuned!

All images are courtesy of Jayashree Rao/Sage & Slingback.


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 Nidhi Chanani:Collectivitea

Today on Collectivitea, I want to share with you an interview that I’d done in 2015 with San Francisco-based artist Nidhi Chanani; it first appeared in the ouatt magazine. You are probably already familiar with her art that captures ordinary moments from our daily lives, and portrays them as the magical, and colorful time capsules that they are. I know I want to be one of the characters in her drawings because they are savoring all that life has to offer, and living each moment fully. In fact her work A Cup Of Tea (seen in the picture of my desk below) is one my favorite art pieces, and I always have it on my work desk- the girl could be me, right down to the pensive look!  I am excited to share Nidhi’s story and her work on the blog today!- PriyaCollectivitea


Nidhi Chanani:CollectiviteaOUATT: Hi Nidhi, welcome to OUATT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

NC: I am a freelance illustrator and artist, and the owner of Everyday Love Art. I am currently working on my debut graphic novel, Pashmina, to be published by First Second Books. I recently illustrated Misty – The Proud Cloud, a children’s book written by Hugh Howey. I was born in Calcutta, and raised in suburban, southern California. I’ve been working as a full-time artist for 5 years now. I accept commissions, but due to my hectic schedule it’s usually 2/month and my next availability is September.

Nidhi Chanani:Collectivitea

We Met In College/Nidhi Chanani

OUATT: We think of your style as “seeing beauty where others might miss it!” How would you describe the style of your art?

NC: I describe my work as whimsical and romantic.

Nidhi Chanani:Collectivitea

OUATT: What are the current projects you are working on? What would be your dream project?

NC: I’m working on Pashmina most days. Writing and drawing a graphic novel is a large task, I’ve already spent 2+ years on it. I also have some unannounced projects. I balance between Pashmina and running Everyday Love Art. I’m also working on some product releases for Comic-Con San Diego. My dreams are always tied to books. I’m currently working on a dream of mine, Pashmina. I’ve always wanted to make a graphic novel. I hope that I get more chances to make more books, whether graphic novels or kids books. Ideally, both! I love story telling and if I could spend all my time doing that I would be very happy.

OUATT: Finally, what are your most ambitious goals? Do you feel that you are exactly where you want to be?

NC: My most ambitious goal is for Everyday Love Art products to be carried in shops and boutiques across the country, to have a flagship shop in San Francisco and to produce 3-5 books a year. Those are my business and career goals. I started this path because I wanted to connect with people. One of my goals is to go on a national tour to teach art in small communities. When you leave the big cities, access and exposure to art is still an issue. I would love to break that barrier and bring art to people, to teach, exchange and connect.”

You can find Nidhi Chanani and her beautiful art at her website Everyday Love Art. All art images are courtesy of Nidhi Chanani/ Everyday Love Art.


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My goal for Collectivitea is to widen the focus to the people behind a brand, studio or organization- their journey, why they do what they do- essentially, their story. I have also come to believe that to explore creativity at any level is to come face to face with divinity. Bringing the two together- stories of the creative process- is what I love doing. I find it both inspiring, and an honor to share the myriad different journeys we are all on.  Today, I want to share with you the story and work of  Swasthik Iyengar, an artist based in Brisbane, Australia. I was introduced to her work via Instagram (you can find her @Gunga_Ma). The subjects of her work are usually from Hindu mythology and Indian folk art, and what drew me to them was Swasthik’s bold, decisive style of drawing and the evocative photography that accompanies them. Read the story of how Swasthik’s childhood experiences helped shape her education and work, and her creative journey so far.

Gunga_Ma /Collectivitea

CTEA: Welcome to Collectivitea! Tell us a little about yourself, what part of the world you are located in and what you do. 

SI: “So, I am Swasthik. I was born and raised in Chennai, India until I was two years old. We then then moved to Varanasi and lived there, and I was home schooled till I was 5. At 5 years old, my family and I moved to Brisbane in Australia for my father’s job. As a kid, I remember having such a magical life, surrounded by the most interesting and weird family. I lived in a village and we were not a family that came from money. So all I knew where the Hindu folk stories that my great grandfather, my great grand mother, my grandfather and grand mother told me. About the mythical Hindu gods and the stories which took me to another world, a place so different from the real world. I was always so intrigued by these stories. I remember my grandmother’s shrine in her small dark cow dung kitchen. I would often go there and sit in front of the gods and admire the folk paintings and small statues that my grandmother had. These were Iyengar tribe family heirlooms that had been passed down for many generations. I was friends with a lot of the elders and children in my village and found myself running amok, amongst the cows or jumping off temple tops into the cold water when there were intense heat waves. My family being Iyengar, were really spiritual and I remember being on the road a far bit, travelling to temples, sacred ancestor grounds and speaking to elders from different tribes, and listening to dream time stories that weren’t written in books. So my fascination for folk stories and the divine beings in these stories made me study Indian mythology, and complete my Ph.D. in  Hindu mythology and folklore. But because I was so intrigued in these stories, I started to get covered in Hindu gods and goddesses as tattoos from the time I was 20. I spent most of my twenties travelling around Europe, meeting some amazing people and getting tattoos from some incredible artists and soulful beings.”

Gunga_Ma/Collectivitea

CTEA: Are you a professional artist? When did you get started? What most inspires your art?

SI: Honestly, I have doodled and drawn all my life. My granddad used to read me little comic books with Hindu stories in it, and those pictures fascinated me. So I used to draw those pictures all the time. I have only just restarted drawing since finishing my Ph.D., hoping to embark on a new journey, doing what I always wanted to do – tattooing. In general, I love, and am inspired by, Indian folk art.  I draw other things but I am into all kinds of folk and tribal art, and pattern work. I grew up with a lot of the ladies in my family doing embroidery patterns on saris, so I loved seeing them use colours and embroidering amazing patterns and shapes on silks and tapestry

Gunga_Ma/Collectivitea

CTEA: How would you describe your work? 

SI: “I think my work is very traditional Indian folk art, at times comical, but I’d like to think it is more towards folk art/indigenous Indian art with the way I use colours, shading and dots or lines.”

Gunga_Ma/CollectiviteaCTEA: Would you consider yourself a creative entrepreneur? If yes, tell us some of the triumphs and challenges of that path. 

SI: “I would like to consider myself as someone just finally embarking on a creative journey that I have always wanted to do. I think that art is medicine, and it is meditative. Creating and painting again is such a spiritual journey, something I think you can’t really understand, unless you embark on this journey. I just really like painting and studying folk imagery from the 16th century onwards especially because I know all the stories. I think some of the triumphs I have encountered is being able to have wonderful soulful friends and family cross my path and help me on this journey. I am blessed to know some amazing artist/friends who have not only marked me for life, but helped me each step of the way in being a better artist and better person. After having my world turned upside down earlier this year, I never thought that 6 months ago, I would have made some of the best mates/brothers that I have done now at the tattoo shop I apprentice at (True Love Tatoo Brisbane). I am forever grateful for being welcomed into that little family and won’t ever forget any of my brothers. I am lucky that I am in a shop working with humble lads teaching me the right way to enjoy my experience learning how to paint and hopefully tattoo.”

image5-copyCTEAWhat advice would you give someone that is starting out as an artist?

SI: “To be honest, I really don’t know as I am just starting out too. I think it is important to immerse yourself in it and be surrounded by a beautiful environment where you find inspiration everyday and beautiful like-minded people interested in creating/painting. I feel like I am living it, breathing it every day and the more I paint, the more I want to learn and grow…I think it is important to be in a place where you can be able to do that.

 

Gunga_Ma/Collectivitea

You can visit Swasthik at her Instagram account here. Thank you for sharing your story!- Priya

All images are courtesy of Swasthik Iyengar. Image photography credits: Emma Attard.


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Khazana/CollectiviteaI’ve been running Collectivitea for a little over a year now, and if there’s been one big lesson I’ve learned, it’s that running a business quickly becomes a way of life. It’s like adding a new member to your family- you love and worry about it passionately and you work to create a bright future for it.  You also want the business to be about more than the products you offer-  about storytelling and building a community. Even before I started a business, I’ve alway thought that one of these days I’d like to have a physical space that celebrates arts and crafts from around the world, and has a little tea café where we have book signings, poetry readings and talk about all that is beautiful and creative. Which brings us to today’s story of Khazana, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based store that offers arts, crafts, jewelry and textiles from around the world. They also host events, talks (Tea & Textiles, anyone?) and recently started leading travel tours. Founder and owner Anju Kataria tells us how she started Khazana.

Khazana/Collectivitea

CTEA: What is Khazana about? What kind of products do you offer and why those specifically?

AK: “Khazana is about beauty. Beauty is not only found in the objects themselves, but also the stories that each object holds. Everything you see in the shop has a story, a personal connection – the story of our travels, the artists we connect with, and the friendships we make along the way.  Khazana is also about me. I have loved textiles since I was a child. I would gather beautiful things and think to myself, “Someday.” Khazana is my “someday.” It began from my personal collection and grew from there. And as the shop grew, I grew both in knowledge and in experience.”

Khazana/Collectivitea

“Khazana is also about community, connection, and education. We have cultivated what really is a platform for people and organizations that share the same values to come together. Whether it is working with Ragamala Dance company and other local organizations, overseas partners, hosting trunk shows that feature independent artisans, sharing almost daily conversations over tea, or the connection we make with every guest that walks through our doors, we couldn’t be what we are without connection to our community.

Khazana sells handmade objects, art, jewelry, textiles, and home goods primarily from India and Southeast Asia, but really from wherever our travels take us. We have Shipibo pieces from the Ucayali region of the Amazon; handwoven baskets from Oaxaca, Mexico; and Dreamweaver’s ikat from the T’boli tribe of the Philippines. Every piece in Khazana has a story. The story of the where it was made, the hands that made it, the minds that conceived it, the passion and history that inspired it, and how it came to Minneapolis. We work directly with the artisans and choose our pieces with them in mind. We prioritize fair and supportive partnerships with the craftspeople and want to see them grow with us.

In addition to offering beautiful objects, art, jewelery, and textiles, just this year, 2016, we brought our first group of adventurous travellers to India. This group had a chance to experience India as we see it – as a country full of diverse cultures, deep and meaningful traditions, and a vast world of art. So, now we offer beautiful experiences as well.”  Khazana/Collectivitea

 

CTEA: As entrepreneurs, what are some of the triumphs and challenges that you have faced in running your business? What is one piece of advice that you would give someone who is starting out?

AK: “Khazana is a story of entrepreneurship, tenacity, passion, and love. I opened Khazana in 1982 with my personal collection and brought to where it is today. It has supported my family for decades, put my sons through graduate school, and has grown into a fun and much-loved business that not only helps support my little Khazana family in Minneapolis, but also artisans overseas. Khazana also has given my children a connection to their culture and a deep insight into their heritage. The kids were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading musicians, artisans, and scholars who have walked through Khazana’s doors. Throughout the years, we have seen both ups and downs. We have been forced out of numerous locations as bigger corporations came to Downtown Minneapolis. We have experienced theft, armed robbery, and health crises.

I used every downturn to create new opportunities for Khazana and its ever increasing artisan community. We adjusted what we were carrying in the shop in response to the changing times, started having classes and artist trunk shows to reach a wider audience, and even added artisan tours to India with a “travel with family’ emphasis. The advice I would give to someone who is starting out is to be true to yourself, be strong, believe in your cause, and keep going. Do what you love. I walk into Khazana everyday and say to myself, “I love my shop.” I want everyone to have that feeling everyday they wake up. You will never want to quit and you will keep fighting to achieve your dreams.”

Khazana/Collectivitea

 

CTEA: What is your long term vision for Khazana? Where do you see it going and what do you want to accomplish?

AK: “I try to shine a light on, and build awareness among our customers and partner organizations about the hard work of the artisans we work with. I love providing a space for international artists to come and conduct lectures while selling their work, while also facilitating connections between them and the art institutions. Khazana is always growing. Right now, we are focusing on building better community collaboration through educational events and our trips to India. We have loved the expansion of our lecture series and have already learned so much from the participating artists and the community members who come ready to engage.”

Khazana/Collectivitea“Khazana is a gallery and a shop, but, above all it is a place for connections, grounding, expanding our worldviews, and building community. I want artists, travelers, and our neighbors to use our space to grow their dreams and visions and use the network we have created as a springboard. We are better when we support each other. In order to foster these values, we have remained flexible, always open to new ideas and have started holding more classes in the store and working with organizations like the American Swedish Institute, Northern Clay Center, and the Textile Center to reach broader arts audiences in the Twin Cities.”- Anju Kataria

There is so much more to running a business than the products you offer, and I hope that sharing stories such as that of Khazana will inspire us all to build and connect. You can find Khazana on the web here to learn more about them, and if you are traveling to Minneapolis, definitely stop by! I know I am going to! – Priya

All images are courtesy of Khazana.


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Welcome to Part 2 of our conversation with Tania Chatterjee of Drishti Photography! (Part 1 is here) As mentioned in my earlier post, Tania works as a HIV counselor in addition to running her photography business. Here she talks about integrating the two seemingly disparate parts of her work..

“….My academic life has been a very interesting journey so far, on a path that seemed long and winding – but it all ended up with where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve spent the last year working a certified HIV Counselor, and have been volunteering and working with several reproductive health organizations to further my training and knowledge. This path may seem odd to some people, especially in the desi community – but that just tells me that there is so much work to be done in this field, not just in the desi communities, but worldwide.”

Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“For quite some time, as I entered the field, there was a feeling of unease, as in our South Asian community we hardly ever talk openly about sexual and reproductive health (although things are slowly changing). I almost felt like I couldn’t talk about my work, because it’s considered such a taboo subject. In the last year, I finally found a resolution – working with some of my peers in the local South Asian community in Washington DC, we are working on creating a safe space for South Asian youth to talk about the issues that are important to them – like sexual/reproductive health, mental health, gender, identity, and LGBTQ issues – issues that they may not be able to talk openly about in their families or communities. Doing our first workshop on these topics this past summer in New York City was so incredibly exhilarating, rewarding, and freeing – and I felt amazing to find support and enthusiasm on these topics from my fellow South Asian youth peers. Doing the workshop has given me more courage to openly talk about these issues, and in a way this project has become been a bridge between my academic life and my desi life.”

Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“The academic life is not glamorous – we constantly face setbacks in our work. We constantly read despairing news. For all the progress in world, there are always terrible things happening that halt and destroy that progress. There is always the sense that no matter how much work we are doing, there is always, always so much more to be done. I think about my long-term goal of bringing comprehensive sex education to India, of creating programs that teach young men and women about consent and rape culture, and dismantle the patriarchal system that rules over our lives, and it’s sometimes despairing to think of where to start. And of how much work there is to do. Creativity – whether it’s photographing a beautiful wedding or improvising choreography in my kitchen while whipping up a new recipe – always gives me respite from the real world. It’s so freeing to escape for a bit into my own imagination, and create a safe little place just for myself.”

Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“Balancing these two lives – the creative and the academic is not easy. Having a business while working fulltime is not easy – but so far, I’ve managed to make it work. It leads often times to sleepless nights and long hours, as I’m the kind of person who is involved in at least five different things at once (both creative and academic). Sometimes, I feel like I’m constantly running, from project to project, from photoshoot to photoshoot with no breaks in between. But at this point, giving up either one is not an option, because both fuel different aspects of my mind, and both are equally important and stimulating for me.

photo-credit_-shantanu-bagchi-2
“This year, I’ve tried to focus on myself more than ever – on self-care, and on my mental and physical health – which is not always easy for me as I don’t like to sit still! This year was incredibly challenging with a slew of health issues, burnout and intense depression from it all. Instead of focusing on what was wrong, I took on as many projects as I could humanly juggle to make sure that there was no time for me to think about what was wrong – and it didn’t end well. I came to realize that it’s ok to take breaks, to say no, and to slow down, because burnout is very real and can happen really quickly when you’re going at breakneck speed. That meant that this year, I took on less photography assignments, but I booked clients that actually matched my style and vision and fueled my creativity. I focused more on the business side of things – building and maintaining a website, being active and interactive on social media, investing in equipment, and networking. At the same time, I focused on my academic career – making connections, growing my skillset, volunteering, and working on projects and with organizations that I was really passionate about. It’s been a hectic, but very fulfilling year. I’ve realized that life has a funny way of putting things in place as they should be, and that we always end up where we belong. As this year closes out, I hope that the upcoming year will be more balanced, and more fulfilling, and hopefully be filled with as many adventures both academic and creative as this year was!”- Tania Chatterjee

With the Storyteller series, I hope to bring to you stories of people that inspire, encourage and empower all of us. Thank you Tania for sharing your journey with all of us! If you’d like to share yours, please email me here. – Priya

 


All images are courtesy of Tania Chatterjee. Image credits: 1.,2., 3., are taken by Tania Chatterjee, Drishti Photography;  4. Shantanu Bagchi.


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Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

My goal for Collectivitea is to widen the focus to the people behind a brand, studio or organization- their journey, why they do what they do- essentially, their story. Today, I want to introduce you to Tania Chatterjee. I first came across her on Instagram. She is a photographer, and runs Drishti Photography that offers everything from portraits, to wedding and event photography. The pictures are rich and evocative of a more elegant and glamorous time; they easily capture the romance between colors and textures. As a photographer myself, I was intrigued, doubly so because of this description, “Tania is a public health geek by day, and a photographer by night. A trained Indian Classical Dancer, Tania has been learning and performing Bharatanatyam, a dance form that originated in Southern India, since she was six. Tania hopes to use her public health training to pursue a career in women’s reproductive health, while keeping up with photography and dance, and pursuing her dreams of world travel.

Tania Chaterjee/Collectivitea
I reached out to Tania to ask her about her photography, and to hear about how she balances her creativity and the academic aspects of her work. Did one energize the other? One of my pet theories is that a training in the sciences and an interest in the creative arts are somehow greatly intertwined. What follows is a fascinating story! Because of the length, I’ve split the article into 2 parts. Here’s part 1 in Tania’s own words where she talks about following a creative path…

“I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember – as a child, I would constantly be drawing, making crafts, and designing things with my ever-growing imagination. Now, as a young adult, the urge to create things hasn’t lessened – in fact, it’s grown into a passion, and my imagination is no less active than it was before! I’ve been so lucky that my parents and family, both of whom have a passion and appreciation for the arts, always nurtured my love for the arts and encouraged me to let that love grow.”

Tania Chatterjee/Photo credit: Shantanu Bagchi

“I started learning Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian Classical Dance, when I was six years old and lived in New Delhi. At first, I just did it just to do it, because all my friends did it. I wasn’t particularly good at it, and always felt like I was left in the shadows as my friends, who were better dancers, danced in the spotlight. But one day, something clicked and there was no looking back from there! In the last several years, following my arangetram, I’ve found a huge passion for choreographing and directing. I love creating something out of nothing – creating a mood with costumes, lighting, set design, choreography, and music. Dance to me is the deepest form of expression – using your whole body, your whole being to tell a story without saying a single word.”

Tania Chaterjee/Collectivitea

“If dance was my first love, photography is my second. I picked up a digital camera in the summer of 2006 on a trip to New York City, and from there it’s been a whirlwind of experiments that eventually turned into a small business. To me, photography is so similar to dance in a the way that you can tell an entire story within one frame, without having to say a word, and your audience can interpret your work with their own imagination and their own story. In this way, photography lives on in endless forms, with endless stories, with the endless beauty of interpretation. I love that with photography, moments that are fleeting, details that might otherwise become muddled in our memories, are preserved forever. I love that photography means chasing the light and finding beauty everywhere – in both ordinary and extraordinary happenings.

Tania Chaterjee/Collectivitea

“As I said before, my imagination is hyperactive, 24/7. At any given moment, I have several ongoing stories in my head (some of which I’ve written down, and who knows maybe I’ll publish them one day!). Whenever I hear a particularly moving piece of music, in my head I’m already choreographing steps to it. I indulge in my creativity in as many ways as possible besides photography and dance – through cooking, fashion and music, through film and art and literature. I love to surround myself with beautiful things, with other creatives, and with work that inspires me. I love exploring and traveling to new places – something that I don’t always get to do, but am working on making a priority in the near future. Oh, and I absolutely LOVE Pinterest – for me, it’s a perfectly curated collection of things that I find beautiful – bold colours, all things desi, textiles, good food, fashion, travel and nature. Whenever I need a visual break from the world, you’ll find me on Pinterest, and somehow seeing all those beautiful things in one place always makes me feel better and recharges my imagination.”

Tania Chatterjee/Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“From when I was quite young, I’ve said to anyone and everyone who’d listen that when I retire, I’d like to live in India (preferably with several adorable and fluffy dogs) as a photographer + cook + fashion designer. I’d also be a mysterious author writing riveting stories under an appropriately mysterious pseudonym, and of course I’d be traveling the world and photographing exotic and faraway lands. Given my vivid imagination, young adult me hasn’t let go of this dream yet – who knows, maybe it’ll become a reality one day! I would certainly like to think that it will.”

Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“Outside of my creative endeavors, in the academic world, I focus on sexual and reproductive health, with a particular interest in public health, HIV, and women’s health. My academic life has been a very interesting journey so far, on a path that seemed long and winding – but it all ended up with where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve spent the last year working as a certified HIV Counselor, and have been volunteering and working with several reproductive health organizations to further my training and knowledge. This path may seem odd to some people, especially in the desi community – but that just tells me that there is so much work to be done in this field, not just in the desi communities, but worldwide.”- Tania Chatterjee .. to be contd. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Tania’s story! Update: Part 2 is here!

All images are courtesy of Tania Chatterjee. Image credits: 1.,2., 5., 6., and 7. are taken by Tania Chatterjee, Drishti Photography;  3. Shantanu Bagchi; 4. Utpal Dasgupta


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.).

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Anita Clemetson Pottery /Collectivitea

Our first pop-up event features potter and artist, Anita Clemetson.  Read Anita’s story below…

“After taking a three-dimensional art class in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue additional formal training in art, particularly in clay.  I received a Bachelor’s degree in Art from San Jose State University, and established my studio in Sunnyvale, California.  Besides producing art in my own studio, I enjoy working at the Sunnyvale Community Clay Center. My work is available through shops, art festivals, galleries, studio sales and private commissions.  I love being actively involved with the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild and have served as Secretary and as Chairman of their Board of Directors.   I use a potter’s wheel to produce most of my functional work.  The pots are made of high-fired stoneware clay with special attention paid to function, grace and beauty.  All my glazes are lead free and my pots are safe to use in the oven, microwave and dishwasher.”

Anita Clemetson Pottery /Collectivitea
Image credits: 1) Courtesy of Anita Clemetson; 2) Studio Collectivitea

To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Human Revolution Clothing/Collecitivitea I am obsessed with documenting the journey of creatives, creative thinkers and  entrepreneurs and creating an archive of inspirational thoughts, ideas, actions and processes.  And for this edition of Textile Tuesday, I want to share with you my conversation with Lauren Adelman, who moved from New York to the island of Kaua’i and in the process, found a whole new way of life, and a new calling.   Lauren is currently a private sous chef on Kaua’i, Hawaii but she is also the  entrepreneurial force behind the organic, fair-trade, GMO-free clothing label, HUMAN REVOLUTION CLOTHING. With a network that spans continents, HRC is striving to grow a pesticide-free, ‘seed-to-shirt’ label.

Human Revolution Clothing/Collecitivitea

Human Revolution Clothing/Collecitivitea

 “Human Revolution Clothing started with an idea to make undies for yogis.  I was a dedicated Ashtanga yoga student for many years, and one day decided to go green on a silly idea of mine.  I started researching the textile industry and couldn’t believe the information that I was discovering about how toxic and deadly the fashion industry really was.  What I couldn’t believe, more so that I didn’t put it together myself earlier, was our clothing was farmed! And cotton had become the most genetically modified crop on earth.  Here I was taking care to eat local, organic, GMO-free food, yet never thinking how chemical farming beyond food was impacting our earth.  It’s been on since then.  Working towards this cause, and connecting the dots, is my calling and I can’t imagine my life without this journey!   Human Revolution Clothing is made up of a global team starting with the farmers of Chetna Organic in India who grow our organic, GMO (gentically modified organisms)-free,  fair trade cotton seeds.

Human Revolution Clothing/CollecitiviteaLauren Adelman (second from right), pictured here with her collaborators

Then we have the movers and shakers over at Rajlakshmi mills in Kolkata who measure, cut, stitch and refine our designs.  We have local artists of Kaua’i who help design our graphics and we have the most wonderful followers and supporters locally, and globally, that help us continue doing what we love to do.  Our home office is based out of Kaua’i, Hawaii, and I spend about 2 months a year in India”, says Lauren. “There are so many challenges when you step into the entrepreneur world and start creating something from nothing. I’ve noticed that I live my life the very same way that I run HRC, and that is everything is here for us to learn, that everything is set up for our personal growth. We don’t always know what that means or what that will look like, but when you have faith in your self and your mission, ups and downs all equal growth and expansion. I hope to accomplish more than I can even dream of right now with HRC. I see HRC as being a leading wholesaler for organic, GMO-free, fair trade clothing. The more momentum HRC gets, the more farmers, workers and crafters we can support. When we grow, everyone connected to us grows as well! My personal goal for 2016 is to have a conscious, positive, high-vibe musician print all of their concert merchandise on HRC, say Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd, Nahko Bear or Neil Young – for starters. If the opportunity presents itself, I would love to have a few flagstaff shops , where I can incorporate our clothing and handicrafts from around the world. I love collaborating and currently, we are linked up with Books Over Bombs (www.booksoverbombs.org) to help raise money for the 400,000 displaced children of Syria through conscious clothing campaigns. So many of the worlds problems are BIG, that many people feel that the little things they do won’t or don’t matter. I think herein rests the key to changing the world. Every little thing becomes the BIG thing. Making small changes eventually becomes the big change and what you do, absolutely, 100%, without a doubt has an impact on the world. I believe supporting and wearing clothing that is organic, fair trade, handmade, locally sourced, locally made, recycled or reused sends out a message that’s far louder than one imagines. Education is the key to that lock and the more reliable information the public can have on the effects of chemical farming and toxic manufacturing processes, the greater the understanding for the need to support organic and sustainable practices.” – Lauren Adelman

Human Revolution Clothing/Collecitivitea

Tune in at Soundcloud to listen to Lauren’s story and get to know the global effort behind her organization,  Human Revolution Clothing. We recorded the conversation last summer for the July 2015 issue of the ouatt magazine;  you can visit Human Revolution Clothing here.



To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Deccan Footprints is the brainchild of Manvee Vaid who I’d interviewed for the ouatt magazine a few months ago and you can read her story below.


Manvee Vaid/ Collectivitea
Manvee Vaid is an art curator based in Chicago, Illinois who has made it her life’s mission to promote and support the contemporary folk and tribal arts of India. She has been exhibiting her art collection in and around Chicago since 2009. “It was in 2012 that I established Deccan Footprints, an online art gallery that gives voices to folk, tribal and other emerging contemporary artists. I realized that the history, the artist’s journey, the stories and the ethos of the paintings often gets overlooked at the visual level. I wanted to make Indian art accessible, promote dialogue, introspection, and inquisitiveness in Indian art to new audiences. Fortunately, I have been able to exhibit at several venues, including the University of Chicago, College of DuPage, the University of Massachusetts, and so on. For me it has been a personal journey – an attempt to understand the different styles and purposes of the art of India and my own heritage. So, while it is useful to know why these pictures were painted, it is essential that we also understand both those for whom they were painted, and the artists who painted them. Unless we do so, we cannot fully appreciate what makes them special.” Deccan Footprints offers original folk and tribal art from various regions of India for sale.


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Sep 30

Aarohi Singh

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ CollectiviteaAarohi Singh is a Bengaluru, India-based artist and creative powerhouse whose work has gained a devoted following of admirers and art collectors. It’s hard to choose a single reason for the acclaim that her art draws. She is exceedingly talented. She is bold in her creations, whether it’s the choice of subjects, colors, size or complexity. She is versatile, using a variety of materials (oils, watercolors, acrylic paints and pastels) and mediums that range from the flat of the canvas, to the contours of a kettle or chair. Her art is at once pure and accessible- anyone can see the beauty and feel the power of the paintings but that does not in any way make them ordinary. Apart from large canvas artworks and a collection that involves art on everyday objects such as boxes and kettles, she is also currently launching a line of hand-painted furniture and volunteering her art skills to raise awareness on the plight of stray dogs in India. So add prolific and a willingness to experiment to her many talents! Aarohi Singh spoke to us about her introduction to art and the journey so far.

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ Once Upon A Tea Time

Have you always wanted to paint? Was it your first choice as an occupation or was it serendipity? 

AS: I have always been into creativity of some sort. My journey into painting began when I started painting A0 size posters of cartoon characters for my room wall. I think I was about ten years old at the time. It started out  by trying to use squares to enlarge a drawing and then I found I wanted to be able to get flat colors, just like you see in the comics with black outlines. I think my ‘kitsch’ range of work with its black outlines is a remnant of that time. And then a fantastic guide and guru, Mr. Nakul Sinha who was my art teacher for the SUPW (Socially useful, productive work) class in school, made me realize that this is what I was made for. To paint and create. I did painting as a SUPW subject in school from grades 10-12th. And since I was in boarding school at the time, Nakul sir would open the art room for me at all times of the day- holidays or not. He never ‘touched up’ any work of mine though he did so for others. I used to think he did not care. Until he told me at my first exhibition four years later – “I always saw the potential but I wanted you to develop your own voice.”  I took painting as an elective subject in 11 and 12th grade. In my board exams, I topped the country in both painting and history. I have a certificate from CBSE for being a 0.0001% topper. My Mum said you can paint anytime, so do history. Thus started my journey into finding meaning and value and into connections that find their way into my art today. I did my graduation and post graduation in History and got top grades again. I found myself at a fork- History and IAS or something else. I did a short course in Auto CAD for the fun of it and then joined a company as a content writer. From there I went on to do Information architecture and Interaction design. While I was good at my job and did well, my heart was not in it. I continued to paint on the side. And I was lucky that my work sold from home and by word of mouth alone.  After marriage and two kids, I was at a point as a stay at home mum that if I did not do something productive I would have killed myself. I went back to my first love, painting. Full time or as full-time as two young children would allow! That is when the painting on small objects like kettles and boxes started, as a sort of way to give voice to my thoughts without an all-consuming methodology of large format oils or acrylics. But art needs to be shared. No one lives in a vacuum and I wanted to know if what I think, say and feel is also felt by others. A near, sold-out exhibition in 2008 of the ‘Kitsch’ range changed my life. I have been painting ‘full-time’ since then.

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ Once Upon A Tea Time

What fascinates you about painting?  

AS: The tactile feel of the canvas/support and the paint. And yes, the colors too. Colors convey so much more than the obvious. I find the process of trying to control how the paint flows on the support both frustrating and liberating. To me, it is amazing that any artist can position seemingly random lines and splashes on a flat surface and create something that is almost alive. I know what I want to create most times and sometimes magic happens – the feeling I want to express is on the paper without conscious thought. Somehow physically touching the paint lends itself to a kind of ceremony vs.fingers dancing across a screen with a stylus. It would be sterile and lifeless. On the computer screen, the work looks finished even when you know it isn’t. By hand I have the remnants of that work for days.. paint under my finger nails, skin slightly dry from over washing or thinner. I love it. I feel more connected to my art. Everything inspires me. Thoughts, ideas, people, places. To me, what I create is about connections. Connections of ‘Me’ to that ‘something’ or ‘someone’ else. In fact so often I find that I am pushing my own limits to see in how many ways I can express a feeling or thought. And across how many different supports or materials. In a way, it is an effort to nail down a nebulous thought into a more lucid form, one that challenges in terms of  use of material.

Do you have an idea and you draw an outline and then come back to it time and again, each time changing it a little till it looks the way you want it to?

AS: Most times, I have a good idea of what I want to create. But it is usually is only about 75% clear. The rest takes shape as I work. Sometimes I have worked on a canvas for months and not been able to get what I wanted and then something will click and I will paint near nonstop for 24-36 hours and the painting will be done. Some work is about conveying a mood without too much detail as happens with the pen and inks…somehow more fluid. Spontaneous. The large format canvases started in a very detailed, almost graphic format and then slowly I found myself gravitating to an inner desire to just let go. Soon I was painting with my fingers, a rag or my open palm. The brush only came in much later to add some refining points.

 What do you like painting the most?

AS: “Eyes. They are a window into the soul. More often than not, into my soul. Every canvas is more about what I felt at the time, generically, about the subject, than the subject itself. Every man I paint is a reflection of the man I love. Those eyes convey my feelings toward him. I rarely paint women. Somehow I have never really been able to. I am sure technically they would appear to show the same skill level that you see in my other work and yet, I don’t usually fall in love with those canvases. I wrote a lot for two years. Stray thoughts after reading a book, watching a movie or chatting with a friend. Sometimes after a fight with my man. And then once I started painting the big faces on canvas I just stopped writing. It all came out in the eyes…”

Aarohi has held both solo and group art shows since starting as an artist is 1989. She started painting full time in 2008 and is available for custom assignments. “I love them and hate them. They push me out of my comfort zone to try and see if I can connect with someone else artistically- to give voice to their thought/idea… I have a website called www.artbyaarohi.com and you can find me on www.facebook.com/artbyaarohi and on Instagram – www.instagram.com/artbyaarohi.”

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ Once Upon A Tea Time

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of the OUATT magazine. All images are courtesy of Aarohi Singh and are taken by Supreet Singh.


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

I want to introduce you to Chicago-based artist Chandrika Marla. Her artwork is gorgeous on so many counts- most of them are in intense colors that take me back to my childhood, a time when those colors were all around me. She has a whole series that use block-printed fabrics, but those aren’t the only reasons. Almost the entire body of her work talks about women, their relationships with themselves and the people around them. The work does not only have a biographical element to it, it’s also universal because the artist explores themes of joy, loss, confidence and strength.

Chandrika Marla/ CollectiviteaChandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

INVERSION

My World is Upside Down, 2009/ Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

My World is Upside Down, 2009
Acrylic and oil pastel on canvas

“I’ll start chronologically/backwards, which helps to see how the work has evolved. INVERSION was an unplanned series. I had a blank canvas in front of me, and I began to sketch directly onto the canvas with my brush. I drew a head, then a shoulder and another curve, and before I knew it I had a composition that had these anthropomorphic shapes. This ended up being a group in which I talk about people, togetherness, our behaviors and choices. If you flip one of these paintings upside down, you get a very similar image on the new side. As if there are people everywhere, no matter where you turn.

PARTS

Back 2, 2010, Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea                                Back 2, 2010  Acrylic, oil pastel and ashes on canvas

PARTS is an ongoing group, evolving ever since I started painting. This is where my obsession with the female torso began. The main theme is an absence of body parts, parallel to ruminations on what I had lost in my own journey. Did I miss the culture I grew up with? The friends I left behind? The inspiration here was to find answers to these questions that ran around in my head, and my protagonist took the shape of a dress form – which every fashion design student is familiar with. A silent and non- judgemental friend. In many ways, like a therapist!

TALK

Gone But Not Forgotten, 2011/ Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

Gone but not Forgotten, 2011
Acrylic and fabric on canvas

I was inspired to start the TALK series on a flight to India. I was looking at photographs of my work, and thought that since my torsos rarely had limbs perhaps I could do away with the entire body. And the designer in me answered, “Why not simply have bodices in conversations with each other?” On the same trip, I found myself at my old haunts in New Delhi, marveling at all kinds of block-printed fabrics. This ended up being a large group, with my bodice-protagonists in all kinds of situations. Mainly, I wanted to show the connection between clothing and our body and suggest that we put on a front each day, as we decide what to wear and who to be.

XANAX

Drift Away, 2012, Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

Drift Away, 2012. Acrylic and oil pastel on canvas

 XANAX was an expression of my physical and mental state. When I started this series, I was dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, and was prescribed Xanax for a week. I felt as if I was floating in another world and not really myself. For many months, I couldn’t deal with vibrant color. That’s when I started painting these ghost-like disembodied figures. I think at this time I was questioning why this was happening to me and how I could be my old self again. The paintings have a quality of there-but-not-there, just like my mind.

 FRAGMENTED

When I Last Saw You, 2015/ Fragmented/ Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

When I Last saw You, 2015
Acrylic and pigment on canvas

The group I have been working on over the past year is FRAGMENTED. Parts of the body are compared to landscapes. Our memory fills in the missing pieces, and we subconsciously imagine the missing areas. I was inspired by the women I know and am familiar with. Over the years, I got the sense that everyone is seeking something, however elusive. We are torn in many directions in that search for fulfillment.”

You can visit Chandrika at her website to learn more about her work and her creative process. I want to finish the post with this, my favorite of her artworks, A Woman Of Substance..

A Woman of Substance, 2011/ Chandrika Marla/ Collectivitea

                                  A Woman Of Substance, 2011. Acrylic and fabric on canvas.

All images are courtesy of Chandrika Marla. Chandrika’s portrait is by Tanvvi Agarrwal.



To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Textile Tuesday!  Mili Suleman started the Texas-based design studio Kufri Life as a way to reconnect with her mother. The duo aimed to strengthen their relationship by exploring things that they were both passionate about- creative pursuits, design, travel, and above all, living an authentic, globally oriented life. And given Mili’s interest in history and heritage, the obvious answer was to start a textile design studio. Because very few things tie historical, socio-cultural and design influences from around the world like fabrics and textiles. Mili was born in Bombay, India and grew up in the Persian Gulf country of Oman, where her family still lives. Mili moved to the United States 15 years ago and now lives in Dallas, Texas. All those diverse experiences have informed Mili’s aesthetic sense and have shaped her creative ventures. In addition to her professional graphic design business, Mili runs Kufri Life that offers handmade fabrics. They specialize in hand-woven and dyed ikat textiles as well as hand screen-printed fabrics in fresh and modern prints. Kufri Life offers that sought-after fusion of traditional methods and contemporary designs and effortlessly straddles a host of global and local influences. We asked Mili to share her creative journey with us.

Kufri Life/ Photography by Mili Suleman and Styling by Paige Morse

Have you always been a creative?

 MS: Always! Through school, I explored the arts thoroughly! From classical dance to creative writing, oil painting, charcoal sketches, and needlework. I explored it all, but I feel like it wasn’t enough.  There’s so much more that I want to explore. Along the way, I have met other creatives who have inspired me to push further and this has guided me for sure. But my own curiosity has also been crucial in my journey. (Otherwise I’d be sitting in front of the TV, eating chips and watching old Poirot episodes.)

 

What is the favorite part of your work day?

MS: When I get there early in the morning and it’s quiet and I can catch up with emails and design work before the phone starts ringing.

Any advice for other creative entrepreneurs?

MS: Get up and go somewhere! To a bookstore, to a new town or to a dinner with friends. Practice what you are not good at, but need for your own success. Dream up a big, full, rich life and then make it happen! And for your own sanity, limit your time on Instagram!

If you could change one thing about your work or work-related circumstances, what would it be?

MS: I currently live in McKinney, a suburb of North Dallas with my husband and mini pinscher and my design studio is in Richardson/Dallas. I wish the Dallas area had more creatives who appreciate the “authentic global aesthetic”-there isn’t enough of that here. If you are out there in Dallas shaking your head, send me an email! I wish there was more genuine camaraderie around here like you find in some of the larger cities like New York or LA. That would be wonderful!

 The fastest way to get rid of creative block?

MS: Browse at a bookstore or walk the shops of your city!

One thing every entrepreneur should invest in?

MS: Custom Thank You cards or a custom gift and of course, a good laptop.

Goal for 2015?

MS: To form new relationships and land new accounts. Small steps lead to big things.

Best trick to instantly increase confidence?

MS: The oldest trick in the book! Look the part and you’ll feel better instantly. Do your hair, a dash of makeup, wear comfortably stylish clothes and good shoes.

What’s on top of your bucket list?

MS: Travel to Africa.

You can find Kufri Life fabrics here.

Image credits/ copyright: Kufri Life Fabrics. 1) Mili Suleman of Kufri Life/ Photography by Shanna Anderson; 2) Kufri Life/ Photography by Mili Suleman and styling by Paige Morse.


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Here’s to another edition of Textile Tuesday! And the inspiration behind today’s post is the art of woodblock printing.  It’s an homage to the wonderful tradition of block printing but also to the spirit of the creative entrepreneur.  Enjoy!

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

                Woodblock prints. I must have written hundreds of posts on them. You see them on all kinds of clothing and accessories, from traditional saris to shirts, skirts, scarves, and stoles. They are also on pillows, bedding and other fabrics for the home. Because they are everywhere, they tend to be overlooked and the craftsmanship that goes into creating them is often taken for granted. Enter Auria Bohn,  an American artist living in Florence, Italy.  Indian block-printed fabrics from the 60’s fascinated her so much  that she scanned the entire stock of vintage block printed fabrics from her online store and created digital files so that she would never be parted from the prints. It was  the beginning of an enduring love for these gorgeous fabrics and a creative business. Auria shares some (block-printed, of course) postcards from her life in Florence.

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

 

“My name is Auria Bohn and I am an American artist and jewelry designer living in Florence, Italy. I currently run an Etsy shop called Vintage Fables where I sell handmade cards, jewelry, and vintage clothing. I am also a full-time, stay – at – home mom of two spirited toddlers and a hoarder of 60’s Indian block print fabrics. I was always drawn to Italy. When I was in my mid-20s, I saved up money with my boyfriend at the time and traveled across the country from Florence to Sicily. It was an amazing trip and I remember vividly our last day when were in the Rome train station, boarding the train that would take us to the airport. I looked around and made a promise to myself that I was going to come back and live there one day. And I did. It took me almost five years to get back again, but I kept that promise to myself. I have been living abroad for thirteen years now; my husband is Italian and our two children were born here. Now I live just blocks from where I stayed on that first visit to Florence years ago.”Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

“…My background is a bit all over the place. I have a degree in Anthropology but also studied fashion design and metal-smithing. I have worked as a florist, merchandiser and spearheaded converting part of my family’s wheat fields into a lavender farm in Washington State. I was even known as a “Country Manager” at one point in my life when I lived in Dublin, Ireland for a few years and headed a Swedish based publishing company. That was a bit nuts. Closing deals and sales negotiations were part of my daily vocabulary. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did it really well. I’m pretty happy to be back to creating, It keeps me challenged, but I feel more confident in these waters than the others. My artistic path was strongly influenced by two factors; having artists for parents and growing up in a haunted house. It was an old Victorian house where my family had lived for three generations. And for a short period, at the turn of the century, it was also the town’s hospital. I moved in with my parents when I was around eight years old and we were truly an 80’s version of the Addams family. For me, it was like living in a castle with its old creaky floors, hidden passageways, paint chipped covered porches and stained-glass windows. In that house, nestled up on a hill overlooking a small wheat farming community in eastern Washington, my curiosity for old and weathered objects bloomed. I remember one day my mother dug out a rusty table from the basement and proudly placed it near the dining room window; a new spot for some struggling house plants. When she explained to me it was the hospital’s old operating table, I was both terrified and wonderstruck. I didn’t even want to look at it. I wouldn’t eat in the dining room for weeks. I think that is when I started to understand that objects are powerful. That they can make us feel something, even against our will or permission. That objects both new and old can evoke a deep and complicated spectrum of emotion. And I think that is why I love creating art, love vintage clothing and textiles and just making things in general. I want to make objects that take you to another place if only for a second. Pieces that make you or your home feel more beautiful and feminine.”

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

Inspiration from Indian block printed fabrics…

“ I think a little-researched disorder known as “hoarding” is what really drew me to them and to amassing such a collection. It’s a genetic illness that both my parents share. I think I have been a closet hoarder for decades actually. But more seriously, my love for vintage Indian block prints could be traced to my mother’s fabric closet and her bohemian tastes in clothing and décor. My parents also ran a small boutique when I was a child called the Hand of Man. It was an amazing shop curated with their love for the ancient and artisanal. They would sell their raku pottery and sculpture alongside ancient bracelets from Afghanistan and India, Chinese cloisonné vases, turquoise rings, and Art Deco necklaces. It was a paradise for me as a child, it was like stepping into another world. More recently, I rediscovered vintage Indian block print fabric when I was looking to start a line of 40’s inspired house robes. I had a very old robe from the 30’s that was the softest, dreamiest seersucker cotton ever and I wanted to find something similar in weight and texture to recreate a more updated loungewear line. I would spend hours searching Ebay and Etsy for old lightweight cotton yardage and that is when I started to come across the old Indian block print fabrics from the 60’s and fell in love. I fell deeply in love, so much so, that I knew I would never have the heart to cut them up, even if it was to turn them into something as cozy as a robe. So my dream of turning the house coat into something vogue ended there. But my passion for the fabrics and for sharing their beauty did not. At the same time, I started collecting vintage 60’s Indian block print dresses and skirts and selling them on Etsy. One day, I sold a particularly beautiful block print dress and was pretty sad to mail it off. Looking over at my scanner I thought, well, I am not keeping the dress…but I can keep the print! That’s when I decided to go for it and just started scanning all my textiles, anything I owned with a vintage block print. My husband thought I had lost my mind. He gets it now, but when you see your wife up at midnight scanning old clothes and bedspreads…well, you can imagine! After fumbling with the images on Photoshop and playing around with ideas, I came up with a yearly calendar, the postcards, stickers and small enclosure cards; and I think they are really special. Every time, I go to fill an order for the cards, the bright colors, and even their dainty size makes me happy. They are each little jewels and I am pretty excited I have found a way to share them with the world and to keep hoarding my precious block prints at the same time.

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

Vintage Fables began as a shop where I would sell vintage clothing and sewing elements and has evolved into the backbone of my creative path. It has been a slow but gratifying process and has given me a platform to play with my instincts as a designer. And living in Florence, a city full of artisans and crafts people has been pretty inspiring as well. It’s amazing how many artists and crafts people are just under my doorstep. I walk my son to school and on the way, I pass the foundry that helps me cast my bronze pendants, the man who prints my cards, the metal smith who makes the copper blanks for my bracelets…they are all there lined up in little shops, one next to the other. Running my little shop and selling my pieces has given me the courage to reach out to these people and ask for their assistance on projects and so the possibilities for what I feel I can do has become endless. When you find you have the confidence to approach people and say “Hey, I’m a designer and I have an idea. Do you think you can help me make it a reality?”, it’s pretty exciting. There is also a woodworker and pastry shop on the street…who knows what I could come up with next. “

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

“..I have so much to share about my experiences here in Florence especially in the area of vintage haunts and hang outs as well as my perspective as an expat and stay – at – home mom. I just have this need to write it all out now and to connect with people. As for my shop, I plan to make larger prints available of the block print images and possibly experiment with printing on canvas. I am also really focused on streamlining the line for wholesale accounts and retailers. I would love to get them out to a wider audience. I also create bronze and sterling pendants based on natural elements found here in Italy: succulents, shells etc. I have plans to expand the line and I am working on some new wax pieces as I write this. And of course, I hope to continue experimenting with hand dyeing the silk tassels I use for my designs and will be playing around with bolder colors and styles for summer and fall. I have my hands all over the place but it is what keeps me going.”

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

Challenges, Triumphs and Words of Wisdom

Without a doubt, my biggest challenge has been trying to run a creative business while raising two toddlers. It’s tough and I had no idea how tough it would be, until my first child was born. And it boils down to having little to no time, in this period of my life, to pursue all the projects and ideas I have swirling around in my head. Projects that would have taken me hours or days to finish before I had kids, now take me weeks and even, months. But it has been also, without a doubt, my biggest blessing. It has made me really appreciate the small gains in making my pieces and I think that is how quality products and good businesses are made in the end. Being present in the process and appreciating it. From designing the piece to listing it, to selling it and shipping it off, those are all important stages in a business and having limited time has helped me to slow down and appreciate every time I make it to the next step. I would like to say from the deepest most hopeful part of my being, hang in there and do not give up! And I am kind of saying that to myself at the same time. Yes, hang in there! I wish I could say something certain like “it gets better” but I cannot, because I have no idea. Just keep moving forward on your project and artistic dreams every day or as much as you can. And if you can’t finish a project, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just start a new one because it is an important part of the one you just gave up on or can’t get to, you just don’t know it yet. Summon that multitasking witch and have her stir the cauldron, you have magic boiling girl, don’t let it sit or it will burn!”

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

For the most beautiful block printed stationery, visit Auria at her Etsy store, Vintage Fables.

Postcards From Florence/ Textile Tuesday/ Collectivitea

All images courtesy of/copyright: Auria Bohn


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Neelanjana GhoseI love what I’m about to share today because it’s beautiful on so many counts. Neelanjana Ghose runs an eponymous fashion, costume and home furnishing label that centers around the beautiful kantha work from the state of Bengal in India. They make all kinds of fabric products, from clothing to accessories for the home. I was introduced to the work of Neelanjana by her daughter, Anandi Ghose. She sent me an email that was so eloquent that I want to share parts of it here. “I would like to put in a word for my mother Neelanjana Ghose. She has been passionately and quite selflessly working for the last 20 years to keep alive, and further develop, the Bengali art of Kantha. I say develop because as you know, it is incredibly difficult to sustain any folk art form in its original form. It’s a constant effort to strike that balance in keeping it authentic and bending it to contemporary sensibilities to keep it alive. She picked up the threads (literally!) from her National Award winning mother Sreelata Sarkar, who is credited to have revived the traditional art of Kantha and imbibe it to more functional and fashionable items. Neelanjana has exhibited her creations all over the world and participated in shows with Wendell Rodricks and Bibi Russell. Neelanjana has also been a much-respected costume designer for award-winning films directed by her husband Goutam Ghose and other Bengali directors. …I really want to put my extremely shy and reticent mother’s brilliant work out there in the world in a way, I believe, she deserves.” After that very persuasive email, I had to take a look at the work. As you may know, I am a huge fan of the kantha work, and especially of a sophisticated edit of this handcrafted tradition. What a pleasure it must have been to photograph these gorgeous pieces!Neelanjana Ghose

Neelanjana Ghose

Neelanjana Ghose

Neelanjana Ghose

It’s sheer poetry in thread and colors and you can see more of the beautiful products from Neelanjana Ghose at their website here.

Image credits/copyright: Neelanjana Ghose


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Puja Bhargava Kamath/Collectivitea

Thank you to all those who responded to our freelance opportunity ad! We will start sifting through the responses today and will be in touch if there is a good match. As you know, it’s summer here in the US and everything has shifted into s-l-o-w mode. We have been revisiting some posts and articles from our archives all through summer, and today, I want to share the story of Lai Designs and Puja Bhargava Kamath. I love reading about the person behind the brand and a chance to get to know what inspires and drives them. Plus it’s always great to hear everyone’s entrepreneurial tips! Lai Designs have a new collection out, the Nilaj(a) collection. It’s crafted with silver and lapis lazuli and is a must for every indigo-lover!


 


Puja Bhargava Kamath/Collectivitea

Puja Bhargava Kamath almost went to medical school but a graduate course in Accessory Design from NIFT at New Delhi led to a career in jewelry design. “I had taken the NIFT entrance exam for fun & when I went for the final round of the interview, I fell in love the BV Doshi-designed campus & felt I really had to be there! It sounds like a really silly criteria to base such a big decision on but I didn’t realize the impact of that decision on my life at that point.  Also I’m blessed to have parents who believed in letting us make our own decisions & doing what really interested us versus following the herd. So there I was, a quasi-geeky kid wandering into the amazing world of art & design…..quite by chance really!” She grew up in New Delhi and later moved to the San Francisco Bay area via Bengaluru, India.

Puja Bhargava Kamath/Collectivitea

“Being a free spirited soul and a bit of an adventurer, I opted to work as a freelance designer, rather than join a company. This gave me an opportunity to work across various sectors while I zeroed in on my true passion. During this time, I supplemented my knowledge in jewelry by studying Gemology. I designed fine jewelry for a number of leading national & international jewelry houses, dabbled in heritage properties & interiors (Neemrana group), designed bags under my own label and worked extensively in the handicrafts sector, traveling the length & breadth of the country to work with different artisan groups. It was a rather chance meeting at Fabindia that actually led me to turn into an entrepreneur from a designer.” Fabindia commissioned Puja to design and produce a collection for them and the rest is history. Lai Silvery Jewelry as an independent brand was born. Focusing and combining  her three big passions, i.e. traditional craft, jewelry and history, Puja designed jewelry for the contemporary woman- inspired by cultures around the world, accessible yet heirloom quality and handcrafted. She held exhibitions and shows as well as retailing online via Facebook, relying on word of mouth to get the word out. “In terms of challenges, the biggest one at the moment is the divide between where I live (USA) & where our operations are (India). This did take a toll on our work and coordinating across time zones with my production team and our logistical partners took a lot of operational tweaking till we were able to get up and running. My mother jumped in to help & is handling the everyday office issues in Delhi (India). While we have a patchwork solution going on, we know that we still have some fixing to do.” …“the accomplishment and goal for Lai would be to continue to come up with exciting designs based on the best art the world has to offer. We also want to revive & rejuvenate some lost jewelry making techniques & hope to introduce our clients to all the various regional skills in jewelry making as we possibly can.” There are plans to extend the Lai aesthetic into other items such as textiles, bags and home decor items and maybe, not too far into the future, a store. “Given our nomadic life right now, I just want to keep things really flexible & focus on our wholesale & online sales and as far as other projects go, I’m currently trying to build a crowd-sourced databank and online archive of traditional Indian jewelry pre-1970s. The project is called ‘Indian Jewelry Project’ (IJP) and we can be found on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ijponline) and this is something that I’m really keen to grow!” Collaborations and new designs are all in the works and you can keep updated on Lai Silver Jewelry’s happenings and products at their website.

Puja Bhargava Kamath/Collectivitea

Puja’s tips and advice to  all entrepreneurs:

(1.) Love what you do!! That’s the only way you will find the passion, conviction, perseverance and guts that you will so need in your journey as an entrepreneur!

(2) Build a support system- take help & discuss ideas with people whose judgment you absolutely trust. You don’t have to look too far. In my case, my mother looks after the affairs in our Delhi office & my husband offers the best business consultation (it also helps that he can take awesome photographs & write a mean copy)!

(3) There are fantastic small business-related tools available on-line (mostly free)- from inspiring reads, understanding social media, marketing, photo editing to accounting tools. Please use them!” – Puja Bhargava Kamath

 

Images credit and copyright: Lai Designs.


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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House of Wandering Silk/Collectivitea

As you may have noticed, over the last year or so,  I have become more and more interested in the people behind the brand, the company or the beautiful products that we showcase. Whether it’s someone working from a small space in their home or heading a corporation, they are working towards their dreams and I am always fascinated by what brought them from point A to point D or E. In fact, the magazine has largely focused on the journey of creatives and creative entrepreneurs. In one of our 2015 issues (Feb/March 2015), we talked to Katherine Neumann, the founder of the House of Wandering Silk. I still remember the first time I found an ikat scarf from HOWS (w-a-y before ikat scarves were on every shopping platform) and the colors and the work were so beautiful. I was intrigued by the name and by what inspired and drove Team HOWS. Today, I want to share their story with you, and you are sure to find it fascinating. Enjoy!

House of Wandering Silk/Collectivitea

“The House of Wandering Silk (HOWS) is a social enterprise based in India and their work is admirable on so many counts. They work with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) from different parts of Asia to produce gorgeous textile creations for individuals and their homes. By partnering with these NGO’s, they provide employment for female artisans, thus empowering them within their communities. In addition, HOWS uses vintage and upcycled fabrics to create their products. They make gorgeous scarves, stoles, bags, clothing and jewelry. The House of Wandering Silk. What a  perfect name for an organization that works with beautiful textiles and brings together the talents of so many creatives and from so many parts of the world! Founder and director Katherine Neumann’s extensive travels, her long experience as a humanitarian aid worker  and her exquisite design sense have combined to make an organization that is fast becoming a byword for excellent products and firm commitment to issues of social justice. We caught up with Katherine to talk about HOWS and what the future holds.

House of Wandering Silk/Collectivitea

OUATT: Tell us about Team HOWS.

KH: Team HOWS is made up of myself, and my colleague, Maria. I am from Australia but I’ve been living abroad since 1999 and in Delhi for the last 5 years, Maria is from Manipur. We are based in Delhi. Maria helps me with all the running around, packing, sorting, working on the recycled saris we use for many of our products. I look after the design and sourcing of materials and finished products. I also do all the work on the website, the photography and marketing. We’re a small team, so we’re constantly busy, but on the upside, being small means we can be reactive, spontaneous and flexible. It also helps keep the costs of our products down! Although team HOWS is small, we work with a large network of NGOs, women’s groups and cooperatives who do all the handwork. There are around 100 women working full time with our partners on our products. We basically source the raw materials, design the product, bundle the work packages up and send them off to our partners who do all the handwork before the finished pieces come back to us. For example, one collection we’re working on for our SS15 range is khadi cotton kerchiefs: the very light khadi mulmul has been woven by our  partner weavers in West Bengal, it is being block printed in Delhi and now SEWA (self-employed women’s association) members in Delhi are doing Aari work to complete our design.

OUATT: What drew you to design? Did you set out to form an organization that works with textiles?

KH: I left Australia straight out of high school on a Japanese government scholarship. The scholarship covered 5 years in Japan, where I studied International Relations. During my studies, I became convinced that the only work that I would find meaningful would be with a humanitarian NGO, and after graduation and a year of internships and volunteering in London, I began a 10-year career with a large French NGO. I worked mostly on emergencies (floods, cyclones, conflict, etc) across Asia and in the Middle East and Africa. After 10 years though, I found myself not quite as convinced by the whole system as when I started out. The way that NGOs are funded is not consistent with the work they set out to do – organizations have to pander to the whims of donors, not to the needs of the people they’re helping. Increasingly, I was fascinated with alternatives to sustainable development of poor communities – microfinance and fair trade, for example. During my years of travel, I gathered a huge collection of stunning textiles from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Ghana, Palestine, Myanmar, and after meeting a few inspirational women, like Cath from Polly & Me, who had set up their own fair trade businesses, I decided I wanted to do the same with the textiles I loved so much. India was the logical place to set the business up – I knew Delhi well, had friends here, and for textiles, you simply can’t beat India! The skills in weaving and embroidery are exceptional and diverse, and the needs of women, those who can benefit from artisanal work, are immense. I started off with baby steps; working part time as the Country Director with the French NGO that also has an office in Delhi while slowing starting to build up HOWS. We registered in 2013 and I quit my day job. I haven’t looked back since! From the beginning I knew I would work with textiles – I find them fascinating as they are such an integral part of a people’s culture and customs and there is so much you can do with them.

OUATT: In your experience, what have been your greatest  triumphs and challenges?

KN:   “I think I’ve been very fortunate, as looking back, I don’t see great challenges that struck me at any time. It’s been a lot of hard work and long hours – I basically work all the time! But when you are doing something you love, I think you wake up every morning and relish whatever comes your way! I’m actually preparing to leave Delhi in March. After 5 years, it’s time for somewhere new. The business will continue to be based here, and I’ll be back and forth between our new base in SE Asia and Delhi, but as I prepare to leave and I look at where HOWS stands now, I can say that the greatest triumph is the continued and increasing amount of work we’ve been able to provide to women from very poor urban and rural families and communities. Our work has meant a livelihood for them, and we’re now at a stage where HOWS is a known brand in India; customers appreciate the quality of our pieces as much as the story behind them, and we partner with some of India’s finest stores who carry our collections across India.”

OUATT: What do you hope to accomplish with HOWS? What are your most ambitious dreams for it? Are you looking to start a physical store? Are there other projects/ opportunities that you are involved in?

KN: I would like HOWS to be the go-to brand for ethical, unique, upcycled and handmade textile-based lifestyle products made in India, and perhaps at a later stage, made in Asia. This is my hope and probably my most ambitious dream for now! We’re already working with artisanal groups in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now with the opening of a new office in SE Asia, will be working with weavers in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia. I don’t plan to start a physical store – it’s a tempting idea, but I see a lot of stores really struggling – at least in Delhi – these days. If we were to open a store, I think it would take away a lot of our energy that we would prefer to focus on developing new products and partnerships with artisans. I am working on several new projects; new brands which will be set up under House of Wandering Silk. One is “korakohl” which will be also based on ethically produced fabrics, but with a very different look to HOWS.”

House Of Wandering Silk/ Once Upon A Tea Time

The House of Wandering Silk can be found online at www.wanderingsilk.org. Visit them to find a range of textile-based products for you.

House Of Wandering Silk/ Once Upon A Tea Time

Image credits/copyright: House of Wandering Silk

 

To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Nine By Thirty/ Collectivitea

I want to start off Monday with excerpts from an interview with Aparna Das Sadhukhan of the popular jewelry brand, Nine By Thirty. The Singapore-based brand recently opened an online store and acquiring their stylish pieces just became a whole lot easier. This interview makes for a great read and it’s can-do attitude is the perfect start to the week!

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Nine By Thirty/ Collectivitea

If you think Nine by Thirty sounds like the beginning of an address, you would be right in that assumption. It was the address of the home in Sydney, Australia that owner and designer, Aparna Das Sadhukhan lived in when she decided to start her jewelry company. As with so many of the people that we feature, we know her via the internet. But considering we only know her virtually, we know quite a lot about her. For instance we know that she is an extremely talented jewelry designer and creator whose passion for her craft travels through the inter-webs, so that someone sitting, continents away, in front of a computer screen can feel her joy in the process of designing, nurturing and bringing to life another exquisite piece of jewelry. We have followed her journey and years ago, Once Upon A Tea Time was the first blog that featured her jewelry. It’s been a thrill to see Nine by Thirty (NBT) grow to enjoy a passionate fan base from around the world and to see Aparna herself come into her own. Her designs have gotten bolder, more complex and more joyful. She currently works primarily with silver though she hopes to explore other mediums. We asked Aparna to tell us her story.

Nine By Thirty/ Collectivitea

OUATT: Have you always been a jewelry designer/creative? If not, what drove you to it? Serendipity? And what appeals to you about it?

ADS: I have never been a designer in any capacity. I still hesitate to confidently give myself that title. However, as a child I was encouraged to be creative. I was given the freedom to do as I liked and that usually inspires children to create. In that sense I have been creative – art came easily to me and I have been fond of writing. Much later, in Sydney I took up photography as a hobby. Broadly speaking, creativity came to me in these forms and when I finally started NBT, they were immensely useful skills to have. NBT, indeed, had a serendipitous start. While aimlessly surfing the Internet I chanced upon, for the fourth time, an ad from Sydney Art School to learn silversmithing. My husband booked a class for me as a gift and that was the beginning of many things to come.

Nine By Thirty/ Collectivitea

OUATT: Tell us the story of how you came to be who you are today: a bold, confident and extremely talented woman.

ADS: Those are beautiful compliments, thank you! A lot of what I am today is a result of what I learned along the way. I was raised in a middle-class family, very modestly. I never had anything easy– from negotiating with my family to buy me a pair of jeans (the bargaining ended with me getting my first pair as a hand me down from my brother) to choosing to study outside Hyderabad (I had to get a scholarship)– everything came to me after proving my worth. I started earning very early in life. And that perhaps, gave me the insight and experience I needed to be what I am today. As far as talent is concerned- I think everyone is talented in his or her own way. It’s not exactly a special quality that a few are born with. We ALL have something special in us. Only the ones who actually delve deep and bother to find out, eventually know their special talent. I have always been bold and a rebel in many ways since my teenage years. But to be confident and have high self-esteem, took me a while. To be confident and be sure of one’s self, I had to believe in what I was doing. The more I did the things I loved, the more confidence I gathered. I think it’s the singular most important trait a woman must possess – self-esteem. I’m still a work-in-progress. To be what you dream to be, you must have a burning desire to achieve and be fearless about it. The words- ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid’– are words to remember always.”

Nine By Thirty/ Collectivitea

As I mentioned earlier, Nine By Thirty has a new website and you can visit them here. Prepare to be tempted!

Images credit/ copyright: Nine By Thirty. Aparna’s photographs by Jaya Naomi.

 


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!

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Safomasi Salcombe Collection/ Collectivitea

Textile design company Safomasi has a new collection, Salcombe inspired by co-founder Sarah Fotheringham’s childhood holidays in Salcombe, Devon in the southwestern coast of England. Think blues and greens and beaches, rock pools, sailboats and tea (yay!). Safomasi is known for their bright, contemporary prints on quilts, pillows, cushions and other textiles for the home that are inspired by travels around the world. I had done a long interview with Team Safomasi, Sarah Fotheringham and Maninder Singh for the magazine last winter and I am sharing that here too. I love beautiful textiles but I love hearing about the people behind the fabric even more. You can visit Safomasi at www.safomasi.com.

Safomasi Salcombe Collection/ Collectivitea

Safomasi Salcombe Collection/ Collectivitea

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Safomasi/ Collectivitea

One of the greatest perks of running a blog is that I get to meet one amazingly creative individual after the other. Sarah Fotheringham and Maninder Singh of the brand Safomasi that makes hand-printed, home textiles are just the kind of team whose story of  inspiration, creativity and serendipity, one you want to hear. Their designs for Safomasi are contemporary, with elements of pop art. They combine vivid colors with patterns that take inspiration from their travels all over the world. The result is modern, colorful and very chic! Their products have won them an Elle Deco International Design Award (EDIDA), India 2013 in the Bedroom category for their Camel Trader’s set of quilt and pillows. They are based in New Delhi, India and we talked to Sarah and Maninder on how Safomasi came about and their plans for the brand.

Sarah: “I was always interested in art and design – my grandmother was very into embroidery and textile art, my uncle is a product designer and my aunt a jeweler, so it was always around me. I was born in Singapore and grew up in India and England before going to study Illustration at the University of Brighton (UK). Several years later, in 2010, I came to India to go traveling for 4 months – I hadn’t been back since my family left when I was 12. I was lucky to meet the Creative Director of ad agency Wieden + Kennedy (I’d done a placement in their London office) and was offered a job, so in July 2010, I moved to Delhi to work as an art director.”

Maninder: “I’m from a village near Panipat in Haryana, India. Craft was always in my family – my grandmother used to make dhurries and quilts, and Panipat itself is a very famous area for handloom textiles. After school, I moved to Delhi to study, before spending a year in the fashion industry in Mumbai. I then moved to Australia for 5 years, for study and work, before coming back to Delhi in April 2010 where I got a job with the Fashion Design Council of India. A lot of our story is serendipity – we met in Delhi, in December 2010, started seeing each other and after a couple of years, slowly started working together.”

Sarah: “I had a lot of sketches and ideas for prints from my travels that I wanted to apply to fabrics. India is so rich for textiles, it’s so inspiring, and as an illustrator and artist, I really liked the idea of artwork being applied to a product, something in the home that has a use as well a story behind it. We started with sampling the mithai print – simplifying felt tip sketches that I had made whilst I was traveling, into a design for a screen print. Through Maninder’s connections in the fashion industry, he managed to get initial samples printed. We really enjoyed the process, and came up with the idea for Safomasi – to create collections inspired by our travels. So alongside the “mithai” print, we developed a collection based on travels to the Pushkar Camel fair. We realized that we needed one of us to go full time to make real progress- especially on the production side – so Maninder started full time. Slowly, with each collection, we received more and more interest, and now, we are both full time and have just moved into a new studio space – part workshop, part showroom. Previously, we’d been working with different people to finish different products, but now the idea is that we’ll do as much as we can in-house. Again, a lot of this is serendipity – we hadn’t planned to do any of this so soon, but Maninder had casually started looking for a studio just to get a feel for what was out there, and almost immediately found this great space – so we just went for it!

 What were the challenges and triumphs?

Sarah & Maninder: “Everything has been a challenge! Particularly, finding the right suppliers and vendors. One of our biggest challenges has been to get the quality right. We are very particular about details, so we are always following every step of the process during production. As we do limited runs of products, it’s been hard to find people who want to take this on – and who will follow our timelines. That’s when we came to realize that we needed to set up an in-house unit and do as much as we can ourselves. In terms of triumphs, it’s just lovely to hear from people who appreciate our designs, the stories behind them and the work that goes into them. We felt very proud to win the ELLE Déco International Design award (EDIDA) for the Camel Traders design from our first collection – it was a surprise to win something like that after just a year in business…We’d love for Safomasi to become a full lifestyle store with a range of products, from homeware – textiles, ceramics, furniture, rugs, etc. to accessories and maybe, even clothes. We’re not looking to start a physical store at the moment, though our new studio has a showroom area, which serves as a retail space by appointment. But a proper physical store would be fantastic in the future! We’d also love to work on collaborations with brands in different fields, and on interior projects, for example, bespoke wallpaper or textiles for a hotel. At the moment we’re working on a project called The North East Project which is a collaboration with different designers and Impulse, a social enterprise based in the north east of India. They work to help people of various tribes to nurture their traditional skills and help them to earn sustainable livelihoods. For this project, we are using traditional fabric woven by women in Assam, and adding a second layer of design, printing on top to create a small, unique range of tableware and cushions.

Image credits: Safomasi


To subscribe to the Collectivitea blog, please add  www.collectivitea.com/blog/feed to your feed reader/aggregator. (Feedly, Bloglovin etc.) To visit us and see what’s new at Collectivitea, you can find us at www.collectivitea.com. We are a blog and boutique marketplace; visit us, and you are sure to find something you love!