Anuradha, Tell us about what you do.
I run a small online store called Artistri. It’s all about beautiful things that add colour and joy to your home and life. We make handmade jewellery and other knick-knacks like handpainted coasters, tea light holders, and wall art.
You are a managment consultant by profession. So what is it that drove you to start your own venture?
Working for yourself is at once exhilarating and terrifying. You have the freedom to do what you want to, but there is nobody to catch you when you fall. There is no safety net, and you own all your decisions.So what is it that still drives us to strike out on our own and start a business or a store? For me, entrepreneurship is about the freedom to do what I'm passionate about, the freedom to experiment, the freedom from structure and routine.But most importantly, its the freedom to fail and learn from it.
How did the idea of ‘Artistri’ came about?
I have always loved the bright colours and intricate patterns of traditional Indian jewellery, clothes and furnishings. Handmade jewellery or unique coasters with traditional designs certainly made me happy and my home more beautiful. They also pinched my pocket. The only alternative was mass-produced goods that didn’t look as elegant. That got me thinking that such beautiful and handmade things should be more affordable.
Many people who want to start-up get bogged down by things like creating a business plan, manpower planning and so on. Would you like to share the memories of your initial days... how you started up?
I started with only a love for all things handmade or quirky, and no idea of what to do with all the paints, brushes, textiles, and coasters I had bought on a shopping spree. I confidently cut, pasted, decoupaged, painted and destroyed most of them. My initial creations usually found their home in the dustbin. After a while the painting became cleaner, the finish was smoother, and I began to get orders from friends and family.
How do you manage orders? Do you have a team?
Initial orders came from friends and family. Now, Artistri has grown to be a close-knit group of three people spread across three cities, who work together to make beautiful products for our growing number of customers, both in India and abroad. Pavitra, my Man Friday, can manage to remain calm in the midst of raging chaos, and is an administrative genius. She handles the back-end. Gowri, my friend and partner-in-crime, mostly obsesses about making sure everything reaches on time and in perfect condition. She is a great sounding board, and provides equal amounts of motivation and great food when I’m in the middle of a creative storm. She also takes care of the logistics for orders outside India.
Many of us feel that you need to have something different in order to start. What is unique about your products?
As for me, I wanted to re-interpret traditional patterns and colours with modern sensibilities, and bring them within the reach of people like me who love unique or hand-crafted things. Most of Artistri’s products are handmade, some are curated, but they are always colourful, contemporary and Indian. I would say that a lot of other people also work with the same vision but the way I do it is different from someone else and that’s where my uniqueness lies.
Terracotta jewellery is a big part of your selection. Could you take us through the process of creating a piece?
Terracotta jewellery is completely crafted by hand. Fine river clay is shaped and designed, then baked and finally painted by hand. It takes a while to decide on the colours and combinations as every colour seems tempting. My favourites are aquamarine blue and classic black and gold, so you will see a lot of these colours in my collections. Once the paint is dry, I apply a coat of sealant that protects the paint and keeps the colours intact. I prefer Mod Podge to regular terracotta shiners as it keeps the classic look of the jewellery intact and doesn’t make it too glossy. I like experimenting with colours, textures, and designs.
Which is the part that you dread in the entire process? And which one excites you the most?
The toughest part is the composition of the picture. I try to use various themes and backdrops that are usually handpainted or specially designed to add colour to the frame.
Once the pictures are up, it’s time to talk to people who share my love for all things beautiful! Each customer is a new experience, and I learn something from almost all of them. Talking to people and getting customer feedback is, perhaps, one of the most exciting things I do.
Apart from your core product, where else would you say you are innovating? It could be anything big or small.
Packaging. Our jewellery is packaged in handmade palm leaf pouches. These pouches are made by hand and painted by rural women. They are beautiful, sturdy, and eco-friendly. They are also great to keep your terracotta jewellery safe!
Below is a snapshot of Anuradha's store on Junglee.com. Click on the image to checkout more selection by Artistri.
Read more stories of Bangalore-based entrepreneurs on our blog.