By Hand From The Heart is a biannual Makers Market held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
An engineer and independent artist, Vidya Nag weaves sturdy and aesthetically brilliant home decor and accessories with upcycled newspaper from her home studio in Bangalore. We catch up with Vidya Nag about her craft venture, Aardra and we find out more about her hobby turned business venture and her plans for Aardra.
A bit about yourself.
A native of Bangalore, I completed my engineering degree and worked for a number of startups and corporates. That was before art took over, full-time. In my first public foray as an artist, I presented a series of paintings, which were transcreations of temple architecture and monuments. I wanted to celebrate the splendour of Hoysala sculptures by recreating them through the medium of paint.
I discovered paper weaving purely by chance. Ever since I’ve been completely captivated by the potential of the craft, the surprising strength of the product and the pleasure it brings. I began to upcycle newspapers to create handwoven products in 2014. My plan is to introduce Aardra, which is the Sanskrit word for new, into everyday things, gifting ideas and as conversation starters using upcycled newspaper.
What was the first thing you remember making?
It was a clumsy-looking bowl to keep on the dining table.
Why is making important to you?
As an artist, I’ve always loved working with my hands. It’s extremely gratifying to see the results of my work and I’m sure others who create handmade products, share this feeling. This feeling is what pushes me on to keep making!
Developing a new product at Aardra. What’s involved?
Loads of excitement and sleepless nights. Before anything, I’ve got to put down drawings of how I want the product to look. Then the engineer in me kicks in and helps me work out the structure and shape. Sometimes, I colour first and do the weaving after. Or, I colour as the final step. At times, I just let it be and allow the natural look to stay. In any case, it’s only when this stage is reached successfully that I can get back to sleep… until the next idea strikes.
Describe a typical day at Aardra.
It’s a day that never ends. But that’s how I like it. 7.30 am sees me busy at work, accompanied by a cup of tea. Mornings are typically a feverish stretch of weaving and finishing that’s occasionally interrupted by the husband, the kids or kitchen duties. Once my co-creators arrive, there’s a constant, happy buzz with us discussing how and whereaardra could replace a wooden, rubber or plastic element in our everyday things. The urge to do more and more is infectious and keeps us going, all day.
Your work space.
A part of my home is what I happily call my studio but it actually extends to wherever I go. Although, occasionally, the living room does make space for guests and the dining table does serve dinner!
Tell us about your products that you propose to showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
Our products cater to lifestyle, personal and interior decor needs. We plan to showcase a fair mix of them in each of these categories. Shoppers can expect to see a varied choice in handbags, clutches and shopping accessories. They’d also get to choose from a number of home and office decor items like jewellery cases, containers, trays, quirky fruit baskets and more.
What’s your favourite Aardra pick?
That’s difficult. I pick a different favourite, every time!
What’s the best thing about being a craft entrepreneur?
The path to financial satisfaction is long and comes with plenty of sharp curves and blind turns. But I believe it’s best to keep going – because the satisfaction in creating something you’re proud of and being able to extend that to everybody else, makes the journey worthwhile.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten along the way in building your business?
I thought it’d be enough to create one blockbuster product and that would do all the selling. I was so wrong. I now know that marketing my products to the right people in the right manner – is most important. Adopting an environmentally responsible lifestyle and respect for handmade products is a matter of choice and people need to be educated about making choices that matter.
Your advice for aspiring design and craft entrepreneurs?
Whatever you create, be the first one to use it.
My fondest memories have been about summer holidays with cousins, hot, sandy beaches and shopping for gorgeous temple jewellery in Mylapore. I’m thrilled to be back for a new adventure in the city.
Crafter Vidya Nag of Aardra from Bangalore will be at By Hand From The Heart: MAKERS MARKET – 18th Edition
Friday – Saturday, 5th – 6th August, 2016
10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m
Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
132, T.T.K Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 600018, Tamil Nadu. India