11 Years Of Craft Entrepreneurship

11 Years Of Craft Entrepreneurship

Hello everyone,
This year for me marks the completion of 11 years in craft entrepreneurship! Starting and failing, restarting, somewhat getting there, learning, celebrating...it's been such a great ride! So many of you who are a part of my journey don't know me, so here's a bit about me and how I started this journey and how I've reached here. I find it awkward to talk too much about my life, so now that I've written my story in detail, I'm happy to go back to talking about my studio, students and my explorations in life, here is hoping we can learn and motivate through each other's journeys.
Here goes...

2011 - The Start Of Something Special

 

 

3rd year college has just started. Bangalore weather is gorgeous as usual but I’m restless, feeling a sinking feeling in my heart, not rested since ages. Yes I eat, sleep, socialise, go to classes barely, have the usual college life but I’m restless. I want to do more, take on projects that I don’t even know off or don’t know how to define. But I want something concrete not just assignments, slashed down by college mentors and jury. College is numbing me.
Me and my friend Nivi, during a crafting chatting watching tv shows session, made a few headbands that she’d checked out on Pinterest. 
I clearly remember my first headband being a contrasting loud magenta and fluorescent green yarn wrapped around a 12 rupee plastic headband that would hurt under the ears. But man it was cute.
Next day, I propose the idea of selling these bands. Honestly I can’t understand how I came up with this idea because we’re talking about a time, when social media was not a platform for craft businesses, Facebook ads hadn’t come out in a big way, there were very few and complicated looking e-commerce platforms. 
After much research we uploaded the product on eBay. Waited for a month, nothing happened.
Met with our graphic designer friend and asked him to digitalise the drawing of our logo. In exchange for a fancy dinner, I think it was in Toit, Bangalore.
He did, and that was the start to Pigtails and Ponys. The mad cute branding was all nivi. if you know her, you’ll know how the branding was on point and very ‘us’.
We uploaded a bunch of products on Facebook and put up our bank details if someone wanted to buy it. Can you imagine? People would painstakingly transfer 300 bucks manually for a headband. Great times!
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So now we were working for OUR brand and going to college. The restlessness while starting, converting ideas, plans, concepts, products. Pigtails was our baby, we created something and this feeling of creating something with hardly any cost, building it block by block is addictive.

2012 - When We Became Pigtails & Ponys

This year we go hard at flea markets and collections on Facebook. We were making products day and night, going material sourcing to wholesale markets, taking buses, sleeping on our way back, packing our products, creating flea market stall accessories which was quite a lot of work, every weekend, reaching our stalls. By now we had a rhythm of how to setup, getting some coffee, having kfc breakfast at 6am, sometimes nivi will pack oats. Getting all dressed up, wearing our headbands cause no body could market our products better than us. More than the high of having a brand, it was this feeling of being somebody, a sense of belongingness, a steady flow of creative energy being channelled, being the pigtails girls, having no help, being self sufficient, doing all the creative, admin, accounting, photography, modelling, physically challenging laborious work all by ourselves.
So we got to flea market after flea market, put our products every month. Soon we asked a friend to start taking our photos, he would do it for 1000 bucks and that’s all we could afford, really.


2013 - The Year Of Cosmopolitan & Then Starting Afresh

This year we up our game, our photos got better, we innovated new designs, got an online store, payment gateway setup, we started shooting at more interesting spots, started curating our look, curating seasonal hair accessories. This year we got featured in major newspaper and magazine companies including a half page in cosmopolitan which was such a dream for a couple of 22 year olds. We even rented a studio and started working from there. Our online orders, flea markets and college work was getting way too much to handle. We started hiring ladies who knew stitching, and actually became a team. 
I wish I had more photos of how our studio looked. Sadly, that was a time when our smart phones were not so smart or extremely expensive. We owned Nokias back then and took photos with our canon dslrs. So hardly any candid everyday shots.
Anyway, this is the year, when I started feeling restless again. We also had some issues with college and dropped out yes actually dropped out right before graduation.
I felt bored, dull, and Pigtails started becoming monotonous. I was 22 and wanted to do more, not quantity but be more free. I hadn’t ever travelled, met other artists. Pigtails for me was a way to express and now it had started limiting me.
I was a jazz dancer back in high school and yearned to go back to dancing. So I start dancing more, exploring improvisation, contemporary techniques, going for workshops where I learnt martial arts, yoga, learnt about a whole new world.
So to explore this world, I left Pigtails, my college, my studio and my home with Nivi and get a place by myself and start my gruelling journey of looking inside myself, trying to understand who I was, add that with therapy, constant reading and watching YouTube to make sense of what Im feeling.

2014 - I Found Solace In Yoga

I’m journalling, painting, dancing, practising yoga, trying to cook, failing miserably, running out of money and  living on my dads money who was very kind to me during my explorative years. In hindsight, I was depressed, I stayed alone, became more and more asocial, but something was brewing and it would all add up soon.

I’m restless to make money, so I took up an online course to learn digital marketing, affiliate marketing, how to create a blog and monetise it. I also started a brand ‘Fabric Story’ where I’d source fabrics and sell them online to designers and crafters. It was a great idea, but I had no discipline to make it successful. So I shut that down after 10 months.
What did I learn from it?
How to start again and stop before I lose too much money.
Became more self sufficient, learnt photography, editing, doing e-commerce by myself.
How you have to keep going. There’s no other way.
Started marketing on Instagram and got nowhere with it but still proud of myself that I started somewhere.
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Summer 2014, I signed up for a yoga teacher training course in Mysore. Travelled alone by myself for the first time, met people from outside the country, shared an accommodation with a woman with such a free soul, double my age literally. I learnt so much. It blew my mind away. I came back with a broader free-er perspective. 
Tried my hand at teaching yoga, it couldn’t be more dull. Stopped it in a just a few weeks.
What I lacked was grounding. 
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At the end of 2014, I was exhausted jumping everywhere, getting nowhere. I looked for a vacation and an opportunity to learn something while on it. Himachal was on my mind, so I googled Himachal workshops. ‘Andretta Pottery’ popped up, I contact them, got details for a 3 month course. Borrowed an advance amount from a friend and registered for this course.

 

 


2015 - Something Is Brewing, A Year Of Hope

I’m continuing to write blogposts at this time. I remember it was around wellness, feel good, insights into yourself, ayurveda, natural remedies, again all over the place.
In hindsight I can see how I’m constantly drawn to slower, more mindful activities and I was trying to write about a slow life. Just couldn’t get all my ideas streamlined.
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I did my pottery course in April May June 2015. As soon as I came back, I was lost but had a faint idea of what I wanted to do. I got myself a manual wheel which didn’t cost too much and used everything in my house to do other work. Got some clay and got practising. It wasn’t so romantic as it sounds or how i had imagined it. I had self doubts about not sticking to one activity for too long, I was scared about what if this isn’t what I’m supposed to do, and I had isolated myself so much that I was quite lost and lonely. But little by little, I kept going. 
I would practice at home, take my pots to Claystation Bangalore.
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I had some experience in flea market, and thankfully got myself to sign up for one and try my hands at selling my practice pots!
I started with a Sunday Soul Sante. I was so used to selling out like hot cakes in flea markets, that a slow selling day came as a surprise to me. Ceramics were not something that people picked up easily. Most of the people who came by had no clue what was I selling. At the end of the day, I did sell out well but just not as easily.
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In a similar way, I signed up for another flea market Kitsch Mandi and realised I did better with a more young and hipster crowd. This felt great! Being back to work, having a purpose, selling pots, interacting with happy customers, It gave me so much hope!

2016 - When I Named Myself Pothead

I started designing my brand and named myself pothead. You can imagine why that name didn’t work out in the long run. I setup an online store and waited for pots to sell. No pots sold, like zero.
This year I was also trying to find more teachers to teach me, to learn more, but interestingly there was hardly anyone ready to take on a student for an extended pottery course. 
But I did find my teachers Amrita Dhawan and Meenakshi Rajendra who I depended on in my early years. 
By December, I again made no money and quite sick of this. I thought I should contact some people and start looking for design jobs. That was a low. I was absolutely sure I’d never take up a job. Not earning for myself was a thought that never ever occurred to me. 
So I have a chat with my pottery mentors and decided to start teaching at home with whatever material or equipment, and at least get going.

 

 

 

2017 - Slow Pottery! Let's Get To Work...

 

1st January 2017, I got my first student. I rebranded myself as Slow Pottery.
I had one wheel at home, one wedging table. This course had no glazing, firing, only pottery wheel techniques.
1 student became 20 by June. I was teaching non stop as I had only one wheel. As soon as I hit 20, I took up a studio in Indiranagar. It was such a sweet start. Two manual wheels, two tables, one electric wheel. That’s it. 
To my surprise, I was always full. Something I’m proud to say even now. I kept getting a steady stream of students.
With a few personal ups and downs, 2017 was all about teaching. 
August 2017, I got my kiln. 
Now that’s something :) I will never forget my first kiln and the feeling of buying it.

 

 


2018 - The Year Of Centered

 

Now, after a few months of constant teaching, I wanted to spice up the atmosphere a little and because of my habit of dabbling with more than one thing, I had an urge to start a pottery festival.
So around June- July, I organised my first ever pottery festival - Centered at Humming Tree!
It was great! We had my students conduct fun clay play sessions and painting pot activities. We had professional potters setup stalls selling their work, lots of drinks, food, and this lovely Bangalore vibe that now I'm yearning for in the city.
After the first one going fairly well, I wanted to do another. So this time, I organised one at Bohemian House in December. Unfortunately, both these great places have closed down.
Anyway, this year was about getting known and making pottery known through these fun pottery festivals.
The idea was to bring pottery to non potters in a non intimidating way. 
This month, I also hired Atul, my social media marketer and photographer, who I’m happy to say is still with me.

 

 


2019 - The Year Of Bringing Pigtails to A Good End

I’m happy with what I do, In all this while, I’ve tried hiring people to replace my jobs of teaching and management. Sadly, the personal touch would not be there and I would revert back to doing it myself. I slowly, very slowly, gained the confidence to admit that Slow Pottery is me.
This was when I truly started understanding my role and taking back my power. 
Two interesting things happened this year.
I started a Professional Course at my studio where I invited 4 of my favourite potters to teach an intensive course. It was a 6 month long course. That was an absolute success!
The second part is interesting. My friend Nivi, was shutting Pigtails & Ponys down. I heard about that and couldn’t stop thinking about how would it be to do it again.
So here we go! I bought the company from her, the one I started with Nivi. I setup a studio, got the ladies who were employed at Pigtails, and started out again.
Now I have two of my dream companies that I built from scratch. My happiness was short lived though.
I started burning out. All I was doing was working. As much as I loved working, I just couldn’t do it.
So December 2019, I planned to shut down Pigtails properly. It did have a good run and I got a happy closure with a company I co founded with so much love.
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This year end was also when Me and my partner Karthik started planning the move to the farm and leave our city.

 


2020 - Surviving The Pandemic, Clay Jams

 

We’re all set for the year, and planned interactive Sunday pop ups at our studio!
March 2020, the country goes into a lockdown.
Of course the panic of the courses, salaries, work, uncertainty, set in.
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Soon after brainstorming different ways of working, we started Clay Jams which my intern Gauri conducted online and we sent out pottery kits to people’s homes. We did a bunch of Instagram lives, pottery from home and continued our work. 
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Interestingly, Karthik even managed to start constructing my pottery studio, homestays and our own home at the farm and even finished it in a span of 1.5 years during the lockdown. What an exciting and scary year.
November 2020 was the last month at my Indiranagar studio. December 31st we packed up in Bangalore, and moved to our farm.
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The most memorable new year party! So tired, so happy.

 

 


2021 - Slow Pottery X Velanga Orchard 

I’m now living in a farm where I do not know the language, I cannot drive, the nearest town or shop to buy anything is atleast 7km. All my supplies would come from Bangalore, cause nothing here in the village worked for me.

The transition was super difficult. It took me a full two years to settle in.
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This year we started our first set of farm pottery courses with amazing 5 students. They have seen us go through all the teething issues!
Anyway, we continued to do another season of courses in August to October.
It was quite a year and we ended it on a high!

 

 


2022 - A Good Life 

 

We’re almost at the end of this year as I write about 2022.
This year has been calming, I’m getting more and more comfortable with the rural life, hosting students, teaching the courses.
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I completed 11 years of craft entrepreneurship this month in September and wanted to share my journey with you!
It’s been such an interesting ride, full of ups and downs. 
Now it’s time to explore some more.
What do I have in mind?
To explore the artist in me who’s been waiting patiently for some attention.
To start travelling with work.
To explore movement arts back again
To setup an arts residency.
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When I write again this time next year, I hope to have at least started these things I’ve mentioned here :)
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And that’s about it! We’re here in September 2022 and I am so so grateful for everything, every little situation, people who entered my life, lessons I learnt, the highs and lows, everything!
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Lots of love,
Nikita
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