Look at me back shamelessly to replug my interview with the Better Homes and Gardens September issue :)) I just laid my hands on the magazine a few days ago and it looks so much lovelier in print. Deepika Nandal, the sweet writer who compiled the article out of the long answers I sent to her via email, did such a fabulous job. The write up is so concise and crisp, don't you think so?
I really however wanted to share with you the entire transcript of what I sent to her. While on the trip it struck me that Haathmadebyruna.com completed 2 years in August :) Thank you all for so much of love and good wishes that came across after the article was out and ofcourse to all those many many people who buy my creations and value them so much!
1.Tell me your age, your city and your educational background:
I’m 37 years old, live in Mumbai with a BSc. in Home Science (LAD College, Nagpur) and a Diploma in Special Education for Mentally Retarded children (Mumbai University)
2. What were you doing before this? Where exactly did you work as a professional? Did you always wanted to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve been a teacher in a special school, to a project co-ordinator in a disability rights advocacy group, to a co-ordinator of special schools before I began Haathmade By Runa. I had no plans of turning into a full time crafter, it was a happy accident much after I quit my full time profession. My sister would carry to work stuff I’d made for her and her friends would notice and ask me to sew similar ones for them. That’s how a Facebook page happened initially and around 2 years ago, a website.
3. How did sewing/stitching catch your attention? Any particular person/incident that inspired you? What attracted you towards textile art?
Sewing sort of runs in my veins and came very naturally to me. My mum has been stitching our clothes ever since we were kids. I even learnt a few years ago that my Grandfather sewed his own napkins and table cloths for his cafe in the early 50s and 60s. Of course my mum is my go to person when I’m stuck somewhere. Needle work was a part of our curriculum since class 3 and we made tons of cross stitched table cloths and embroidered duchess sets in school. My background in Home Science gave me a lot of technical know how on fabrics, textures etc. Practical sewing was fairly limited to project work that we’d complete during our summer holidays. Bolts of textile have always been around the house. My mum stitched the curtains to sofa covers to our bath robes all at home, so yes she’s the one sole person I owe my skill too.
4. Who taught you the art of stitching? When did you buy your first sewing machine? What was your first ever sewing project? Any you tube videos/books/tutorials you referred to?
I’ve learnt all my sewing through hours of practice, frustrations, experimentations and sewing blunders I’ve made over years. I’d always used my mum’s sewing machine and got to own my very first one as recently as 2009. When I began sewing in college, there were only a few internet cafes around, so that was never an option. I learnt a lot of techniques from my Mum, who would patiently explain them to me over long distance phone calls. Now of course I have many crafter friends in the sewing community across the world, who post wonderful tutorials on their blogs and even write detailed pattern books which I pick up from their websites. My first sewing project was way way ambitious for my age, but it was indeed a success :) I made a smocked summer dress for my younger sister in class 8 in boarding school with help from our school master ji :)
5. Which are the fabrics/materials that you use for your projects?
I enjoy working a lot with pure fabrics. Cottons, linens, silks and denims are my favourite. They hold shape very well, are durable and very easy to manoeuvre on the sewing table. I love bright colours and prints and am always on the look out for such fabrics.
6. Can you explain the stitching process—from illustrations to stitching to packaging? Who clicks the product shots? Can you describe your work and designs that you use? On which platforms are your products available at? Who is your target audience?
I visualise patterns in my head all the time. I get up at 5.30 am every morning so excited about patterns I just dreamt of. I carry a notebook around and make crazy sketches and diagrams. These then get transferred to drafts on newspaper, then cut out on scrap fabrics and sewn to see what they look like before I actually decide to make them for my web store. I do use readymade patterns available online and even from my patten book collection, but not without putting my personal stamp on it.
I use a lot of the samples my self to test how practical they are and how well they hold up. My sister too uses a lot of my stuff and gives me very generous feedback. I run quite a one woman company from my sewing table in my guest bedroom. I spend the entire week sewing, end of the week I snap my own pictures, upload them on my website (which my engineer husband made from scratch), receive orders online, use recycled packaging materials and post them off to my customers with a handwritten note. For now my handmade products are only available on my own webstore and I intend to keep it that way. I am a stickler for neatness and finishing so mass production is practically impossible. Sewing each piece personally gives me immense pleasure and joy and leaves no room for shoddiness.
My target audience is definitely anyone who understands the thoughtfulness and hard work that goes into making each unique handmade product.
7. Why do people these days love all things hand-stitched? Do you also impart classes/workshops? Which are the products that you hand-stitch and sell?
When we were young, sweaters were knitted at home by gandmothers, clothes were sewn by aunts and mums, giving and receiving handmade was so special. The younger lot today have never seen a sewing machine ever and would rather pick up a ready made bag/ clothes from a retail store in a mall for half the price. There are a very limited bunch of people who really do understand the value of a hand crafted item and are ready to pay a price for it. I recently had a customer tell me that she’s so happy to carry my bag around knowing how it was made and who made it :) Hand made stuff is unique and unlike what everyone else is carrying or using, those who understand this are my happy customers. I seldom repeat fabrics and make no more than two items that look exactly the same.
Since I run my small crafting business all by myself at home, it leaves me no time to think of imparting classes or workshops or even putting up stalls at exhibitions. I however would love to try my hand at online tutorials someday. Like they say, never say never :)
I make tote bags, lunch bags, purses, wallets, coasters, tea cosies, gadget cases, camera straps, passport pouches, key chains, make-up rolls and jewellery rolls to name a few. These are available on my web store - www.haathmadebyruna.com. I’ve done a host of custom makes like quilts, nappy bags, baby dresses, baby booties and waist bags too.
8. Something you thought you learnt earlier on? What are the challenges you have to tackle, presently?
I learnt very early on that neat finishing and quality plays a big role in my crafting world. I can never mass produce, get tailors, run a workshop and create a large business. I thrive on the passion and joy of making each product myself and never go out of my way for any of my stuff to look like its not hand sewn at home. I even hand stamped my own labels till a few months ago.
My biggest challenge is struggling with only 24 hours in a day which I now every artist does. I have so many ideas and projects in the pipeline that its difficult to decide what to make first. Finding good quality fabric and prints is another challenge. I spend hours pondering on pricing my products because, material costs are tangible, but putting a price to hours of sewing gets immensely tough. Sometimes people write in to me saying my stuff is a little expensive.
9. Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs who love to stitch things? Your future plans:
Anyone who loves to sew and wants to start selling should take that plunge for sure. No shortcuts work. You need to be adept at your skill, so take sewing, cutting classes. Spend hours practising and now the internet has a host of video tutorials to learn from. Never compromise on neatness or finish. Redo projects as long as they take. Keep at it never give up and surely honest feedback always helps.
I take each day as it comes and long term planning doesn’t work for me. I’d love to start a nice design website that has sewing videos, tutorials and DIY projects on home decor. I love doing up spaces in the most un-conventional ways. Wish me luck people!
The printed interview is very interesting.