Friday, October 29, 2010

Dreams in my pocket - Jeanine Hays

(Jeanine and her exotic pillows)

We met up with the very talented Jeanine Hays of AphroChic and the AphroChic blog. A lawyer by profession, she is an artist, designer, blogger and successful entrepreneur 'by passion'. Here, on a bright blue winter morning, she lets us take a sneak peek into the her pocket and the dreams and designs that are nestled there...

Dreams in my pocket…

I am….

A designer, a lawyer, a writer – just a woman who wants to live the life she wants and have fun doing it. I am from a small town in Pennsylvania, but my dreams have always been big. I’ve also always had an independent streak. At some early point I decided that I wanted to go to Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. And even though my family wasn’t behind it at first, that was my decision, and when the time came, I went. I majored in Political Science while I was there. I also learned that I was an artist (who knew?), and took my very first painting classes on Spelman’s campus. After college I was very torn. I knew that I wanted to continue with school, but wasn’t sure if I would go for interior design or attend law school instead. Law school won out – mostly because it seemed like the surest path to a stable living – and I moved to Washington D.C. to attend American University Washington College of Law. I focused on domestic violence law, and today I work in that field as a policy associate for a non-profit in San Francisco. But despite taking what appeared to be the more rational path, I never lost my desire to engage my creative side.

While working full-time at the non-profit I decided to start a blog dedicated to my passion for interior design. That’s how AphroChic was born. It began in 2007, and became a successful home decor blog in a short amount of time. Two years after starting the blog, I decided to take my dreams even further and began creating some of my own designs. Because I’ve always been a renter, and because I like to change my style from year to year, I’ve always been attracted to pillows for their ability to transform a space without requiring a huge commitment. It turned out to be the perfect focus for a new company, and in 2009 AphroChic launched its first collection of throw pillows and apparel.

I write…

A lot. My blog is all about modern and soulful interiors. But I also write articles and blog posts for HGTV. It can make for some tired fingers, but I love every second of it (and so do my fingers). When I started my blog, I wanted to explore the types of spaces and decor that make me happy, and that’s still what I look for in the things that I cover. I love spaces that include a modern aesthetic, but that also tell a story. I believe that our decor can tell our stories, not only who we are but where we come from. I love spaces that are full of culture; design that is cutting-edge; and decor that makes a space truly feel like home. Those are the concepts that I look to explore and the ideas that I want to contribute in the AphroChic blog and everything else that I write, and it’s so much fun.

My bread-butter-n-jam…

I love making pillows. Pillows make people happy. They make you smile. And they are so comfy and cozy. There’s nothing like coming up with a new design and seeing it come to life. And I love the look of surprise when someone sees our collection and how bright and fun it is. I want each pillow I make to bring a smile to someone’s face.

What inspires and invigorates me…

My husband. We work together on building our business. When we started making pillows he didn’t have a clue about decor and design, but after just one year he is getting to be a bit of a designer himself. I’m inspired by how he takes on a new thing, and about how much he believes in what we’re doing. Owning your own business can be quite daunting, but he keeps me going. He never stops believing that we are doing the right thing by going for our dreams.

I enjoy…

M&Ms, funny movies, and laughing myself silly. I love spending time with my family and friends. Every day I realize a little more just how important the little things in life are. Life happens in the little moments.

Instant perk-me-ups…

For me it’s a chai latte. It’s the ultimate pick-me-up. Warm, sweet and spicy. I always feel better after drinking chai.

What counts…

I know it sound cliché, but being happy counts for everything. I was raised by the most wonderful mother, and the one thing she taught my sister and I was to be happy, to smile, to laugh, not matter what was happening in our lives. Doing what I love, even during the hard times, I know that most important thing is that I’m happy. That’s all that matters.

The important lessons of my life…

I’ve learned to be open to the opportunities that life has to offer. When I started my blog I had no idea the doors and opportunities that would open. I didn’t have a clue that I would I start my own online boutique, that I would be writing for HGTV, or that people would ever be inspired by the things that I do. Doors open, and I’m not afraid to walk through them and see what’s next. Never pass up on an opportunity. It just might change your life forever.

Let me share…

When I was a little girl I wrote a list of the things I wanted to be. I remember very clearly writing that I wanted to be a writer, designer or a lawyer. Today, I’m all three. My best advice would be to look back and think of what you always wanted to be. I’ll bet that, deep down, it’s still what you want to be today. Now, admit to yourself that you can have it, then take a step forward and make it happen. It’s never too late to make your dreams come true. You have everything that you need.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Q & A with Nihar Mehta of Tribal Route

Think India and you think of vibrant colours, jewel tones, beautiful crafts....and so much more. Nihar Mehta, set up Tribal Route to bring forth the immense talent and craft know-how that this country can be proud of. Lets tread the Tribal Route and get to know this entrepreneur.

"Tribal route is not just a store....but a handcrafted store-y."

q. Please tell us about yourself – your educational and work background and interests.

a. Professionally an Interior Designer with a Diploma in Interior Design from Rachana Sansad, School of Interior Design in 1992. Worked as an Interior Designer for close to 15 years where I designed residential and commercial projects. Few of the biggest projects were the office of Iran Airways at Marine Drive, and also designing and executing various projects for the Indian Navy.

I enjoy music, promoting Indian crafts and supporting craftsmen, travelling ( specially driving the lengths of India ). I like collecting Ganpatis, coasters, stirrers, pipes, and now frogs. The Frog, by the way, is the mascot of Tribal Route.

q. When and how did you start Tribal Route?

a. Tribal Route started in November 2006. (wow, 4 years have flown past!)

I wanted to pursue my dream, my passion of working with products, handicrafts… and then I stumbled upon Aram Nagar, a quaint little society in Versova, Andheri, which has cottages that date back to World War 2 when they were army barracks. Small cottages, with courtyards, mud roads, trees and birds... and yes I had found my dream place for my dream project. I had been doing my home work for years connecting with creative people, so it was a little easy to know what to get where. Finally on my mother’s birthday, on 24th November, Tribal Route was born.

q. What was the idea behind such a store?

a. Tribal Route was a thought, a dream, a passion that I was sitting on for almost ten years. The thought came across when I got hooked onto collecting pieces of art and craft over the years while I was travelling across India and internationally. I realised that India had to offer much more by the way of skill sets, creativity, materials etc than what was usually available at emporiums or mela type exhibitions.

Also I felt the entire experience wasn’t complete till the perfect setting was created by way of a store that looked, felt and was every inch India. The raw beauty, the colours, the warmth, the ‘Guest is God’ welcoming feeling to every customer who came in.

q. Would you like to tell us about the kind of things you have in your store?

a. At Tribal Route, I only sell products that are made in India. We have an entire range of products for the home and for you. We have furniture, home decor, home furnishings, candles and aromatic products, hand made paper stationery, jewelry, bags, footwear & clothes.

Most products are made for the store, or are one of a kind so will not be available any place else. Some are semi customised and some are sourced. We have something for everyone.

q. What about the interesting work that you do with artisans? It would be great to know how you help them create these products.

a. One of the things that had inspired me to open a store was that the Indian artisan is so talented, but his skill is under utilised. They are also unhappy with no innovation opportunities, and bored of making the same old products across generations. So I started using their skill sets, to make new products that were fun and different, and even they surprised them selves, as somewhere down the line they had forgotten the joy of making new products.

q. Which products are your favourites in Tribal Route?

a. Every product is like a baby. But if there’s something that’s really my favourite, its something that I created - a collection of Zardozi mirrors, and also there is this collection of wall clocks that’s completely designed and created in house.

q. Would you like to tell us how you ideate and come up with new and interesting collections of things? For instance, during Ganesh Chaturthi, you had some really cute and different Ganeshas.

a. I try to come up with things that are different, and I have a fantastic bunch of people who support me in this endeavour, be it vendors, crafts people or artisans. I keep thinking out of the well...err box!

q. What would you like to shout out to people who want to start their own ventures around creative ideas?

a. Don’t hold your creativity inside you. Go ahead. Also please please, do not give away your handmade products as gifts to friends and family, even if you are doing it as a hobby. Sell it to them, even if it means taking the bare minimum from them. And yes, if you are looking for shelves to sell your work from, to tread the Tribal Route...the doors are always open for you.

Cookie Jar - where all the good things are

I’ve been thinking of starting a blogzine for ages, but finally got down to doing it now. Almost everyday, I steal a sliver of time to cruise over to or hop onto other creative blogs, all aglow with bright pictures, cheerful photographs and luminous words. Till a few months ago, every time I gazed at a blog, I wondered when I would finally start a blog, and when would I have enough to say to the world. “What will I say?” “Will I have something interesting to share every other day?” While a year ago these questions made me shelve this project, now, it’s spurring me on to write, interview and post.

Cookie Jar – where all the good things are, will feature artists, craftspeople, small businesses, entrepreneurs, writers, scrapbookers, illustrators, embroiderers, creative bloggers, photographers…people who dare to dream and work on their dreams. People who do something creative, who revel in what they do and who have had the courage to break away from the usual and create something of their own. We’ll have interviews, photo features and post cards.

Just like a cookie jar full of delicious chocochip-encrusted treats, this Cookie Jar is a place where you can dip in for a creative treat. Whether you want a nugget of inspiration, a break from work, a place to share a smile, Cookie Jar is the place to cruise over to. So hop on and enjoy this delectable treat!