Tuesday, May 10, 2011

q & a with Anisha Ghosh of Saffron Marigold

Hello everyone! Thanks for stopping by, for leaving little notes that makes a blogger's day, for signing up in the Followers section. All this makes working on Cookie Jar so special. So please come in, settle down on large squishy cushions and woven rugs, sip from cups of coffee and tea, and let's talk about handmade love.

I love everything handmade. I’ve decorated my own home with handicrafts bought at exhibitions and craft bazaars, with paintings that my father, husband and I have done, and embroidery projects that my mother and I have worked on. The colours are warm, and there is so much handmade love. While each person has his or her own ideas about decorating, I personally believe that handmade things can make a house into a magical and beautiful home. There’s a story or memory behind each little trinket, and you know that like our fingerprints, no two pieces of handmade craft are the same.

If after this little paragraph, you’re in the mood for something handmade, then read on about Saffron Marigold and how its founder Anisha Ghosh started this unique and beautiful online boutique. And better still, get hold of the May issue of The Ideal Home and Garden that has an entire article about her business – written by me J. But before you step out to buy the magazine, why don’t you meet her first and chat a bit.

Hi Anisha and welcome to the Cookie Jar...

Anisha at the artisan studio

q. Please tell us about your professional background – companies and jobs that you’ve worked at before starting your business.

a. I have a Masters Degree in Human Resources from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. After completing my Masters degree I worked in Human Resources for approximately 5 years in companies both in India and the US.

q. How did you start your business? 

a. The idea to build a small business first came to me when as a young bride, having just arrived  in the US, I longed to decorate my home with beautiful Indian textiles; wishing their vibrancy would help lift the feelings of homesickness that frequently washed over me.

After working in corporate America for four years, a period that afforded me a fleeting ten days of vacation time in India a feeling of disconnect took seat within me. Although not a designer by education, I surrendered to my need to create a meaningful connection with the land of my birth and figure out a way in which I could somehow weave together my love for Indian textiles, my desire to do creative work and my growing fascination with the Internet and the immense possibilities it presented.

I also wanted to offer discerning customers a choice to own bedding and linens that have a story to tell, that have been created by human hands, and that somehow have imprinted upon its fibres, generations of skill, culture, and tradition.

After several months that consisted of taking a few classes, travelling, research, a lot of thinking, conceptualizing, ideating and work Saffron Marigold.com was launched in January 2005.

q. Tell us about the artisan you work with.

a. He comes from a line of ancestral hand block printers in Rajasthan. A commerce graduate by education, after cycling through a few accounting jobs he was quickly disillusioned with the unstable world of work. Therefore, he decided early on to take ownership in his destiny by starting his own block printing studio.

He employs 20 artisans now. These days he primarily plays the role of the colour master in the studio and along with two of his brothers manages all aspects of production.

q. What are the different products you offer under your brand?

Ans. We currently retail a range of cotton bedspreads, duvet covers, shower curtains, curtain panels, valances, tablecloths, table runners, napkins, pillow covers and cushion covers.

q. Where do you get your inspiration from?

a. I draw inspiration for my designs from memories, impressions from travel, or from India’s rich and diverse arts, culture and tradition. I also glean a lot of imagery from history, art, music, poetry, literature, architecture, fragrance, apparel and nature.

q. Please tell us about your business approach.

a. We have taken the slow and steady approach towards building our business. We were clear from the start that we weren’t in this to turn a quick profit. We wanted to build a business that was solid, sustainable and founded on values that were not only thought through but meticulously and intentionally woven into the various systems that the company runs on. At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, our entire journey has been blessed and memorable.

To hop over to Saffron Marigold, just click here.

Image Credit: Saffron Marigold

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dreams in my pocket - Anaka Narayanan

I learnt to sew recently. Signed up for a 2-month crash course and stitched a whole lot of clothes – skirts, tops, kurtas, lil’ girl frocks, kaftans, totes, and cushion covers. I never imagined that working the sewing machine would be so much fun, especially because I was always terrified of this strange machine, which I associated with women of another generation.

Ah! Our moms’ generation and the skills they had. Almost vintage now. I wonder how many young women in urban India stitch, embroider and knit? While, the crafting movement is quite hot in other countries, I guess here, it’s still associated with mothers and grandmothers. Most women today would rather post messages on Facebook in their free time…

Anyway, since I was craving for the above-mentioned vintage and traditional skills, I decided to go the whole mile, and learnt to embroider and knit from my mother. In fact, we’re planning to launch a small business with our own line of hand embroidered home furnishings. We’re still working at it like busy little Santa’s elves.

And while we’re talking about businesses built around something one loves to do, I must mention Anaka Narayanan, a self-taught fashion designer and store owner.  She runs Brass Tacks, an amazing boutique in Chennai and creates fantabulous clothes – all in handloom and with the smartest cuts and designs that I’ve ever seen.

Today she joins us in the Dreams in my pocket section. Hope you enjoy this interview.

I am….  

the owner and designer of a clothing brand, Brass Tacks. I grew up surrounded by beautiful handwoven textiles, but never thought I’d end up making a career for myself working with fabric. I studied economics, thinking I’d work on development projects, but while working for an economic analysis firm in New  York I started appreciating fashion (it was all around me). What stood out for me was the simplicity of the tailored silhouettes. Brass Tacks was conceived when I was in New York, and goal was to translate natural and handwoven fabrics into well-cut, tailored silhouettes.

My bread-butter-n-jam… 

I put together 4 collections a year and they are retailed at my store. I design each collection, working closely with my production team. I get to decide what fabrics to use and I have complete creative control over the theme and styling of each collection. It’s an amazing feeling to have that kind of ownership over your work, and to see your own creations generate business.

What inspires and invigorates me…

Unfortunately I don’t find enough time to go for my kalaripayattu classes, but it’s something that always leaves me feeling strong and high on positive energy. I love the movements in the class, but also being in a class where other people are pushing themselves to get better is really motivating (as opposed to jogging or swimming by myself).

I’m also very inspired by people who run their own businesses but who have such a great sense of humour that they never let challenges get the better of themselves.

I enjoy…

My morning cup of tea- and making it is as much a part of the enjoyment as the drinking! Unless I’m working on something that requires total concentration or reading, I always have music playing at home and in my office.

The clothes I design….

The clothes I design are very simple to look at, but there are a lot of unexpected surprises and hidden details that go into making it special and unique. A lot of time is spent on getting the right fit/shape, and we offer a wide range of sizes in the hope that most women will find something that works for them.

The designs are feminine, but not overly girly. They are not fussy and they are meant for strong-willed women who are confident and have an eye for detail. I supposed because my personal aesthetic is very simple, I never design clothes that could possibly be overbearing on the wearer’s personality.  

What counts…
Being happy. Although that’s easier said than done, because different things all add up to making one happy or unhappy. Still, it’s the only thing worth striving for.

The important lessons of my life…

Being compassionate. I know I’ve learned this but I don’t always practice it (what can I say, I’m work in progress).

Let me share…

I don’t know if I’m in a position to be giving advice to other entrepreneurs, but a friend of mine recently said something to me that made a lot of sense. You always read about how important it is for an entrepreneur to be hardworking, passionate and persistent. I’d like to add one more thing to that list: enjoy the everyday process.


To view Anaka's website and collections, cruise over.. 

 Image Credit: Anaka Narayanan

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dreams in my pocket - Nidhi Chanani

I’ve recently shifted to another house – a sprawling old 'fauji' bungalow with a lawn and lots of trees. There’s a cluster of bamboo trees, a mango tree laden with green fruit, a rustling pine, a tall ramrod straight Ashoka and a nut tree. I love our new abode with large windows, lots of sunshine and fresh air, and spacious rooms. But what I love best is my little studio – a square room with gauzy block-printed Kota sheers, a table for my laptop where I do my journalistic work and another table for my sewing machine and art work. I’ve parked my easel in a corner, set up a sumptuous diwan in another with a large silk cushion and dotted the window sill with plants. I’ve used Craft Maps of India for the walls and a bright orange Ikkat durrie for the floor.

This work-and-craft studio opens up to the garden and porch, and the view from here is wonderful. When I work here I feel blessed – blessed for being able to do things that I love and in a place that can be best described as a “sunny little garden room”.

Speaking about blessings and the luxury of carving out a living doing what we like to do, let me introduce you to Nidhi Chanani. She creates gorgeously cute illustrations from her home studio. Here she chats with us about what she does and what she loves.


I am….

a freelance artist and designer based out of San Francisco. I was born in India but I grew up in Southern California. I always wanted to express myself creatively, either through words or art... In my mid-twenties I decided to change careers and try out art school. I haven’t looked back since.

I illustrate…

everything, really! My blog is my personal work... I generally draw from my life, my love and my wonderful friends and family. I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by supportive and sincere people... and San Francisco! I feel as though every time I turn a corner, go to meet a friend or catch a train I am living inside a dream. This city has so much beauty... And I travel a fair amount so I draw from those experiences as well.

I also create from my imagination, the wonderful thing about drawing is that there are no limits. I can take my feelings and thoughts and translate them into a world that’s my own creation.

My bread-butter-n-jam…

I make most of my living from my personal work. I sell prints and other products with my daily sketches... Every day I think about how lucky I am to be able to earn my living through art.

What inspires and invigorates me…

I get this question a lot, so I think this time I will tell you what is currently inspiring me. My friends and my moms. I really have some of the best friends, people you can count on, lean on or simply just enjoy a few glasses of wine with!

I also have the incredibly good fortune of having an amazing mother and mother-in-law!  The time we spend together is always full of laughter and wisdom.

Often I feel like my life is bubbling over with love.... that’s the best kind of inspiration.

I enjoy…

I am a pop music lover! I love Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, and so many others. I can’t draw without music on... I also love my cats, cuddling in bed with my hubbahubba, walking around my neighborhood in the evening, checking out too many books from the library and I won’t lie: I’m a total chocoholic. Currently I’m on a chocolate croissant kick.

Instant perk-me-ups…

I’ve been feeling blue recently and calls from my hubbahubba and my best friend always make me feel better. Taking time to snuggle with my kitty always makes me happy, too.

What counts…

My hubbahubba, friends and family... and my work.

The important lessons of my life…

Go with your gut. Take risks. Love widely, but protect your heart. Be kind.

Let me share…

I think my best advice is to go for it. Don’t just dream it, do it.


See more of Nidhi's work here. And, visit her Etsy store here.

Image Credit: Nidhi Chanani