While conventional professionals’ ‘first’ in their job is usually remembered to be the day they joined for work or the first company they worked with, creative professionals have it a little different. Their ‘job’ is a part of who they are, an extension of their personalities and they usually do it from a very young age. They begin by creating to discover that they possess a penchant for it, transition into creating for themselves and then find the sweet spot of shaping a career out of it.
InFrame was in conversation with four such intriguing personalities from different creative fields, taking them, and us, back to their first artistic creation ever. Here is a taste of how it is to make something that is natural to them, into a flourishing business:
w/ Rohita Vee, of ROIA Jewellery
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to do something creative, and back in the day the only creative option I had was either get into fashion designing or architecture. I was not interested in fashion designing and I tried giving an exam for architecture, but I couldn't make it. I got into an engineering college, and it was then that I got into jewellery making as a hobby. I bought a DIY kit and started making beaded jewellery. My friends noticed it, and asked if I would sell it to them. That's when I realized I had a passion for making jewellery.
I decided to finish engineering, before I applied to the London Jewellery School. I was very interested in the manufacturing process of jewellery, although designing is also an essential part of it. I really loved the process of making a piece. The course allowed me to learn about using different media of jewellery, like metal, polymer clay, resin and using beads as well. I discovered that metalsmithing is something that I really love because the thought of morphing an idea into something material, a form of a metal was very interesting. I love the output, and I also feel it is very valuable. That’s when I decided to stick to one thing, and it happened to be metalsmithing.
*what’s with the name?
Roia was something I came up with while working on my graduation project. I wanted it to be a label, and didn’t want to be like others who branded their jewellery after their own name. I picked a few letters from my name and rearranged them. Coincidentally, ‘Roia’ means vision or dream.
The first piece that I designed for Roia was a necklace that was inspired by the traditional Indian Kolam. I continued to make an entire collection based on that design. I liked how the designs were very symmetrical, but I wanted to add a contemporary touch to it by eliminating all the curves. It was a completely spontaneous project, and it was an idea that was not pre-planned. I just let my mind guide my hands, and went with the flow.
I draw inspiration from the most mundane of things. What I enjoy doing though, is adding a little bit of a modern twist to a very simple idea. I also have a travel collection that’s inspired by all my personal travels. Personalized jewellery was a new concept when I started out, so I was a little uncertain about how things would work out. The response it got was really good, a pleasant surprise, I would say.
Jewellery was so much more than just something tangible. It was so much more than a piece of accessory. It was art, a space where you could express yourself. What went into the creation of a single piece involved a lot of intense emotions. Personalizing jewellery is a very sensitive process, one that goes deeper than the surface. I certainly did not expect anything from the whole journey, but I was always open to new ideas. I was curious to learn about the art of jewellery making and all its techniques. I was happy that I could work on something I was really passionate about.
w/ Tara Khandelwal, Publishing editor
I have always loved being in the world of words. When I was in college, I was actually majoring in economics and history. When the time came for me to do internships, the ones that appealed to me were the ones where I got to read a book. After my experiences interning in the publishing industry, I realized that I could make a career out of this. So, I did a publishing course in Columbia and I worked at a couple of publications. I always wanted to start something different and of my own. Two years ago, I saw that there were a lot of aspiring writers and not enough creative infrastructure that prompted them to come forward, and so I wanted to bridge that gap.
I knew that I wanted to do something that was ancillary to publishing. Being an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to take up a couple of internships. My first internship was interesting. Iit was at Laura Dail Literary Agency, New York. The very first book that I was asked to read and edit was a book on the Vietnamese war by John Shaw. I thought of how lucky I was to be getting an education that really taught me to read, write and think critically. My favourite book that I worked on was Mirror City by Chitrita Banerji because I remember getting a lot of positive feedback from my bosses.
I don't think it was difficult to work on, because it was something that I really like to do. It was fairly new so I had to reorient myself so as to sort of understand the process. The credit definitely goes to my bosses, and to all of the other editors I met in New York. It has also been said that it is all about instinct.
It taught me that like any other skill, with practice we become better, because the more you do, the better you become at it. You become someone who can read critically, work with people, convey ideas in a coherent way.
On founding her Startup - BOUND
It was a lack of infrastructure especially for those who wanted to pursue something creative that drew me in to create BOUND. I wanted to start something of good quality, and proceeded to offer affordable education to writers. I realized that there were several aspiring writers who were wanting to learn as opposed to those already established – I wanted to bridge the gap, bring in new people on board and really just build a writer's community.
w/ Navya Rao, Tattoo Artist, Podcaster & Entrepreneur
I had always envisioned myself as someone who belonged to the creatives field, and loved tattoos growing up. I dropped out of NIFT, and within a six-month transition during 2008-2009 was when I made a prototype of my first machine. A close friend of mine suggested that I take up tattooing as I was familiar with other mediums, and my love for it had grown with time. That’s when I began research about tattooing. I spoke to one particular person who told me that I was incapable of doing it especially because I was a girl. But that didn’t stop me, I kept pushing ahead, and my curiosity combined with my will to want to prove to myself that I could do this got me where I am today.
The summer of 2009 was when I tried out the first ever tattoo on my wrist because I really wanted to find out what it would be like, especially the part where it would hurt. It didn’t work out well, of course. I was influenced by a lot of budding tattoo artists out there, but I also didn’t really know that I could come up with new designs on my own. So, I began my journey like any other, by approaching the Internet. The designs that predominantly surfaced had also become outdated by the time I was making my way through them. I felt like tattooing had a stricter sense of design so I started out with a portrait of Maradonna, circa 2016.
*Designing your own tattoos
I start with an insight as to what my client wants, but I ensure that the design that is eventually etched on is the one that has some sense of personalization. I believe that tattooing is not a one-person deal. It’s a two-way process between the person creating and the person who is getting inked. It’s like any other relationship, where both the parties do require to put in equal effort to make it work.
*something you’re working on now
By 2017, I realized that I was not going to be working with lighter skin. This sort of realization gave me courage to start thinking about how I could work with different shades of the brown skin. That’s when the whole idea of Neo-Traditionalism appealed to me. I began working on tattoos based on concepts of Neo-Traditionalism and Realism – leaning towards culture appropriation. My work currently involves influences from sarees (Bhoodan Pochampally), geometric patterns, and the tie-and-dye texture of Ikat prints.
I begin sketching based on the brief provided by my clients (apart from the work I do on my own). I keep in touch with them throughout the development process as their inputs are rather invaluable. When it comes to tattooing, it’s all about creating a storyline on your body. My spin on the work comes naturally once I begin, and constant communication is what I find key to making the experience all worth it.
Response and Reaction
Initially, I wasn’t very happy with the work I put out there. I claimed that they were not good enough. That was until 2018, where I suddenly saw people responding to my creations and I felt the discouragement fade. It was around that time that Mr. Gauri Shankar approached me, and told me to host Mumbai Tattoo festival. Later, Ialso went on to host the NEOn Tattoo Festival by Ripz Basak which inspired me to start my podcast channel - Madras Tattoo Congress. I learnt then that only through the honing of my craft would I be able to go further. Also, having people who constantly supported me allowed the space for me to not judge myself at every step.
In the corporate world, I was a known quitter, but I was determined to show them that I wasn’t. Tattooing taught me patience – patiently coming through whatever the process had in store for me. Apart from that, it also taught me perseverance and humility. Tattooing is not just an artform, you’d also have to look at it from a business perspective. In a way, my years at a corporate firm prepared me for this. Initially, there was a lot of resistance, but once I was able to overcome that I was finally able to see the bigger picture.
w/ Pigeon & Co.’s Saurabh Malhotra and Vipin Babu, Design Studio
We were roommates back in college, and decided to start working on a fun project that would enable us to channel our creative sides. Though we had worked together, we worked in separate jobs before Pigeon. Circa 2014 was when Pigeon came into being. Even then, we didn’t really have a clear idea what it was going to be, but all we knew was that it was going to have to be fun. We wanted to create a space where we felt like we could do a little bit of everything. We realized it had to come from our personal understanding of some things that people find funny.
*what’s up with the name?
Pigeon was something that the two of us had found that we agreed to have in common. It was our take on the idea of bringing in something funny to a necessarily serious thing - some sort of a joke on the idea of a business.
The very first project we worked on together was actually a print ad, though we can’t recall what it exactly was. We decided to work together on it, and the results were pretty interesting. It became evident that we could work as a team – that we drew from each other’s inputs; thinking and experimenting, classes, bunch of anything and everything, interests varied and that helped in execution in ideas that were influenced not only by our personalities, but also certain demands of the projects had to be met. We do complement each other pretty well. Being together in college definitely helped a lot – our personalities were being shaped together, and since we’ve stuck together, our thinking is connected. Being open to new ideas helps a lot.
Our first project wasn't self- initiated, we had to work on this website for a client - 'The Glitch.' We were allowed to approach the project in multiple ways, but it was very different from the kind of work that we do. Working at an office setting made it seem a little unsettling. Though we had fun, the project proved to be more complicated, and there were times where we would even get into fights.
Inspiration & Process
For client-based projects, we definitely have quite a few restrictions. Though we do add a personalized touch, we make sure we reach middle ground. If it were one of our own, personal projects, we do focus on reimagining what is seen as normal. We add elements that don’t usually belong in said scene, mainly to add something unexpected, a pop of surprise.
Your reaction to response
It was exhilarating to know that people were excited with the type of content we created. We had to acknowledge that kind of response was genuine, and that maybe we had judged ourselves a little too harshly.
For starters, we didn’t give up too easily. We constantly kept experimenting whenever we got the chance. We put in a lot of effort and at every point we're trying to make it in the least, satisfying to us. We were quite unhappy when we began working, but we decided to give it a little bit of time to work things out. That really helped, because things eventually fell into place.