Shilpa Mitha’s miniature clay models are a big hit!

Burgers you can wear as earrings, dosas you can put up on your fridge and fruit stalls you can display during Navarathri… B.Tech graduate Shilpa Mitha’s unique and tempting miniatures are catching people’s fancy.

Under the brand name Sueño Souvenir, Shilpa, an art teacher’s daughter, makes clay miniatures, flowers, figurines and customised dolls. She is also the one to be given the credit for promoting similar talent like herself by creating the Chennai Crafters group on Facebook after being inspired by the Bangalore Craft lovers group and after having participated in the Kitsch Mandi event in Bangalore

“I loved the concept and I wanted to see similar events happening in Chennai! Since I am from a completely technical background, I didn’t know many people who were into arts and crafts. So I created this group to bring them together,” she says of the 850-member group that has artists who work with paper, clay, fabric, mixed media, illustration and more.

The young art entrepreneur shares more about how she turned a talent into business…

How did you learn the art of miniature clay modelling and sculpting?

I had no intention to get into clay modelling but I was making things with 3D paper quilling. One day, I so badly wanted to make a pair of burger earrings for myself so tried it with some clay. At that point of time, I didn’t realise I was stepping into an all new territory and was going to change my career altogether! After about seven months, I decided to learn it professionally and did some courses abroad, and learnt to sculpt. The miniatures are all my own creations though and I’ve never attended a class for these.

When did it strike you to make a business out of it?

From the very first piece, my friends insisted on buying it from me and never asked me to make it for them for free! Things just fell into place without me planning anything at all. But I decided to create a Facebook business page when I started getting more appreciation and more orders.

What are the different kinds of miniature models you sell?

When it comes to miniatures, I mostly end up making miniature food. I especially concentrate on our local cuisine, because that's an area that has never been ventured before.

The miniature food magnets are priced between Rs. 150 - 500 depending on the detailing. The miniature fruit stall is priced at Rs 5000. It's a wooden fruit stall with 10 different kinds of fruits.

Your best-seller…

The dosa fridge magnet! Since I’ve made more than a few hundreds of them, it takes about 15 minutes now. Used to take close to an hour when I started.

What makes your products click?

The biggest sellers have been the fridge magnets. A lot of people collect them and so there have been huge orders for them. Not many wish to buy display pieces but when I add a magnet it has an all-new value to it. All the figurines that I’ve made have been customised for people to be given away as wedding or birthday presents.

What plans of expansion do you have?

I have been wanting to set up a clay studio. I want more people to see and feel what a wonderful art form it is! It's a great stress buster and for me, it’s cathartic!

A lot of youngsters like yourself take up a business that has nothing to do with your education. How can one identify their interest early on?

I have been very lucky. My parents have been extremely supportive but they just had one rule. I had to finish my UG before I chose my career. So I had to do my B.Tech for the sake of it.

Thing is, I was never sure of what I wanted to do till I started working with clay. I wasn't even aware that I could do something like this. Guess that's how it is for most of the kids. We go to school and study everything and most of us are clueless. Would be great if we had more extra-curricular activities in school and more children are encouraged to follow their passion.

We, as a society, have to learn to accept and respect each and every job instead of just the high paying ones.

Shilpa’s Facebook page

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