Illustrator Alicia Souza’s workspace is choc-a-bloc with coasters, a number of different pencils; note pads, figurines, illustrated pillow covers, a huge poster of V for Vendetta and a cheerful Alsatian, Charlie. “He is the inspiration for all my work,” Alicia says.
Growing up in Abu Dhabi and Melbourne, Alicia loved sketching, but never considered it as a viable career option. Five years ago, she decided to move to India, helped co-found Chumbak, a range of lifestyle products with an Indian theme. Presently, she takes up freelancing assignments and runs her own product chain, which is a huge hit online and she has more than 53,000 followers on social media networks.
She says, “I was working in a bank in Melbourne when Chumbak happened. We were initially selling magnets, before growing into selling more than 20 products. I worked on the designing aspect and loved it and began considering a move back to India.
Alicia was initially very scared. “I was born and bought up in Abu Dhabi and had a cushy job. I had no family and friends in India. I decided to take the plunge and the journey has given plenty of insights about life in India. I started to travel to a lot of places and discovered new aspects of life in India. Many of the India-centric illustrations happened when I was in Melbourne.”
She adds, “I faced many of similar concerns when I decided to leave Chumbak and began freelancing. I did not know any other illustrator and had no idea about whether I will find work. I even questioned myself but decided to stick with my choices. I took a gamble and have been lucky that people have liked my work. It has been one of the greatest journeys of my life. It was a tough job but I am happy I pulled through."
Alicia does illustrations for authors, big and small businesses, comic books and is also working in adult colouring books. She says, “My time in the country has made me a huge supporter of small business. I try and buy all the materials needed for my products from local shopkeepers instead of the larger chains.”
She is thankful to Bengaluru for providing her an avenue to try something different.
“Bengaluru is the start-up capital of the country and offers a lot of space for creative ideas too. A lot of people are open to see new things done. I do not think I would have been successful in another Indian city. I feel that social media had also been a great help. I can put things up online and it gets noticed instantly."
Is technology in printing an important aspect of her work? “I consider myself an illustrator first. However, technology plays an important role in my work. I still prefer the pencil and paper for most of my illustrations. I use technology to improvise.”
Alicia is thrilled that she makes people happy with her work.
“Every time I have sold at exhibitions, I usually find people smiling, which is very satisfying. I do not have to spend much time marketing my products. My social media networks are a great help and most of my marketing revolves around blabbering about my product line online.
“The best part of doing what I do is that it does not feel like a job. It is a lifestyle. It is great when you hold something you have made.”
In a highly globalised world, India is making its mark feels Alicia. “The world is becoming smaller. Markets are growing. Everybody wants to see new things. I think it is a great time to be in India.”