A canvas to doodle on

Anushka Mayne, who converts canvas shoes into works of art with her designs, tells Catherine Rhea Roy she prefers to keep the designs unique rather than sell them at a store

December 22, 2011 06:08 pm | Updated 06:08 pm IST

Anushka Mayne. Photo: G.P.Sampath Kumar

Anushka Mayne. Photo: G.P.Sampath Kumar

Anushka Mayne started doodling at no particularly memorable moment, “Ever since I can remember,” she says. She then had a corporate life for a bit until she cut the chord and started painting on canvas shoes for a living. “I was in advertising for about two and a half years. While we were organising a disco night at Opus, I was playing with a sequin. I thought if you used it cleverly, and add some paint, you could customise your shoes,” she narrates going to the beginning of her work.

It was not one of your regular a-ha moments, where it all fell into place. Anushka quit her job, painted 13 shoes and decided that if she sold one, she would be a happy person, if she sold two she might consider looking into it as a business. She sold 11. “It was surprising because although I drew a lot, I could not paint, I mean if my life depended on it, I would die.”

An Army kid who moved around a lot, Anushka has been in Bangalore, on and off for about 19 years and she is not very sure where she is from, “Really, even my parents don't know, which is why I say Bangalore.” She always wanted an art job, but all she had to show was years and years of doodles. Without the academic background nobody took her seriously. “It was scary because the pay check is so comfortable but doing my own thing just makes me so much happier. I always doodled, on desks and notebooks and I loved doing it.”

Her initial sale really helped her and oddly enough for her, she found that her shoes appealed to people across the board. Everybody had an interest or a fetish they wanted to sport on their shoes and before long, through word of mouth, and friends, and friends of friends word got around.

“I started with 12 shoes. With men, they are really picky about design and pattern; with girls it's much easier — butterflies and glitter always work with them. Also I am not printing it out, it is hand drawn and so I would rather have abstract caricature or silhouettes,” says Anushka.

She gets most of her orders through email or Facebook, where clients will give her the basic details like shoe size, pattern preference and colours. Costing depends on the kind of work that goes into it. “Besides getting to do my own thing in my own space, the best part is that I don't have anybody bossing over me, I have the freedom of choosing the orders I want. I like challenging designs, sometimes I get requests for awful ones, which I just have to reject. Saying no is a very difficult decision to make and I feel really bad but the point is to do work that leaves me feeling happy.”

While orders need to be placed two weeks in advance, Anushka makes sure she has enough time to move things around depending on urgency of order.

“When I started out, I was much slower, but you learn on the job and you get faster and neater with the work. When I first started out, I had paint all over the house on bed sheets and table cloths and I'd outsource to my mother or rather bribe her to paint the base coat,” she says.

She also has the clients from hell, “Oh yes!” she says. “There are some clients who are very difficult to deal with and will make demands like can you send me what it will look like before, I need to approve it. Or they will ask me to send them pictures of the shoes after every coat of paint has been applied for them to approve. In those cases I would rather they take back their shoes and paint it themselves.”

Weighing out the pros and cons, Anushka loves where she is at right now, “Honestly, I never thought I would last this long and I would never go back to the corporate world.”

She likes the idea of custom-made shoes, which is one of the main reasons she would not put her shoes in a store.

“Also if I have one pattern on a size seven shoe, someone who is a size nine might like it, and I will have to replicate the same design which I don't want to do. The whole point is for them to be unique.”

Anushka is comfortable with her modestly sized entrepreneurial venture, “I want to expand in the sense I would like to start working on newer surfaces. The main aim is to make sure that the happiness of doing what I do is always there,” says Anushka who is currently completed work on a helmet and has started work on a guitar.

“The method of work is different, you have to sand it down and paint and varnish it, there are different ways of doing it and right now I am just experimenting with different methods trying to find the best way to do it.”

Her shoes can be found on Facebook at Anushka Mayne custom shoes.

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