What is 'The April Art Shop'?
It is my Instagram Small Business which I started this year in April itself. As the name suggests and screams that my birthday is in April and it has to do something with art. So, if I have to break it down, then it is about clay miniatures in the form of jewellery and desk buddies. Take a minute to go through the products that I offer, then you would also know that my line is more inclined towards food (clearly my only motivation).
In a nutshell, The April Art Shop is my brainchild, an absolute piece of my heart, and everything that makes me genuinely happy.
So, here is a story I will always repeat every now and then whenever someone asks, ‘why clay?’. My memory never fails me, and it is always so strong that I remember the tiniest details all the time. It indeed is a big problem because mostly, I remember things that I shouldn’t and willfully forget things that I shouldn’t. For example, I have no clue how to tackle the Website Development Exam on the 10th because, hello, it is all theory, and I absolutely suck at that. But, ask me what that couple was fighting about who sat right next to my table on a cold Friday evening in February? The chances are that I will be able to tell you the entire story.
When I was in school, early days in LKG, we would have this 1-hour session where our teacher would bring in a big bucket of clay into the classroom. Now, of course, the clay was not coloured, it was a mish-mash of dull colours, but then again, for that 1 hour, we would get complete freedom to create anything and everything we wanted. I remember making a rose, making my best friend and even a rabbit. Well, they looked awful, I am sure. At the same time, no doubt that I was always super creative.
One fine day, I was told that there was an inter-school competition, and my teachers sculpted out a Ganesha for me. I was asked just to meld the parts together. I didn’t pay much attention to what was said. The next day, when I reached the venue for the competition, I saw that there was white clay as well, which was mesmerising since I was used to the clay mish-mash. I forgot everything that my teachers told me and jumped for the clay. I watched Pingu a lot back then, and it was always a dream to make a snowman in real life. Hence, I made a button-eyed snowman with white clay, a carrot nose in orange and a black hat.
I won that competition, and during the Annual Function of my school, Late Smt Sheila Dixit was the Chief Guest; she made the mistake of giving me the mic right after she tried to play with me that she would take my packet of McDonald’s Meal. I screamed at her in front of 10 000 people.
Lesson: Never try to take my food or even pretend to do so. I am not going to share it; forget giving away the entire meal.
Over the next couple of years, i grew distant with clay because of academia and less focus towards extra curricular activities. But, somehow i could understand that i would be able to make irregular shapes if i wanted. Cut to 2020, when the pandemic was on peak, i saw a lot of people starting up a business on Instagram. It seemed good from the outside.
I came across this one shop with pizza earrings, and I was like, i want them. That is it. I tried to break the cost down and i could sense it that if i try, i can make it myself and probably 20-30 more pairs if not less. Hence, i started with research which took about 8 months at least. I have always been someone who loves to plan things out, i love lists, there is nothing else which gives me as much satisfaction as journaling and revisiting my day and jotting down tasks for the next month. I started watching videos, understanding the work done by others in terms of the craft as well as the marketing, logistics and a lot more.
Finally, in the month of March, I could source everything that I needed for starting up my shop. Over the couple of months, I have realised that the small business community on Instagram is great but they do not really help each other when it comes to sourcing the products. So, you will have to grind and grind to find a small nickel. One has to experiment a lot before they get themselves the right items.
There are a lot of stages and things one needs to figure out before opening up s clay shop online.
- The kind of clay which needs to be used: polymer or air dry.
- The colours which will work on the clay you choose: acrylic, soft pastels, poster or gouache.
- The base where you will work with the clay should be non-sticky.
- Waterproofing agent: Modge Podge, Resin or just Nail Paint.
- Jewellery finds at affordable rates like eye pins, lobster clasps, chains, earring hooks etc
- Packaging: envelope, boxes, bubble wrap, plastic sealing pouch, business card, thank you card, logo, shipping packet etc
- Figuring out a Pan-India shipping service: India Post or 3rd Party Delivery Services.
It was never a plan to sell items online, I just wanted to make a few things for myself and a friend who really pushes me to create things. I was casually telling her about the entire thing, and she was like ‘let me be your first customer, I want a donut and a pineapple pendant’.
Hence, I started making them. I cannot describe in words how amazing it felt when I started using clay after almost 10 years of being completely out of touch. It was magical.
I finally started my own shop on 4th April, exactly a week before my birthday, with zero expectations of getting a single order because the digital space is already very much saturated with clay jewel artists. But, to my surprise, I got one on the next day, and 2 more, in the following week.
In the next 4 months, I was able to successfully pull off 80 orders pan India. I have been super lucky to meet some amazing people online who started as customers but ended up becoming my best friends. I am yet to meet them but it has been great. I get some crazy requests for miniatures, for example, a sanitiser bottle, fried rice-chilli chicken! It always looks like a challenge but it is so worth it. I fall in love with the process, the all-nighters that I pull off, when run out of packaging material at 5 am in the morning, last-minute packaging additions when the pick-up guy is about to reach my place, figuring out gifts for couples and so much more.
My customers even send me pictures wearing my jewellery and it makes me extremely emotional because isn’t that the goal? To create something for people!