The vivacious Khyati Mehra Sharma from Khyatiworks on balancing two jobs, her design influences and her secret guilty pleasure.
We stumbled upon Khyatiworks while searching for hand painted knobs and were delighted to discover that her colourful designs, so evocative of the Rajputana paintings found in the havelis of Shekhawati, span a range of merchandise. So we had to chat up with Khyati Mehra Sharma, the young and vivacious founder of Khyatiworks, on her design inspirations and how she balances her dual roles of a Technical Lead and a Design Diva.
1. Khyati, Thanks for talking to My Big Red Bag. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into painting & decor?
Thank you, it’s a pleasure! I am from Amritsar and a software engineer by profession. Very studious, a big fan of Mathematics, Sciences & Computers (quite boring I know) and working in the IT industry for the last 10 years. I started doodling in college (during a boring lecture, what else) and then got into painting, but somehow I never pursued it as a serious vocation.
Khyatiworks came into being in 2009, the same year that I got married. I suppose the stability in my life led to my devoting more time to painting, and within a few months I had finished quite a few abstracts. It was then that I decided I wanted to pursue this further. Initially I thought of approaching art galleries, but somehow the idea of my art being assessed and appraised by a select few didn’t appeal to me. My colourful abstracts bring a splash of zing to any space, and I wanted that everyone should be able to acquire a piece by Khyatiworks.
This desire has driven me to create a variety of exclusive but affordable hand painted items, ranging from a bookmark that costs a very affordable Rs.35 (less than a dollar) to other items such as jewellery, coasters and homeware.
2. What are your inspirations & design influences? Any favourite artistes or designers?
I love art that is intricate and has detail. I understand scenarios or cases which are calculative instead of derivative (My science background means that I understand 1+1 more easily than, say, economics or psychology). I like art where the minutest of detail – be it color or composition – is individually visible. And I believe this forms the basis of my paintings and compositions.
There are many artists whose work has such detail that it amazes me. Every type of art has a technique (the rules, so to say), and I like to combine this technique with my ideas & thoughts for my unique creations. I am inspired by things that happen in our daily lives – things that we see & feel even if they are not always conspicuous – and these are always present in my artwork in one way or another.
3. Can you tell us a little about your creative process and how you manage to bring order to your creativity?
My designs are very intuitive – when I have a paintbrush or a pen in hand, my mind goes blank and I just let myself explore the canvas. I am not sure how or why this happens, but when I attempt to impose order it restricts what I want to render, so I’ve learnt to let go! Painting is very meditative for me – I feel immensely happy and fulfilled after a session of painting.
The paintings are the backbone and inspiration for all my other creations – the jewellery and tableware and shoes – all handmade of course. The paintings are so dear to me that I never, ever sell them!
The flip side of my not imposing any order to my creative process is that I have around 8 paintings that are ALMOST complete – while I am in the midst of a painting I can get the inspiration for another and then I have to rush off to start the new painting or else I’ll lose the idea!
4. You have a full time job with an IT company (Khyati was on-site in the US when we conducted this interview) – how are you able to balance the pressures of a full time job with Khyatiworks?
Balancing a full time job with Khyatiworks is a huge challenge, but that’s what makes it fun too. And right now, I find it difficult to choose between the two – I love my job as a Technical Lead and I love Khyatiworks! I guess they both complement each other – painting helps me let off steam after a really long or boring day at work, while my job helps satisfy my scientific bent of mind (remember I told you about 1+1?). You can say they are like fraternal twins, they may not appear similar but one can’t survive without the other!
5. Which amongst your creations are you most fond of? Is there any special leitmotif or theme in your work?
It is very difficult to choose one creation over the others – each one is extremely special in their own way and I can’t really pick one. As for leitmotif, I love drawing shapeless shapes – like amoebas in Biology – and you will find these in almost all my artwork. I love their fluidity and flexibility.
The biggest challenge has to be financial because Khyatiworks is still in its nascent stage, it’s not an established brand with a dedicated clientele. Balancing the demand – supply equation is tough; each of my items is hand created by me alone (no factory assembly line or helper bees for me!), so it takes time to create items in bulk and then it’s frustrating if I can’t find sufficient retailers to carry them!
I also think it’s difficult for a newbie like me to build credibility with established stores & brands – they are usually hesitant to place large orders with startups and it takes a lot of time and hard work to win their trust. But every instance of rejection has spurred me to try even harder!
I’ve also been fortunate to meet some very inspiring people and last year I held my first solo exhibition at Dilli Haat. It was humbling to see the love and appreciation that Khyatiworks received and that’s the best motivation I could have asked for.
7. Can you talk about a business decision (related to Khyatiworks) that really clicked for you, and a decision that did not?
As I mentioned earlier, it is a challenge for a small business like mine to sell products under our own brand. The large retailers offer a great price if you are willing to act as a supplier to them, which means that you lose your individual branding. I had a similar offer which was very attractive financially, nonetheless I declined it because that was not how I had envisioned Khyatiworks. It was a tough decision at that time but now I’m glad I stuck to my beliefs.
As for a decision that did not click for me, I plead the Fifth (amendment of the US Constitution)
8. You have a wide range of personal and home ware – any special piece that you’d recommend for city apartments?
For city apartments, I would strongly recommend the handmade coasters and table mats (the coasters come in ceramic, board and laminated variety and the table mats are in board and laminated), and of course the hand-painted knobs that are soo cute they’re my favorite! (Editor’s note: We agree on the hand painted knobs – it was love at first sight for us!)
Also, Khyatiworks’ hand painted shoes are loved by a lot of people and I paint each pair myself so they are really special. I can always do a custom order for those.
9. With so much to juggle, what makes your day, any guilty pleasures?
10. Finally Khyati, this is a question we ask all our interviewees – if you could go back in time, who is the one person from history you’d love to have dinner with?
I am not very keen on meeting a famous person but given an option I would love to meet my grandfather – he passed away a year before I was born so nothing would match the joy of seeing him.
Khyatiworks’ merchandise can be purchased at Buzzaria in Lado Sarai (Delhi), at Fab Furnish and at online stores. Khyati’s own online store is also in the works and she organizes exhibitions in Delhi and Bangalore.
What’s more, My Big Red Bag readers get a special offer on Khyati’s custom hand painted knobs, coasters & table mats – mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and you get a 20% discount, valid till 31 March 2014 only! (Note to readers: Khyati is in the US till end Feb)
All images from Khyatiworks’ portfolio.
Editors Note: The recommendations above are based on the editors’ personal tastes and opinions – these are NOT PAID endorsements. My Big Red Bag takes no responsibility for the availability of the items described above after the time of publication.