And Thank God she did! Or else we would not have known what lovely fabric we were missing. A copy editor by profession and a crafter at heart, her love for fabric and textures justifies the yarns of fabric that adorn the shelves of her beautiful studio- meet Swapna Eleswarapu of Swakrta. She thinks her career choice comes from her ability to find faults easily, but we think it is this very trait that makes her come up with one polished product after another. Be it her purses, quilts, friendship bands or swanky covers for your sunglasses- her products are so refined that they can give big brands a run for their money.
A self-taught seamstress, crocheter, weaver and dilettante, Swapna learnt to crochet early on for school craft projects. She went back to it when her sister was expecting and her mother suggested she knit something for the baby. She made a couple of sweaters and booties and never really stopped crafting after that.
Soon thereafter she moved to a city with no easy access to a library. The woebegone book lover in her badly looked for something to replace her primary passion of reading. Soon thereafter, she made friends on an online crochet forum with the same interests that got me hooked! She crocheted and knitted her way through many, many years, including those spent in the humid deep south of the country. She ended up making twelve shawls in one year which she didn’t know what to do with.
“I began to consider selling my work when the mountains of shawls, yarn doilies, bags and pouches stopped me from entering my house. :)” she says!
Friends showed faith in her work and an interest to buy what she had made. That’s when she started selling. Soon thereafter she fell in love with weaving. Sewing began when she started stitching clothes for her daughter. She eventually found her happy place with making bags – which has ever since dominated Swakrta’s line of products.
A true book lover, when she’s not using her hands to hold a book, she is making craft with them. Addicted to making newer and newer things, she finds the rhythm of looms comforting. Her fondness for geometric and abstract patterns and an eye for colour combinations is evident in her products.
“They say craft is cheaper than therapy, except that I spend a lot of money on my tools and materials!”
Swapna is quite familiar to the high that a crafter gets from making more and the disappointment on days that aren’t fruitful enough. An early riser- thanks to her cats – her day begins when she sees off her daughter to school. Hours of editing – her bread and butter work – follow, which vary every day due to the freelance nature of her work. After rushing her daughter to and from classes and keeping up with her hectic social calendar, she settles down to making things. Hours of designing, choosing the fabric, patterns and sewing follow right up to the crack of dawn.
That explains her choice of naming her brand “Swakrta” a word she coined herself which essentially means self-made or made by me! ‘Swa’ the first syllable of her name which also means ‘Me’ and ‘Krta’ means creating. A solo-member team, she has a loyal following of cheerleaders by her side- her daughter and two cats. While the daughter loves everything she makes and the cats couldn’t care less as long as they can sleep on it.
An almost-entrepreneur, the biggest hurdle she is trying to overcome is fear. The fear that there may not be a market for her products or that the courier may not deliver on time. Fear of not being good enough or not meeting requirements. The fear that if she stops her day job she will free-fall into a craft-controlled sea of finished goods that have nowhere to go. Well, looking at her stylish products, we think these finished goods will be a joy to fall into.
When asked about her thoughts on the handmade industry in India, she says “We will always have our handwoven sarees and fabrics, but we also now have the option to buy from people like me” Those like her who weave at home with a limited remit, or who sew for a niche market. And who will not, in all likelihood, ever mass-produce. That is exactly what is special about handmade- owning a unique product that no one else has.
Swapna largely owes large share of her sales to word-of-mouth marketing and her Facebook page. In trying to sell her products, she’s seen it all- Pop-ups where people walk up and give unsolicited design advice like “Make that with a fringe!”. While she loves the anticipation of having to fill a stall, the nerve-wracking tension of meeting the deadline, the satisfaction of setting up a mini assembly line of products, and the final outcome of a line of similar but not identical items. It’s all exhilarating and the satisfaction of someone appreciating her choice of fabric and material is unparalleled. No matter how she’s sold it, she loves seeing her products in use, being battered and loved as they fulfil the purpose they were created for.
Like most enthusiastic crafters she is always plotting her next project until it drives her insane. She also keeps finding an excuse to explore the gullies of Mangaldas Market to find some more fabric until all the shelves in her house are full and there is no place to move.