Arya Anil was at a seminar in school two years ago when she first heard of 'dream catchers'. Long after the seminar was over, the class 11 student found her thoughts entangled in the alluring image of the hoop with its woven patterns mimicking the structure of a spider's web. The dream catcher had caught her imagination so much that she did an extensive research, based on which she began spinning them on her own. And they did work their charm on Arya's dreams of turning an entrepreneur; the 18-year-old now runs a successful online shop selling dream catchers and other decorative pieces.
A resident of Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram, Arya utilizes the reach of internet-powered marketing techniques to sell her hand-crafted décor pieces.
Building on the interest in craft work
Arya says that she has loved doing craft ever since she can remember. It became her favourite activity by the time she was in class 6. By then she was adding coloured beads and glitter to turn her school art work into home décor. “We had an hour in school called 'socially useful productive work,' where we were taught craft, sewing and other DIY art work. I would try out all that at home and took help from my teacher on improving the things I made. Those classes gave me an opportunity to present my work before an audience and the encouragement from friends and teachers inspired me to keep trying out new ideas,” says Arya.
She says that she inherited the love for craft from her mother Beena. “She used to make all sorts of DIY crafts from her childhood. So she was happy to help me with my own attempts. And she always has a cool idea for turning a regular craft into a good show piece,” Arya says.
With the support of her mother, her casual pastime soon became a genuine passion. And their home began to resemble a home décor shop, remembers Arya. Later, she ventured into jewellery making, but was not expecting the pieces she wore to school and family outings to beget customers. “At first I gave them off as gifts to friends and relatives. And I began taking an interest in what people liked. When they gave me suggestions, I began customizing my pieces for them. Soon, my jewellery had a lot more takers than I expected. But customizing the pieces also made it expensive and I could not afford to give them for free. And that is how I thought of turning it into a make-to-order thing. But I was quite flattered by the money it brought,” gushes the teenager.
She took a break from her newbie business venture to focus her attention on studies when she was in class 10. Once she joined Carmel School in Vazhuthacaud and the busy days of board exams done, Arya wanted to try giving her business ideas a boost.
“I think the feeling of running an independent venture, however small it is, is so elating. I was looking out for a good idea - it had to be something I can do on my own with the least investment, but had to be appealing aesthetically. And then the seminar in school came by, where a paper was presented on dream catchers. And I knew this had to be what I was looking for.”
Though dream catchers are now used mostly as decorative pieces, they have their origins in the myths of native American cultures. The handmade willow hoop with a woven web at the centre and feather hangings were hung above the sleeping places of children. The web, much like a spider web, would trap the bad dreams, allowing the good dreams to seep through and follow the feathers to the sleeping child. The sun would burn all the nightmares that lay trapped in the dream catchers in the morning.
The beauty of the myth made dream catchers popular around the world. Their enticing looks no doubt furthered their cause and is probably the chief reason why they are seen in modern households.
Chasing dream catchers
“I badly wanted to own one and searched the web for online sellers. I felt they were all overpriced. When I looked for them in shops in the city, they were mostly unheard of. Seeing me chasing dream catchers with so much fervour, my mother suggested that I try making one on my own. So I searched some more on the internet and came upon several DIY tutorials. I started off with the image I had seen in the seminar and worked towards recreating it with the info I had gathered from the internet.
It was no easy task to create the web pattern. After several trials, I managed to weave a good looking one. But another stumbling block came when I could not find good quality feathers. Some friends helped me buy some, but I had to shell out a good amount. When my first dream catcher was ready, I took a picture and posted it on Facebook and waited for likes and comments.”
When the Facebook picture went unnoticed, her mother suggested that she use it as her profile picture in WhatsApp. “She said that people of my age are more likely to notice it. And she was right! As soon as I made it my profile picture, questions poured in about what it was and where I had found it. When I said I had made it myself, my friends wanted me to make one for them too. And my dream of owning a small business venture began to take shape.”
My friends and family helped spread the word by sharing pictures and telling others. But I soon started an Instagram page called ‘Room and Décor’ which helped me find customers outside of my circle of acquaintances. It gave me the confidence to try out other crafts and decorative pieces. The venture is going great right now and I am hoping to build on it.”
Arya is doing her degree in law in Thiruvananthapuram. Elated as she is that her dream catchers are faring so well, she gives due importance to chasing her law degree. “My father wants me to focus on studies before I venture into any serious entrepreneurship. For the time being I am dreaming of my own décor website that will have an assortment of exotic hand-crafted items,” says Arya.
Read: She Business