The masala colours

Different canvas

Born with a paint brush in her hand, Sandhya Vaidyanathan can’t remember a time when she wasn’t passionate about art. But she let it take a backseat for a while — college, work, marriage and all that jazz — until 2011, that is. She received her first order then and there has been looking back since; it was the start of ‘Masala Popsicles’.

Her works, trays, boxes, coasters and more, resemble decoupage work but there’s no tissue on them. It’s all hand painted, she says with a tinge of pride in her voice. “I’m not a crafter, I only paint. I’ve been doing it since I was a baby and when my parents recognised my talent, they put me in art classes. After I got married my in-laws didn’t want me to work, they are a bit conventional, but my husband encouraged me to take my art seriously,” she adds.

An architect by profession, she combines design skills with her love for colours to make intricate and expressive works. Her first few orders were made on terracotta but she stopped working with the material as, “Indian courier services don’t know the meaning of ‘fragile’. I’d carefully wrap the products, in like 50 layers of bubble wrap, but it’d arrive in smithereens.” After many refunds and tears shed, Sandhya decided to switch to wood.

She chooses to identify as a painter because she gets the products made by a carpenter, and only paints on them. Portraits are her speciality; give Sandhya a picture of the family and she will replicate it on to the canvas. “Many don’t have family pictures so they send me individual pictures which I put together on a product.” And her works are more than just dried paint — “I talk to the people, get a brief about them, their likes and dislikes, and then start painting,” she says.

Her works aren’t just customised but personalised as well. “This is why I don’t want to sell at retail stores, online or offline, I lose touch with my customers.” This bond is so strong that she’s a godmother to a customer’s child!

Inspired by artists like Yusuf Arakkal and Anjolie Menon, Sandhya says she has taken the first step towards becoming a household name in the industry. “Everyone starts small,” is her belief. Along with portrait nameplates and more, she makes sculpted boards which have a 3-dimensional effect. The most challenging part of drawing portraits, she says, is getting the features correct. “I stare at the pictures for hours together so I lose perspective when I’m painting. This is when my husband tells me there’s something off and I’ll have to re-do a facial feature by scrapping the section with a blade and restarting.”

Each work depends on her mood but she has a soft spot for bright colours. “I work best at night — 10 pm to 1 am — though I’ve tried painting in the afternoon, when I usually fall asleep,” she says. But timings are less important when compared to her love for art.

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