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After Hours: Bringing art to everyday objects is Nazneen Dharamsey

After spending eight years in advertising, Dharamsey realised that something was missing and that is when she quit her full-time job to start something that she could call her own

Nazneen Dharamsey

(This is a weekly series on advertising professionals who have enriched their own lives and their audiences as performing musicians, artists, painters, actors, singers, mime artists. We will bring a new adman-performer every Thursday.)

Art has always been a part of Nazneen Dharamsey’s life. With a mother who is an artist and her early exposure to the art world, it is no wonder that she has chosen this space to carve a niche for herself.

“When it comes to art it kind of always has been in the family. My mother is an artist and before that my uncle was an artist. So, I have grown up reading about Picasso and Michelangelo and I have actually seen the Sistine Chapel. Art has always been a part of my life.”

Even so, Dharamsey did not pursue a career in art until much later. It was only after she had spent eight years in the advertising industry that she finally quit her job at J Walter Thompson to take the proverbial plunge into the world of art.

“During college I always knew that I would be in the communication space. But to be honest there always was a part of me that knew that something was missing and that is what finally drove me to quit my full-time job and start Artique.”

Dharamsey started her journey in the ad world with an internship at Ogilvy & Mather and then moved on to Grey for a five-year stint in account management. She later joined JWT as an account planner and till today consults with them on a project basis because she believes one never actually quits advertising. Even with all the support she got from her employers, Dharamsey agrees that quitting a full-time job was nerve-racking.

“It was a very difficult decision. I have had sleepless nights thinking about it. But I have been very lucky. JWT has been very supportive throughout this entire journey and they have always maintained that I could go back whenever I wanted. So, I did have the security of having a job. But for me the turning point was when I turned 30 and I just felt like if I didn’t do this now I would never do it. It was a tough call but I don’t have a single regret.”

Artique is Dharamsey’s attempt at making art available to everyone. The germ of the idea that entered the young entrepreneur’s mind a few years ago eventually led Dharamsey to realise where her heart truly was.

“My mother has been painting for about six years now and every time she had an exhibition I would turn up there and see the kind of work that she has done. But there was this one problem that I noticed which is especially true for a city like Mumbai. The problem is that homes are small and art still being a very wall concept there were a lot of people who would come for the exhibition and love the work but still would not be able to buy it because of space constraints.”

Another problem that Dharamsey identified is that while a lot of people would love to own art, it just wasn’t affordable. These two facts then became the bedrock on which Dharamsey built Artique.

“One day during a regular conversation the thought just came up that wouldn’t it be nice to have a piece of art wherever you go? When you think about it, what is the feeling that art evokes in you? It is this little respite that you feel when you see something beautiful. My mother is not one of those sad and broody painters. She is all about colours and abstract. She is very clear about what she wants from her art and that is to brighten up somebody’s day. And I got thinking that if that thought could get translated to everyday things then why not.”

About two years ago, Dharamsey started by putting her mother’s work on mugs and coasters and today has a repertoire of products that she is both proud of and also is a hit among her customers.

“Artique really started with mugs and coasters and slowly moved on to trays. Last year we got into things like boxes and umbrellas. We have now also ventured into a little bit of fashion like laptop bags and slings. We want to reach the youth with our fashion collection because we want to break the notion that art is for the older and more refined audience.”

Dharamsey, who single-handedly manages Artique, for now, wants to keep the business small and niche.

“I wanted it to be something that is exclusively mine and that is why I haven’t hired anyone and manage it all on my own.”

Even with her love for art, Dharamsey accepts that she herself is not much of an artist and had always wanted to write. Today, she is merging her passion for art and her love for writing through her blog Chattingchai.

“The name Chattingchai comes from ‘cutting chai’. So, the idea was that when you are working and you take that chai break, it is something that people look forward to because it is during this time that you probably go out with a friend and have these short discussions and that is exactly what Chattingchai is all about. It is about everyday conversations. I have realised that art is a very intimidating space. Art has got a snob appeal that I am actually trying to eliminate with the blog and make it something that people actually enjoying talk about.”

Dharamsey believes that her time in advertising has helped her understand consumers and how their minds work, which is something she applies when it comes to Artique as well.

“When we have an exhibition or meet clients it is very important to tell the story of the brand and how it came into being. It is not just about buying something that is pretty but about buying something someone has put their heart and soul into and that again comes from my advertising experience.”

Speaking about the one moment that stands out for her in this journey of hers, Dharamsey said, “For me it would probably have to be the time when I was at the gym one day and someone came up to me asked ‘Aren’t you the girl who owns Artique?’ When I said yes, she said that she had brought some things from Artique and that she had loved it so much that she wanted more. For me that was a huge sense of satisfaction not because of the sales or the money but because my work was being recognised.”

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