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The Girl Who Sold Her Paper Craft To Help Migrant Workers During Lockdown

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

"The response was honestly overwhelming to the extent that I actually had to close down taking orders multiple times to really take a breath and catch up with the demand. I raised and donated a great total sum to two organisations, one in Delhi and the other in Assam doing amazing work in catering to the migrants and daily wage workers in their areas"

If I had to choose between paper and cloth, I would still choose cloth, but I secretly know that in my heart my bias will always be paper. Paper is a standalone favourite medium for crafty folks - one that can be folded, torn, cut, stuck, painted or sketched on, write, burn, or simply store, touch or smell it; it's a bliss only paper lovers will know about. Paper craft is a known and popular medium and is very satisfying and therapeutic activity- another reason to love paper.


Paper crafting involves - first loving and respecting every piece of paper - and then the rest can follow, either it can be folded, curved, bent, cut, glued, molded, stitched, or layered. The end result can turn out to be an intricate set of (wearable) jewellery, show piece, or even items like boxes, bags, 3D models, baskets, photo frames and all that one can think of doing with paper.

I was lucky to discover a very talented paper craft artist during the lockdown period, and it was instantly decided that an interaction with her must be published. We have with us Arshia Jolly whom you will know more about in our following conversation:

1. So Arshia, tell the readers about your art? How do you define it – Paper Craft/ Paper Jewellery or something else?

My art is all about paper; Printed, colourful, cut, moulded, pasted! I mainly work around two types of merchandise: Portraits and utility products like tissue and jewellery boxes, notebooks, gift bags etc. There is usually a component of recycling in my products, meaning that I try to source material from wedding cards, amazon boxes, old cartons, notebook leftover pages, just about anything my mom wishes to throw away!

The portraits and wall art products I make are based on this art form called ‘Quilling’ which has off late been in vogue and I see a lot of artists picking it up. I also use it to decorate and accentuate some of the boxes and bags I make.

2. Most art & craft lovers have this innate weakness towards paper. Tell us about your love story with the same, since when did it start?

When I was in school, we had a Paper Technology Department (lucky Arshia) where I would spend two official and countless unofficial hours in a week. It is here where I learnt basics like proportions, building something structural and stable and then beautifying it. I also learnt how to respect paper, cut precisely and only as much as I need, to stick neatly and fold tightly! Quilling is something I picked up on my own because my mom refused to buy me the ‘Quilling set’ that had just hit the markets in 2009. I would look at photos of designs and try to come up with a process to replicate it. It started with flowers, then I tried some animals, then some godly figures and now anything and everything the customer puts in a request for! The potential in this art, in simply coiled paper, is endless!

"In my school years I have showcased my work at some very prestigious exhibitions, received accolades and taken workshops for other students. Beyond that my artwork was just a creative outlet which helped me make the best birthday gifts! It has been 11 years since I started my journey with paper and my comfort with it and love for it has only increased. I collect pretty sheets and have cupboards full of it.. Some are so pretty that I wouldn’t dare use it"

3. What kind of products have you made so far, and do you sell them?

I have recently started working commercially as an artist. I sell my stuff under the brand name of @LitKat_co through Instagram and Facebook. Most of the art I make is to order and I allow for customisation and personalisation of the product. They are all hand packed in used paper/ newspaper and delivered with personalised notes all over India! Some of the products I have made are:

  • Jewellery/ Storage boxes: These I have made in all designs and shapes, as a three tier box, a simple partition box, a drawer set etc

  • Pen stands and desk organisers like trays.

  • Gift bags with quilled floral patterns, I have made over 200 of these in the last 4 months and they are definitely my best selling product! They are made in all sizes as per request.

  • Greeting cards are sold in sets and I have some interesting themes like ‘animal fun,’ ‘floral,' ‘tipsy greetings’ and festive cards too that I keep introducing on my page.

  • Notebooks with a quilled personalised cover and filled with handmade pages.

  • Quilled Portraits are mostly always customised and unique per customers’ request. I have made some interesting God Figures like Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Sarawati, Durga Maa etc. Some really fun ones like Shakuni (Mahabharata) Ronaldo and Thanos (Avengers). Some wild ones like Tiger, Lobster, octopus and many more!

I have recently also started venturing into converting peoples’ own photographs into my designs too.

4. Do you plan to build a business with this art?

By profession I am a student of MBBS in my Final year. If you had asked me this question prior to this lockdown my answer would have been something else entirely. But looking back, starting this venture was probably the most rewarding thing in my life and I plan to hold onto it with dear life! I started LitKat_co to sell my artwork to raise money for the migrant workers in the lockdown. So I made as many types of products as I could, amateurly photographed them and put it all out as I launched my initiative on the 1st of Mach 2020. The response was honestly overwhelming to the extent that I actually had to close down taking orders multiple times to really take a breath and catch up with the demand. I raised and donated a great total sum to two organisations, one in Delhi and the other in Assam doing amazing work in catering to the migrants and daily wage workers in their areas.

While I didn’t have any concrete plans on continuing the work, some interesting orders kept rolling in and I couldn’t hold back the urge to take them up. I guess that was the day my venture went from a ‘fundraiser’ to a real entrepreneurial one.

The short term plan ahead is simple, continue to take in orders and create beautiful art, as much as I can in addition to managing my studies, which I still very well intend to complete. I would love to see the business grow, share my art, have partners and other artists to collaborate with and have the brand of LitKat_co take me places. Something that I would personally like to ensure is having a social value attached to my brand. I would like for it to help in the upliftment of someone deprived of the benefits and opportunities I was given. The foundation of my work was the intention of giving back to society and I don’t want to let that go. I think my plans are a little all over the place right now but I believe in my work ethic and determination to take this artform to the next level.

5. Is there any challenge that you are facing with creating such business in India?

I think the major challenge I have faced is with having my target audience adjust with my pricing. The artwork I create is extremely laborious and time intensive. I have realised that the price point at which selling the artwork proves to be worthwhile the man-hours it takes to make them, is higher than what a lot of people are willing to spend on handicrafts. This problem may not be unique to India but I have seen a lot of artists running very successful businesses, at higher valuations in the foreign markets. I think this might be attributed slightly to the fact that the art form itself is still very new to our markets and people’s awareness of it is extremely low.

Moreover, since I try to keep all my pieces unique, the designs usually stem from my personal aesthetic and that is something that cannot simply be taught like a technique. This restricts my ability to take in bulk orders and lower my prices. I also think that this art is something that needs to be seen in person, you need to touch the surface to appreciate the 3D effect and hold it close to notice the detailing. Perhaps post- pandemic, holding exhibitions and having our product in stores might just do the trick!

6. How do you assess the reception to this craft by the audience? Is it something that will grow in coming times?

I often get told by people that they have never seen anything quite like some of the stuff I make! When they go ahead and order, I take that as a positive indication and when they don’t, well… That said the overall feedback I have gotten from customers has been incredible! I have received multiple repeat orders and people constantly sharing the page and products just out of their own love for it.

A lot of people have shown interest in learning the skill, seeing insider work clips, inquire about the materials and any tips. I always make it a point to keep sending out work in progress photos to my customers, to have them be a part of my journey of creating something amazing.

So it is my overall opinion that this art form and my business will grow with time. I haven’t really invested much in marketing and advertising. Our growth has mostly been organic and word of mouth based and it has already been overwhelming! As of now, for the time that I am able to commit to my brand- staying niche and small and working on increasing the range of products I offer and portraits I have for showcase, is the direction I want to work in.

That said, I do believe with the right tools, continued high quality of the product and increased effort in maintaining a good relationship with the customer, there is great scope for the brand!

7. Do you see hope in the small businesses in India? What would you like to add?

I do see a recent increase in the appreciation for handmade/unique/customised products in our Indian markets. So for my particular product line, I do see hope!

While it is a hard and a risky field to be in, owning your own business is a matter of pride and can be very rewarding as long as one continues to be ambitious, hardworking, slightly street smart and always authentic.

I see so many small businesses take off and become big ones! The entrepreneurial spirit in this country is honestly worth commending and I feel excited at the prospect of being a part of it.

8. Any experience you would like to share in this creative journey of yours that inspires you and so will do the readers of this blog?

"The lockdown was that opportunity for me that knocked my door when I least expected! The first 14 days however, were my most unproductive ever"

One day, I found my old art material from exhibition days and there was so much of it. (The first phase of orders, I didn’t even need to go out and buy more material!) I started to make things simply to better spend my time; now all my time I spend thinking about making new things!

The general level of productivity and the morale of my house has changed. Sometimes I get swamped with work and my mom comes to rescue helping me cut strips and arrange things and my dad volunteers to help me with the accounting and delivery. They are my constant supporters and most critical critiques!

The day I got my first commercial order, after I removed all indications of me donating to a charity, from someone I didn’t know personally, off Instagram is a milestone I’ll always cherish! It is the day I felt most validated and inspired, to do more and be more!

More About Arshia: Arshia Jolly was born and brought up in Delhi. She recently turned 22 and is currently in her final years of MBBS in Mangalore. She is trained in Hindustani classical vocal (3yrs) and also in the classical dance form of Bharatnatyam (10 years). Arshia enjoys staying busy and investing in all types of art forms, since very early childhood.

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