Swati Palekar pulled me in towards her stall named Swayam,which was filled with beautiful bright colored amazingly creative art pieces. Swati is the owner of Swayam Folk Art Painting in Singapore. I found it truly addicting and as soon as I discovered her work I had to see all.Fun, full of life and vibrant.These are the great feelings I feel viewing her products. The energy of her work is extremely positive and her creativity is excellent. Read about her entrepreneurial journey in her own words-
I’m a Singapore based, self-taught artist who began her journey in folk art painting in 2012 after quitting a full-time career in finance and digital marketing. Art and craft has always fascinated me since childhood. I inherited this love for art from my mom who is an artist herself. Little did I know that my attempt at trying hands at Indian folk art paintings would grow into a passion leading to establishing a brand named ‘Swayam’ which is turning 4 this month. I specialise in Indian folk and tribal art paintings and use these traditional forms of art in creating trendy, contemporary & chic home décor products. Every product under Swayam’s label has been designed and hand painted with lots of love and patience in my studio in Singapore. I conduct folk art painting workshops for kids and adults and have lots more to do. I had some wonderful opportunities to exhibit my work in some reputed Art fairs in Singapore as well as alongside leading lifestyle brands which were very well received by local and expat communities. Thank you, Women Lines, for giving me such a wonderful platform to share my humble journey with Swayam folk art.
2. So when did you venture into this venture and what inspired or motivated you to take a plunge into this venture?
I grew up in an environment where I was constantly exposed to art all around me day in and day out as my Mom was a working artist back then and a true entrepreneur at heart. When I look back I really admire the amount of works she had produced and the creative initiatives she had taken with all the limited resources she had. So I believe the seeds of creativity were sown during my childhood itself. Although she believed in me that I could do very well if I pursue a creative field, I chose to go with Finance, working for almost a decade in Banking and Digital marketing sector. Till then I had no aspirations to become a working artist. But I have always been fascinated by folk art style painting. There is certain charm in folk art style painting that drew me towards it. Firstly simplicity in style yet so profound. Its a common mans art, Art every layman can relate to and appreciate and practice as well. Around 5 years back after I quit my job here in Singapore the first thing that naturally occurred to me was to explore more of this form of art. I started researching more about the folk art forms and painting. One experiment led to another. But it was limited to just a hobby, a passion. Soon I started posting images of what I was making on the internet (just for fun). 'Swayam ' was born due to the persistence of my dear friends who pushed me to take it to the next level and pursue my passion professionally and insisted I showcase my work in one of the festive Bazaars in Singapore. Thats it, it all started then. I set up a studio on my little dining table, came up with a Brand name, Product line, Exhibitions , Online marketing, followed by workshops followed by painting commissions and now my very own studio space. When I look back I realise that the key motivation and inspiration which drove me was discovering who I am and what I’m capable of achieving , living my passion and experiencing the joy of accomplishment on achieving those small mini milestones.
3. Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced during your initial days ?
Innumerable. Some of them I face everyday in fact. I used to get overwhelmed with them initially. Believing in yourself, your art is one that was my very first challenge. There is always risk of rejection but then as an artist you cannot have success without risks. It is very important to put your work out there. I too face those artist block moments which were initially very very frustrating. But the key is persistence and faith in oneself which is very crucial to keep an artist sailing through is what I learnt. The other personal challenge was discipline. Discipline to assign dedicated time and space for doing my art. I realised once my creative juices start flowing I am totally disconnected to the present. I just want to sit and paint before that design concept vanishes, the colours and patterns I visualise disappear. But then being a full-time mom and a homemaker that is not practical every time. Striking balance between personal and professional life is another big challenge which is easier said then done especially when you are the whole and sole in both the arenas. Creating is just one part of being an artist. Getting clients for your work is also equally important, especially for the sustenance of new artists. Creating ads, clicking product pics, pricing the product, packaging and the list goes on . Its all a one woman show at Swayam. Professional help in the initial years was not really affordable for my small home based business, so I had to learn all these skills , and its been amazing. I’d like to share one very important challenge I face till today - making the clients understand the handmade process. what goes into creation of each and every product unlike the mass factory produced goods. And since not every person is aware they sadly fail to respect handmade products by way of bargaining. Asking discounts is not wrong. Its always good to ask as some artists may have kept some margin for discounts. But without understanding the process when the prices are bargained by just converting the prices in SGD to Indian rupees (solely because the product is created using Indian folk art style) was something I experienced a lot in my initial years. I have not overcome all the challenges completely, but I can handle them much better today. The joy of following your passion makes it all worth while!
4. So how do you balance your personal and professional life ?
Frankly speaking I have not completely achieved that yet.. There are times I’m so drowned in work, trying to meet deadlines for events/commissions or workshops that I tend to overlook my personal life. Also there are times when my presence at home is the utmost priority and I have stepped back a bit from my work. A bit of discipline and time management has helped me achieve a certain level of equilibrium. And some days I try and just let go. Swayam has taught me a lot. Its not only about painting or art. Apart from the artistic skills it teaches me very valuable life skills day in and day out. So hopefully someday I will achieve that perfect work-life balance too, and when I achieve that I will be happy to share it with you all:)
5. What would you suggest to other aspiring women who want to venture out on their own ?
I meet so many wonderful ladies in course of my events and workshops and also get to connect with lot of them online. They are all so intelligent and have immense talent . Some of them not even aware of what they are capable of achieving. And just like many of us they get too engrossed in nurturing their family. Over a period of time sadly they have lost their sense of self. I’m no expert who can give talks about running a business successfully. But one thing I would like to share here is that if you really have the urge to do something go ahead and take that first step and set realistic goals for yourself. Easier said than done, I know. Doubts, fears, insecurities of course they all will be there.I too have them and have not overcome them completely. But I feel its good to identify them and accept them. That way we know what areas we need to work on. And surround yourself with family and friends who will genuinely motivate you and are positive. We all have the talent and resources within us , just need that initial push to step out of our comfort zone. Its a struggle..but once you take that first step the path unfolds on its own:)
6. Is there any person who has mentored/supported/inspired you?
Of course there are so many who have directly and indirectly influenced me, supported me as well as inspired me in my creative endeavours. I did not have any formal mentor though. As I said earlier the creative seeds were sown by my mom under whose guidance I was exposed to so many different art forms. I learnt folk art style painting by researching and studying work of various artists. There are so many works done by men and women in rural and tribal areas of India, many of them whose names we don’t even know. I consider all of them as my Virtual Gurus and owe it all to them. They are my real inspirations. There is no use of sophisticated art supplies nor do they have any formal training as such but yet the artists manage to create some beautiful master pieces.Thats the beauty of folk and tribal art. Its all so inspiring. Support from family and friends definitely plays a vital role and I am fortunate to have it all. But it doesn’t stop at just getting inspired. What is important is picking up that brush and make the first stroke.
7.What do you have in the pipeline for your venture's future development?
There are many many ideas waiting to be executed. In terms of workshops and products which will be globally appealing. I have a blog , website in the pipeline for a long time. Now that I’m sharing about this publicly this will push me to work more aggressively on it and hopefully, you will see it up and running soon.
Women Lines wishes Swati best of luck for her beautiful future!
Follow Swayam Folkart Painting by Swati Palekar on-
Facebook.com/Swayam.SwatiPalekar and on Instagram @swayamfolkartpainting