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In a traditionally male-dominated field of woodworking, this woman has turned her carpentry hobby into a business and has carved out a space for herself. The entrepreneur cum teacher from Delhi doesn’t only love what she does but also helps aspiring woodworkers to dovetail creativity with craftsmanship.

Sulakshana Bhattacharya, in tête-à-tête with Life Beyond Numbers, the founder of MishtooMade, says, “When I was young, I told myself that by the time I am 40, I should be doing something I love. I have always followed my own path without feeling the need to conform to any predefined social norms. When you love what you do, you grow as a happy person.”

Mishtoomade, Sulakshana Bhattacharya

Sulakshana Bhattacharya, founder Mishtoomade

“I picked up woodworking as a hobby 7 years back. While living in the US, I was fascinated by the resourcefulness of just regular people and saw how much they love DIY (Do It Yourself) approach towards life. They are keen to learn and invest time in their personal projects,” says Sulakshana, who was the Director of Juvenile Justice Initiatives under the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice and has been working in the world of public policy for 15 years. She worked with government bodies in India, UK and the US, before setting up her business in Delhi.

Follow Your Heart

Sulakshana had picked up woodworking as a hobby in the US, but back then she didn’t have any plans to pursue it as a profession.

She says, “I moved out of India when I was 21-year old but after I shifted back to Delhi after almost 18 years, I needed furniture and so instead of buying the generic stuff, I thought of making something new of my own.”

Sulakshana works with the material wood. “Wood is most commonly used for furniture and home décor so my work ends up being more about it but I do not limit myself to one style or pattern,” she says.

On asking about her daily routine, she says to LBN, Life of an entrepreneur is always hard because there is no guaranteed paycheck at the end of the month, you are constantly working to make sure that you are meeting both your emotional and financial targets but on the other hand, it is also a life of fulfillment because you are doing something you believe in and are passionate about.”

We should not be afraid to make mistakes, we all have flaws and we can overcome it every day. “Moments of weakness were quickly superseded by the joy of work and self-satisfaction, in my case. Giving yourself ‘me-time’ is extremely important. It makes me happy and gets me out of my bed every morning looking forward to something new. So, there is never a doubt about the line I have chosen,” she adds.

Experimenting with Flexibility of Wood

“I love wood and the possibilities that come with it. Indulging in woodwork gives me a sense of satisfaction every day,” says Sulakshana.

She has a workshop attached to her house where she teaches students about the flexibility of wood and the infinite ways one can be creative in carpentry. She conducts all kinds of workshops for the different level of students. There are beginners workshops open to anyone who is interested in getting a taste of this skilled craft and the advanced workshops for people who want to learn more.

She also taught woodwork at Pearl Academy School of Design in Delhi because she considers teaching as a part of her business and conducted a week-long workshop at the institute.

Working on different kinds of woods can be super-exciting, she says. From making chopping boards, shelves, tables, cabinets, to refurbishing and giving a quirky twist to the antique wooden furniture (some of them being more than 100-years-old)- she does everything.

“Most of the design institutes do not teach woodworking as a craft or to see it from a novel perspective. That is where you can figure out the difference between a woodworker and a carpenter.” She continues, “I have always worked in a different manner to create a difference. My work is not restricted to nationality, geography or gender. Everyone is welcome to join my workshop and learn the nuances of carpentry.”  

To view her projects and to get in touch with her please view her Facebook page MishtooMade or email her at mishtoomade@gmail.com.

Every human has an infinite potential but they fail to realize it. We should help them explore that and guide them as much as we can to bring the best out of them.

Sulakshana says, “I am keen to experiment with new ideas and projects. I have some good as well as difficult clients to deal with every day and every piece of my work is customized as per their taste and needs. So my work is never monotonous.”

Why India needs a makeover

Carpentry or woodwork is not a new art form in India. Sulakshana feels, “Being a female woodworker in India is quite unusual because here women are taught not to make mistakes and be perfect and flawless. Why not make them understand that it is okay to fail and try again.

As soon as Sulakshana started teaching woodwork, she realized that there are several women who are interested in the woodwork but there is hardly any platform in the country to practice it. “It is disappointing that there are so many female woodworkers in India and yet people fail to see woodworking as a craft or art form.”

At times when people come across a woman carpenter or a woodworker in India, they are skeptical about their skills or they have a preconceived notion that a woman is physically weak and cannot lift a heavy furniture. To this, she says,I do get surprised looks all the time when I tell people that I am not an “interior designer” but a woodworker. Go to the kitchen and see what a woman is capable of. At times, the cooking pots they lift are heavier than lifting a table or a chair.”

Sulakshana believes in setting priorities straight. Speaking about women, she says, “If you get hit by a bus, in those 20 seconds will you really think about what breakfast you made this morning?” She continues, “when a woman crosses certain age the society expects that woman to get married. That is a huge problem. People do not talk about her ideas, work or success and that is very disappointing.”  

Work is never “soul-crushing” if you love what you do, rather it adds meaning to your life. It is high time that we start valuing things that are hand-crafted and made with love. Involving women in woodwork don’t mean the absence of men. It means the presence of females in this art form.