An interview with the Founders Sitaara crafts – Tarini Kashyap, 14 and Muskaan Surie, 16
Sitaara Crafts, a platform for children with disability to showcase their crafts, took shape on 17 January, 2022 exactly an year back with the launch of its Instagram page by Tarini Kashyap, 14 years, and Muskaan Surie, 16 years, both kids with special needs. Read on to know more about the genesis, achievements, heartbreaks, and the road ahead for Sitaara. We hope you will share their story widely.
Q: So how did Sitaara come about? Tarini: I had been asking my parents for some time to help me start an initiative as I was bored in COVID. I wanted to do something for other kids with disability. My mom agreed to support me, and she suggested the name “Sitaara” because it means star, or starlight, and my own name is so much like it. She chose the name “Sitaara” simply because it implies that all children with special needs are special like stars. My younger brother, Aadyant, 11 years, designed our logo. My great grandmother was born on 17 January, and we decided to launch on the auspicious day of her birth anniversary. We were soon joined by Muskaan. Muskaan and I were excited to get our stickers and visiting cards printed!
Q: Thank you. That’s interesting. Now may I ask Muskaan to tell us what all Sitaara showcases? What are your bestsellers and how did this evolve? Muskaan: We try making crafts from waste or recycled materials. We want to make cloth totes fashionable for people. I have decorated so many white tote bags which have been a great hit on different festivals. My mom has scraps of cloth which we repurpose into small totes which people have loved to carry their books in! Tarini: We also make jute coiled coasters on cut outs of old cardboard. These have been our bestsellers too. Also, when we receive an order, we use only recycled packaging – my mom has a ton of old Amazon and Myntra packets which we decorate and paint on to make them look different. We also make newspaper bags and paint them for our exhibitions.
Q: Wonderful. So tell us about your experience selling on Instagram, and also exhibitions. What challenges did you face? Tarini: Selling through Instagram has been a wonderful experience. It is exciting to get orders. We have shipped to 20 states and 2 UTs in only the last one year. We use speed post which is economical and reliable. We have had hardly any cases when a packet did not reach, and even then, it comes back to us. On the challenges through social media, there are cases where people have canceled orders after we shipped, and 1-2 rare cases when they were not satisfied with the quality. So, we now try as much as possible to take advance payments because we now have a fair idea of shipping costs to almost all states! For the cases they were unhappy, we simply refunded. We want all our customers to be happy. Muskaan: Our first exhibit was in October at my house society grounds. I felt so excited when our totes were picked up so fast, it was like they were flying off the table! At exhibitions we get to interact with people and tell them about us. But then exhibitions can get tiring and you need to stand for long so we try and choose wisely which ones Sitaara will take part in, and our moms help us decide.
Q: Your experience in both selling through IG and directly sounds awesome, that too at such a young age. Tell us what you think your biggest achievement is, so far? Tarini: I think the fact that we have such a large and satisfied clientele all over India already. Muskaan: That we got more than 150 orders, many of them repeat orders, in our very first year.
Q: Do you have other children collaborators too? How does one collaborate? Muskaan: We have another young adult named Sunny who is hearing impaired. Bhaiya makes beautiful rakhis, origami products, and envelopes. We have a classmate Harshita who makes amazing hand-made rakhis and painted dupattas. We are open to more children and young adults with disability joining hands with us. They can simply send us pictures of their work, which we upload. When there is a sale, we arrange to collect and deliver the products. We then pay them either immediately or month end.
Q: So how is the work divided between you two? Tarini: I take care of the social media marketing, I enjoy interacting with customers online. Where I have a doubt about what to reply, I ask mom. Muskaan: I supply most of the products, the totes, which mom helps get stitched and then I paint them, or readymade totes which I love to paint. I have also created and decorated bookmarks, tags and envelopes. Tarini too creates things whenever she feels like, but her main job is marketing and for me it’s design, so our jobs are cut out.
Q: That’s super. We wish you both great luck as you move ahead. Any exciting plans for 2023? Tarini: Thank you. We are excitedly looking at opportunities for exhibitions, and also keep trying for a collaboration and doing hands on work with some of the bigger NGOs. We would love to go there, spend time with people with disability, and help them. Muskaan: We are so excited to get an opportunity to showcase Sitaara on ‘Satviki’, the SpecialSaathi online shop. I think they are doing great work reaching a wider audience of those who want to support children like us. We hope we will be able to bring our products to more people who will enjoy them.
Thank you Muskaan and Tarini. Wish you all the best as you try and reach further for the stars. God Bless!
Muskaan with her mum Divya Surie and Tarini with her mum Rashi Grover Kashyap.
Sitaara’s first exhibit – October 2022 Sitaara visiting cards
By Rashi Grover & Divya Surie
The featured artwork for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Nikhil Thotam.
Sarvagya’s first participation in an art exhibition
मन – day की बात SpecialSaathi के साथ
Hello Shilpi Ma’am.
Firstly, thank you for giving me this opportunity to write for ‘Special Saathi’. It’s an honour to be associated with your platform.
I am excited to share my experience of attending today my son’s first participation in the art exhibition organised by Kalaaakar Foundation.I would begin by sharing a bit about my son.
My son, Sarvagya is 8 years old. He got diagnosed at the age of 3 years. He was struggling with almost all autism related issues at that time. Holding pencil properly was a big struggle too. I could never imagine in my dreams he would ever draw or paint.
Around 3 years back, he started showing some interest in sketching. He used to make simple drawings like TV, AC, tree, basic shapes like circle, square, rectangle, etc. (with marker pens on my walls..!! ) . Gradually, he started copying pictures from various resources like books, newspaper, etc. Though, at that time, his sketching was really poor, but he was showing keen interest in it.
By God’s grace, I was able to identify his interest. Sketching & painting has been my hobby too since school days. His interest rekindled my passion. But since I am not a professional, I didn’t have the requisite skills to help him. However, I didn’t want to let go this opportunity. So, started doing various trials.
I started by asking him what he wanted to draw. Once he said ‘Kanha ji’. Together, we searched Kanha ji pictures on google and finalised one of them. I took a screenshot of that picture and then we together decided upon a point from where to start drawing. I zoomed the picture from that part, we discussed the curves and lines. Gradually, he started observing deeply and with consistent practice, there was a significant improvement in his drawing skills, specially in relation to symmetry in drawings.
Similarly, regarding coloring, he was not coloring in flow, he used to color in any direction/flow he wanted. I gave him the mantra “jaisa curve, waisa color” and for the first few drawings, I used to keep repeating this every one or two minutes. Gradually, it clicked and he picked up coloring.
I can never forget the day I got his first painting framed. When I showed him his framed painting, he was silent for a few seconds. After that, for the next 2-3 days, literally the whole day, he sat on the couch holding his painting close to his heart with his eyes closed. Being a hyperactive child, I had never seen him like this before. That day, I understood practically how art works like therapy.
That day and today, Sarvagya has come a long way.
An art exhibition was organised at Pearey Lal Bhawan, ITO, New Delhi on Jan 07-09, 2023 where artworks of a large number of distinguished artists were displayed. Sarvagya’s four paintings were also displayed here. My son couldn’t express but as a mother I could feel his sense of achievement & happiness on seeing his paintings displayed amongst artworks of distinguished artists. I believe he was one of the youngest participating artists. This was his first participation in a formal art exhibition. That ways, it’s a huge achievement and moral booster for both of us.
This exhibition was not only an achievement for him but has boosted my confidence too that as a parent of a special needs child, I and my son are not helpless, we can dream just like anyone else and achieve them too. Honestly, this was like a dream come true for me. A child who once struggled in holding a pencil, his fingers now dance with paints and brush to create beautiful masterpieces.
Though he’s not yet creating original paintings, he copies them from various resources, however, I am confident that with consistent efforts , a day will come when he will achieve that level of creativity too.
Today, I have realised that being a special parent, our journey is very difficult and unpredictable. However, with our hard work and consistent approach, there is nothing which our children can’t achieve.
Regards, CA Shivani Lohia
Author Shivani Lohia
Shivani Lohia is a Chartered Accountant by profession and mother to 8 years old child on the autism spectrum. The cause of autism awareness is very close to her heart and she strongly believes in equal education for all & strongly advocates inclusion. She has been homeschooling her son since he was 5 years old.
Creative representation of this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Shubh Pathak.
A video tutorial on how to improve Handwriting in your kid.
Author Pinki Kumar
Pinki is a special educator, play therapist and a mother of a neurodivergent kid. She has a YouTube channel Play and learn to teach different methods and strategies. These videos are a great resource for the parents to help their child learn various skills.