Malik Azra, who is a young entrepreneur from south Kashmir’s Pulwama town, has become an internet sensation in Kashmir after her quill art products grabbed attention of users on social media.
The 25 year-old is the owner of ‘Craft and Creations’ outlet and is also working as an art teacher at a private school in the district.
Using creativity in her art, she recycles trash to turn it into some sort of fancy show piece, which later gets sold online as well as offline.
“I usually use polythene, wrappers, homemade things, disposable glasses, bottle caps, bangles, empty bottles, and other related things and then recycle them by making attractive products,” she said.
Azra is currently working on quilling frames, miniature art, wall frames, table frames, gifts, resin jewelry, resin key-chains, etc. Of these, she has so far sold off over 250 products.
With Masters in Commerce, Azra was inclined towards art activities from her childhood. But she started quilling professionally only two years back.
“I work as an art teacher in a nearby private school. After getting appreciation for my art, I got the idea of turning it into a full-time profession,” she said.
After making her mind to start quilling business, she invested some money in her venture in her home town only. Generally, she gets a minimum 6 to 7 orders a week.
“Currently there is no profit and loss, but it has a bright future ahead as its demand is increasing day by day. Since my childhood, I had a dream to do something concrete for orphan girls and provide a platform,” she said.
She has participated in different exhibitions.
In her first year of business only, Azra participated in an exhibition in Srinagar where dozens of other women across Kashmir also assembled under the banner of ‘Poash’.
“It was a good platform to showcase my art made from discarded waste, which got me immense appreciation and accolades,” she said.
“That exhibition was a turning point of my life, where I realized my hidden art and never looked back. Now I am getting positive response from customers, people and even my students,” she said.
Azra says that art is a form of a communication that has the ability to promote the challenges concerning our society. Providing an aesthetic message can often convey awareness or understanding, she said.
Her family remains her strongest pillar of support, driving her everywhere, to exhibitions across Kashmir so that she can showcase her products.
“My family never discouraged me, instead they urge me to work for my passion and extend their full support,” she said.
Meanwhile, she also employed and trained some orphan girls from nearby areas to train them quilling art at her newly established outlet.
“It is a journey of two years. I am satisfied with my work. Now people know my work. Currently, I am working on a new brand called ‘Nesta’ with a tag line 'Happiness is Handmade’, which I would be launching soon,” Azra said.
About future plans, she said she is also interested in event management, art and craft, and other things so that she can provide a platform for girls in her town.
Azra said that women should understand that even with Rs 100 they can start a business. The most important thing is to stand on one’s own feet and be financially independent,” she said.
"There are hurdles everywhere but one has to stand up to create her own space in the new environment," Azra added.