MAKERS OF MUMBAI: TAPASYA PRABHU OF LOVELY LITTLE CHARMS
Tapasya Prabhu is the owner and artist behind Lovely Little Charms, a one-woman brand specialising in miniature collectibles modelled after food items. An interior designer by day and miniature artist by night, the 25-year-old artist is always in the middle of creating something. We speak to her about her creative processes, colour palettes, and her favourite corner of Mumbai.
The City Story: When did you start making miniatures, and what inspired you?
Tapasya Prabhu: I was always very creative and inclined towards art. Even in school I would create art from waste materials like plastic bottles. I used to make miniature flowers out of either play dough or regular atta. When I was in my third year of architecture, I saw a video online that introduced me to polymer clay. Polymer clay contains particles of plastic and hardens on baking. That was a big revelation, and I was very excited about it. I started doing my own research and began experimenting. The first miniatures I made were a cookie, a doughnut and a bear on top of paperclips. I don’t get into creating realistic food items straight away. I just wanted to make cute things that could be used by people. Later I realised I could make it look more realistic, challenge myself, and turn it into a serious art form.
TCS: Why food?
TP: I’m a big foodie. And with this I can combine two things I love – food and art. Also, even though I’ve made them before, I don’t really enjoy making cars, cameras, and figurines.
TCS: When and how did you decide to turn this into a business?
TP: When I initially showed my friends the miniatures I had made, they were blown away. They didn’t even know something like this was possible. I got on to Instagram on my friends’ insistence, and then people started contacting me to ask if they could buy the miniatures. The plan was never to sell, but eventually I started doing that. (Editor’s note: Tapasya sells miniatures from her Instagram page.)
TCS: Take us through the process of making one of your miniatures. What is your frame of mind when you create?
TP: I usually work at night, because I can concentrate better when it’s quiet. It’s very important to be patient, because there is a lot of research involved. I don’t have the actual food in front of me, so I have to replicate by referring to an image. Even after finding the image, I have to sit with it for a while to study and understand the colours and textures, because they are essential to making the miniature look realistic. I usually work on 10 pieces at a time, because if I make more it gets monotonous and hampers my creativity. It takes 3 to 4 days of work to complete one batch. And I’m very particular about quality. So even if there’s a minor mistake, I do it again.
TCS: How do you decide what you want to create next?
TP: I get a lot of suggestions from people who contact me on social media. Whenever I’m out of ideas, I refer to that list of suggestions. A lot of the times its food that I really like. Otherwise, I always check Pinterest for inspiration.
TCS: What is the most challenging miniature you’ve created?
TP: The butter that’s on top of the pav bhaji miniature was challenging. It was very tough to get that colour right. I have actually written down the exact proportion of different coloured clay that I had to mix to get this shade. When I initially tried to mix white and yellow to get the pale shade, it looked like a very weird neon green because of the chemical composition of the clay. Everything else on the plate was ready, but I had to experiment a lot for the butter. It’s the tiniest bit, but it took the most amount of time. Even the ramen bowl was quite challenging.
TCS: What’s the most memorable compliment you’ve received for your work?
TP: When people say, “I thought it was real”, that’s the biggest compliment for me. Recently my friend was over while I was creating the paneer tikka miniature, and she started picking up everything and pretended to eat it. It’s funny, but the fact that she wants to eat it even though it’s not real makes me very happy.
TCS: What’s the best place in Mumbai to procure art materials?
TP: The area around Crawford market, especially Abdul Rehman Street. You get everything there.
TCS: Do you have a favourite area in Mumbai?
Apart from Wadala where I live, I love Bandra village. I also like Colaba. Since I’ve been an architecture student, I tend to pay attention to buildings and structure, and there are some beautiful old buildings on the back of Colaba Causeway. Whenever I’m in that area, I always take a walk to look at the buildings. I even like the stretch of art deco buildings along Marine Drive. I feel bad when buildings go for redevelopment to make way for monotonous structures.
TCS: What next for Lovely Little Charms?
I usually just go with the flow and take up opportunities that come along. However, I have spoken to a few restaurants and brands about creating miniatures for them. So let’s see how that goes.
TCS: Any words of advice for budding miniature artists?
TP: Just go for it. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Challenge yourself and be consistent.
Photographs courtesy Tapasya Prabhu