It was my pleasure speaking with Neha. She is a designer who has studied design in both Dubai and New York. She founded her own company, Artnehtion, in 2019. From ACLU to COVID 19 healthcare workers, she donates a percentage of her proceeds to various charitable causes by selling her art. Take a look at these excerpts from the interview.
Since you are a designer, what (or who) inspired you to be a designer? What was that moment when you knew this is what you want to do?
I grew up in a very creative family. Even in school, I always participated in art competitions and won; that was something that always inspired me. My grandmother is also an artist; she has been my main source of inspiration to get into design and art.
When did you launch your company, Artnehtion? What prompted you to do so?
I launched Artnehtion last year, in 2019. I launched it because I always wanted to have my own brand of home decor products. I was inspired when I started travelling to different parts of the world a few years ago. I had taken a lot of art and photography classes before that. I just started to take photographs as a hobby and also loved learning more about different cultures and their arts. The brand came out as a result of that experience. I appreciated all the sights that I got to see. I wanted to have something to capture those memories, so I decided to take pictures. I was not thinking of becoming a professional photographer; I intended to capture the best depiction I saw of the places. To my surprise, when people saw those pictures on my Instagram profile, they really loved them. That is when it occurred to me that this could be something that people may want to decorate their own homes with. At the time, travel was trending on the internet, so I decided to give it a shot and launch this company.
Since your name is Neha and your company’s name is Artnehtion, I am assuming it is related. Tell me how you came up with the name?
I think the hardest part was coming up with the name because, you know, you need to come up with a name before you create your website or social media accounts. I had a lot of ideas, and I knew it had to do something with art and travel. I was thinking of different names and somehow came up with Artnehtion. I realized there was no such name, and I then put my name in between to make it more unique. Everyone actually loved the name ever since I came up with it; they thought it was creative. So, I think I did well in finding the name!
Artnehtion donates a percentage of their proceeds to various charitable causes. What is the message that you want to spread through your company?
I founded the company as a means to promote art and help others. That has always been a part of my personality. Even as a child, I always tried helping other causes in one way or another, from environmental groups to stray dogs. These things made me the happiest. So, I decided to donate a part of my company’s profits to make our world a better place.
What causes have you donated to from the amount that you are earning?
So far, I have donated to many causes. One of the main ones being Plastic Oceans. It is a nonprofit organization that works with different countries and helps keep our oceans clean. It also promotes awareness to keep the oceans clean. I have been donating to the American Civil Liberties Union this year; it helps defend and preserve the individual rights, especially for people that are associated with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ group in the United States. It is a special organization. Also, I have been donating my latest products – masks – to doctors and nurses in the U.S., the design of which was inspired by my husband, who is a healthcare professional. We did not have a lot of PPE available in the USA back then. That is when I decided to design and donate masks.
Since you have been donating only in the US, have you specifically invested in an Indian trust? Are you planning on doing something like that?
Yes! I have been looking at an account that helps save stray animals in India. I am very interested in helping them. I can’t physically be there, but I am looking forward to reaching out. I have observed during this pandemic that a lot of stray animals did not have any source of food since everything was shut down. This organization helps with providing food and shelter, and I think that is a great cause. I am looking forward to helping them. I am definitely looking at donating to more charities across the world as I grow the company.
Since you have studied the history of architecture and design, and you also write blogs on your travel experiences, what does travelling mean to you? What role does it play in your life?
Travel has been a major part of the latter half of my life. Ever since I studied the history of art and architecture in my undergrad bachelor’s degree, I was so in awe of all the different ancient art and architecture that we have always heard of or seen in movies. It is your wish to see it one day, and when you finally get to go there, you are not disappointed. It’s much better than what you foresaw. It definitely took me a while to get there. I am glad I could go before the pandemic, but I still have more to see. I hope that we can get back to that in the next few years when deemed safer.
Generally, travel inspires people to design, but in your case, it is the other way round. Could you elaborate?
In my case, I started designing before I travelled. I got to work in different cities around the world as I got to live in three different countries: India, UAE, and the USA. Despite that, I had an urge to see more of what is going on in the other cities of the world. That is how I got inspired. I was designing for different retail brands, and I wanted to know what is going on in the other parts of the world. So, that is how it came about.
Tell me a little about what inspired you to make masks? What went into designing them?
It was not an easy process; it looks easier than you do realize. I tried painting some things and also started designing patterns sitting around. These days everything is digital, so I feel the quality of old school art decreases when you have to print it on something. I decided to sketch some of the elements of each place I have gone to that inspired me on my iPad. For example, the little windmills in the Greece mask, which are very popular in the islands of Greece or the leaning tower of Pisa as gelato in Italy. These ideas inspired me to start sketching and playing around. It took me almost a month to come up with these designs, but it went quickly once I started sketching.
You have designed for famous brands like Ralph Lauren before the pandemic. How was that experience, and how did things change in terms of work during the pandemic?
I used to do design consulting for these kinds of brands. I designed some of their international stores, where I helped with the store planning and construction. It was my main job till now. I was designing for stores specifically in Italy when the pandemic hit. It affected communication as we were all told to work remotely in the middle of March. Slowly these companies decided they couldn’t afford any employees, and that is when they told me they can’t have most other people and me on the team right now. That is when I started thinking about designing masks as I had to channelize my creativity into something else. I am thankful for the hiring freeze though, because if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to design something else and push my business. For me, professionally, this now feels like a blessing in disguise.
If I wanted to know more about your company, where should I head over to?
Are you planning on collaborating with international brands and artists in the future?
We are very grateful for several collaborations with many artists and brands. We did our very first collaboration with The Bar Method Brooklyn, which is part of the national fitness chain, The Bar Method, founded in the USA. This workout is popular here with actresses such as Kirsten Dunst, Anna Paquin, Jennifer Aniston, Cobie Smulders, and many more. I loved the workout myself and the studio since I first started going there in 2016. When I started designing my masks, the Brooklyn studio owner and my favourite instructor Katie Muehlenkamp asked me about the masks I was wearing. She loved my designs, so I asked her if she would like me to design one for their studios and that was that! Together with her support, I designed a beautiful mask inspired from the Brooklyn bridge and their workout, which is now a hit among their clients and everyone always praises them on how comfortable and soft they are!
How important do you think it is for people to be kind and spread love in today’s world?
It is the most important thing! Especially in times like right now, you find out the real personalities of people. You definitely need to be kind and sympathetic, because that is the only thing that is keeping people going right now. It is such a big factor, that is why I am always trying to help people without looking for profit, but if that comes along the way, then that’s good for everyone as then I can do even more. Also, keeping that in mind, I would like to give a special thanks to my international team, Ray Ednie, Navneet and Sonia Gupta, and Rajneesh and Lalan Yadav. They worked through COVID-19 shutdowns in the last few months and helped me make these masks to slow the spread of the virus in the world! I will be forever grateful to them and everyone else, especially our healthcare and other frontline workers who are still working so hard to help contain this pandemic.