Artist Q & A with Faheema Chaudhury of Unicorn Crafts
Unicorn Crafts’s designer and owner, Faheema Chaudhury, just returned from WonderCon in Anaheim, where she debuted a new collection of jewelry. The Candyland collection includes sprinkle-filled baubles, bright miniature baroque frames and, of course, unicorns! We asked Faheema a few things about her life as a handmade designer, how her brand has grown since Leanna Lin’s Wonderland first carried it, and her big plans for the future. You can shop some of the new Unicorn Crafts Candyland collection online at Leanna Lin's Wonderland and see the whole collection at our shop in Eagle Rock!
LLW: Tell me a little about Unicorn Crafts. How did your line start?
UC: Okay, minor warning, this story starts off a little sad but it gets happier I promise. In 2010 I moved back to Los Angeles, (the San Fernando Valley to be specific) from the Bay Area, to help take care of my mum who had ovarian cancer. She passed away a few months later and I turned in my resignation letter to the art studio I was working at in Berkeley. I was home with all this pent up emotion and looking for a way to let it out.
I started painting again but I wanted to dabble with something I hadn’t tried before so I began making button and polymer clay earrings. I opened an Etsy shop to see if anyone would actually buy my creations. To my surprise, I actually made some sales and was so excited with the thought of this actually going somewhere.
It wasn’t until I was doing some research on jewelry materials that I stumbled across Shrinky Dinks. Fascinated with the process, I did a bit more research and ordered a pack to test out. It was love at first bake and the Unicorn Crafts that you know and love was born. I felt with Shrinky Dinks, it’s not only jewelry but you also get a piece of art to wear – a piece of my art!
LLW: What’s the first thing you do after you have an idea for a new piece?
UC: If I’m not at home and an idea hits, I make sure I write it down. I don’t always have paper handy so I write things on my hand quite a bit. Once I get home I’ll sketch things out and gather reference images.
LLW: Your brand has grown so majorly in the last four years, can you think of a moment when you realized wow, this is really going somewhere?
UC: It was probably when I did my first show (Unique LA – Spring 2011). I took my jewelry out to the masses for the first time and was so blown away by the response and admiration for my work. It was from that show that I felt like, “Yes, I can do this for a living.”
Having Leanna contact me to be part of Wonderland was another moment that I felt like things are going to work out. I mean you go from having an idea and making things to sell in your little shop online to a real store carrying your actual items! It was a BIG deal!
LLW: In your newest collection it seems like you’re branching out from Shrinky Dinks (although it’s still sickeningly sweet and adorable).What made you branch out?
UC: You know, I think I’m finally embracing what Unicorn Crafts really is in all aspects – fun, colorful and carefree. There was a point where I was sort of trying to guide things a bit too much but with this new line I’m letting my hair down, putting my feet up and just letting the things flow.
I definitely wanted to give Unicorn Crafts a fun makeover with something that I hadn’t done yet and using resin was the perfect way to go. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up using Shrinky Dinks. In fact, I’m using Shrinky Dinks in all the new resin pieces as well as new earring and brooch designs.
LLW" How do you imagine Unicorn Crafts four years from now?
UC: Oh my. That is a wonderful thought indeed. There will always be a jewelry line, but I can see apparel and handbags, art prints and even room decor. There are so many possibilities because Unicorn Crafts appeals to the very young to the older folks who are still kids at heart.
LLW: If you weren’t designing jewelry for Unicorn Crafts, what would you do instead?
UC: Animation! I grew up watching amazing Disney and Saturday morning cartoons. Instead of taking naps, I’d sneak out of bed and watch cartoons while everyone else was asleep. There were many times when my Mum would tell me, “You don’t have to watch cartoons, you ARE a cartoon.” It was only natural that I wanted to draw them myself one day.
Before I moved back home from the Bay, I was taking animation classes with the dream of working at Pixar Animation Studios. With all the characters that I’ve developed for Unicorn Crafts, I think I can still make my animation dreams come true.
LLW: What’s your most treasured piece of jewelry?
UC: Anything starring Unicorn Friend, he was the first design I ever made. The company is named after him. He holds a special place in my heart and always will.
LLW: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about running both the business side and the creative side of a company?
UC: I am not a numbers gal at all. I have to force myself to sit down and do my taxes or figure out finances. It’s the worst because all I want to do is create. Some sound business advice I recently re-received was to track my expenses as they occur and tally it all up at the close of the month so it’s not a huge chore when tax season rolls around. I’ve been trying to stay on top of this and it really does make things easier.
As for the creative side, I think it’s just a general rule that you should do what makes you happy. It’s not for money or fame that you spend hours hand-making each and every piece, it’s because you love what you make and you want to share that love with everyone. It’s great when you’re part of such a creative community. Everyone is helpful and genuinely wants you to succeed.
LLW: Your dog, Tali, is so adorable! What’s your favorite way to spoil him?
UC: Aww, thank you. He’s my baby! I’ve wanted a dog for as long as I can remember and when Tali came into our lives, it was the best day of my life. We got him almost three months after my Mum passed away and I can honestly say, that he is the sole reason that our spirits were lifted again.
He pretty much runs the house as he sees fit and we pretty much cater to him. If he’s hungry, wants to play or just needs a belly rub, I will stop what I’m doing to tend to him. He’s also been an inspiration in my art. I’ve turned Tali into a Unicorn Crafts design and incorporated him into some pieces I’ve had in art shows too. I can’t help it; I just love him so much!
Faheema is a finalist in the first annual Academy of Handmade Awards happening this Saturday in LA. Make sure to check her artwork out in our Doggie Wonderland Show benefiting Ken-Mar Rescue, opening May 10th!