Home >Lounge >Business of Life >How this advertising professional is carving a new future in woodwork

Tucked away in a by-lane of Mumbai’s Goregaon neighbourhood is a small workshop with tinted windows and a grating exhaust fan. This is Dharini Pradhan’s furniture design studio, The Treasure Chest. As Pradhan, 38, strides across the studio, briskly returning drills and sanders to their designated places, she says she’s looking forward to purchasing a wood planer, a machine that crafts perfectly even planks of wood. “I can do it myself, but it takes time," she says. For her, time is of the essence. Pradhan is a creative director at Triton Communications, where she handles a diverse client portfolio five days a week. Her weekends are dedicated to designing and hand-crafting furniture.

Pradhan’s fascination for furniture began in 2011, when she and her husband moved into their own home. “I thought, instead of buying furniture, why don’t we design something for ourselves?" Pradhan designed a bed, wardrobe and library for the new space, and got her sketches ratified by family and friends who were interior designers. In 2016, she participated in a four-day woodworking workshop in Mumbai. “I just went out curiosity, but I really enjoyed it—to see something created out of nothing." Pradhan decided to further her education in woodworking with online courses, and taught herself about the latest technical innovations in the field. Later that year, she took time off work to attend a seven-day course at the Lohr School of Woodworking in Pennsylvania.

Building business

Pradhan started by designing furniture for her own home—working out of her living room and sometimes even the stairwell of her apartment building. Soon, friends and acquaintances began to commission customized furniture pieces. A particularly special one is a large chair she calls Royally Yours, custom made for an ad-film director who said to her, “When I sit on it, it should feel like my throne." Pradhan worked on it over six weekends. The final product: a chair that weighs 150kg, and costs over `1 lakh. “He still messages me when friends come over and compliment the piece," she beams.

In August, Pradhan decided to rent a workshop close to her Goregaon home. This was a big investment and required some financial adjustments, but Pradhan now has the freedom to work at any hour, without disturbing anyone.

Wood and work

Pradhan’s eagerness to experiment has tipped into her day job as well. For one, she has made it a point to write scripts centred around female characters in traditionally male-dominated professions. “I am able to defend why I am presenting this," she insists. “It gave me that fresh perspective. I don’t think I had that before I started woodworking." Pradhan hopes to start woodworking full-time by the end of 2020—a shift she’s been slowly and deliberately working towards. For one thing, she’s already begun to treat it like a job—carving out a 10am to 6.30pm workday, even on the weekends. “That’s very clear: weekdays, full-time office, and weekends, full-time workshop." It takes discipline, but she gets it done—and her family and friends have learnt to respect those boundaries.

She’s also working on getting a pop-up stall at a flea market, where she will showcase wooden frames, small stools, and a little book stand for pujas. She also plans on experimenting with new materials—epoxy design being her current undertaking. “You’re never done studying. Tomorrow, I’ll get an order and there will be something new I need, so I go back to research," she says.

For those who are considering nurturing a hobby, Pradhan advises, “I thought it would be tough as well but if you really have a passion for your hobby, you will tend to make time for it." She’s also grateful for the support she’s received from friends and family. “The support is out there. You just have to be passionate enough." And finally, for the over-thinkers and excuse-makers, Pradhan has a stern instruction: “Just start walking. Don’t think too much. Do it."

The Makers follows professionals who spend weekends working on their hobbies. Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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