The founder of craft shop Pretty Paper Studio talks about discovering her craftiness through YouTube, and the inspirational women that motivate her.


With a busy week behind us, Fridays are all about spending time with family. My mornings are usually slower than the rest of the week. We visit a farmers’ market to get our weekly vegetables and sometimes my husband and I take our children for an abra ride. Then we attend Friday prayers and step out again after lunch. I absolutely enjoy photography and I am hoping to carve out some time for myself to photograph Al Seef this weekend.


I am originally from Kannur in Kerala. I moved to Dubai 17 years ago after finishing high school as my father wanted us – my mother and sisters – to join him here. I finished my higher studies here; BSc in Business Administration and an MA in Management. Dubai is home now but if I had a time machine I’d love to travel back to my childhood in Kerala. Some of my fondest memories are of me and my sister playing under the mango tree in our garden and my neighbourhood friends riding a tyre.


Before Pretty Paper Studio, I had a nine-to-five desk job at a local insurance company. I had been working since I was 17 years old, so I decided to quit my job when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. As a stay-at-home mum at the time, I used to watch YouTube videos to learn how to cook new dishes.

I also learned crochet, knitting and scrapbooking via YouTube. While searching for supplies to feed my newfound creativity, I realised that there were very few stores in Dubai that sold them and decided to solve the problem myself. That’s how Pretty Paper Studio was born in April 2012. I never thought I’d start a creative business as I was never creatively inclined as a child.


There are many books and movies that inspire me but if I had to pick one each, it would The Pursuit of Happyness, and the In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney. As a small business owner, sometimes we go through way too many downs than ups and the movie The Pursuit of Happyness has inspired me several times to push through hurdles and follow my dream. In The Company of Women is a compilation of interviews where Grace asks the same set of questions to several female entrepreneurs. All the answers display an underlying theme of resilience, persistence and perseverance, which is very motivational to me as a small business owner. It’s one of the best ‘pick me up’ books I own and I love flipping through it after a tiring day.


I absolutely love cooking! Feeding my children and husband is my way of pampering them. We do eat out and I have several favourite restaurants in Dubai but cooking at home wins without a doubt. At the moment, my guilty pleasure is ghee rice with Malabari chicken curry, yoghurt and pickle.


I want to visit Vietnam someday. It’s on my bucket list. I have visited a good chunk of Europe and a few cities in the US. However, apart from India which is my home country, I haven’t seen much of Asia and I would love to start with Vietnam.


Signing the lease agreement of Pretty Paper Studio’s new space in Deira, with my three children in tow, has been the proudest moment of my life; I have always wanted to have a business of my own and my kids are my greatest treasure. I would like to be remembered as a good mother.


I am extremely shy and find it difficult to break the ice when I am with strangers but I absolutely love the thriving community of creatives and crafters from different nationalities I’ve met through Pretty Paper Studio. They’re more than just virtual message boards and online groups – we meet in person too via the workshops Pretty Paper Studio conducts and now we also have a monthly meet-up club called The Creative Squad. They are all extremely talented yet down to earth and are always happy to share their skills in different crafts from paper crafting, calligraphy and graphic designing to flower making, origami and textiles.


Greenlight by Lorde is the song that’s currently stuck in my head, she is one of my favourite musicians. I do not stick to any kind of genre and I am open to anything from classical to modern music.


I am currently into brush lettering – a form of calligraphy – and Tombow brush pens are my absolute favourite. They are the last things I splurged on.


Can I invite four people to my hypothetical dinner party? I’d call Grace Bonney – she is a creative entrepreneur whom I admire and look up to; then Joy Cho – another creative entrepreneur and mother I admire; comedian Trevor Noah because I enjoy watching him and he inspires me; and the last person on the guest list would be Gordon Ramsay – then I hopefully won’t have to cook the dinner.


Time management is my superpower. Up until a few months ago, I was managing Pretty Paper Studio on my own with little or no help, as well as raising the children. I couldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for my time management skills. But I do wish someone invented a machine that folds laundry. As a mother of three, I have way too many clothes to fold!


What I enjoy the most about personalised hand-made crafts is the love and patience that goes in to them. Arts and crafts have helped me believe in my creative abilities and has also taught me a lot of patience. Brush lettering, for example – it is quite easy to learn, but it takes a lot of practice and patience, which means I have to make sure I sit at my table and give it at least ten minutes a day, every day to reach the level [of perfection] I want to.