When Telugu actor Nani's son Arjun was 61 days old, he contacted Hyderabad-based artist Anila who makes memorabilia, especially for parents to treasure. The actor wanted impressions of his son's feet.
"After Nani shared a picture of receiving the memorabilia at our office, a lot of customers started approaching us, this time with more confidence and fewer questions about the products we use,” Anila says with a smile.
Soon, actors Tamannaah and Rakul also approached Anila and got palm impressions done. Another actor, Sreeja Kalyan from the Tamil industry, got her baby's feet impressions done from Anila. The artist is currently in talks with Bollywood's Sarah Ali Khan who's interested in the memorabilia too.
Anila, for the past six years, has been making cast impressions for babies and adults of all age groups. A native of Hyderabad, most of Anila’s clients are young parents who wish to treasure an impression of their baby’s palms or feet. Speaking to TNM, Anila recalls how in 2013, when her sister had her second baby, the idea of creating memorabilia struck her mind.
“My sister had her second baby and we used to talk about how fast the elder one had grown. As we were talking about this in our house, I chanced upon a video on creating memorabilia for babies. My sister encouraged me to take it up as there were very few people who were into the field then. All our experiments, therefore, began from my sister’s second-born,” Anila laughs.
Soon, the first set of materials came from the UK arrived, and the task ahead was to ensure that none of the chemicals used in the process were harmful for the baby’s skin.
“I tried the chemicals first on my skin and made sure that it didn’t create any sort of discomfort. We continued the practice for a few more days since babies have slightly more sensitive skin and the chemicals may have an adverse effect on them. Once we were assured that the chemicals were harmless, we began experimenting with the moulds and impressions,” Anila says, adding, “To this day, the first question that any parent who visits our office ask is will the chemicals harm the baby in any manner. And this, I would say, is one of the most challenging aspects of the job - to convince the parents that the chemicals have been tried and tested, and to be extra-careful while getting the imprints from the child.”
With time and celebrities availing her service, her clients have more confidence in her work, Anila says.
For the very first baby feet impressions that Anila did, she says she and her sister had to stealthily cast the mould while the baby was asleep. After a few days of trial and error, Anila discovered that the impressions were breakable if dropped on the ground.
“That’s when I started researching on metal and acrylic moulds which are durable and not brittle. Meanwhile, I also found a mentor who guided me through the process. It took us a couple of months of work before we could cater to our first official customer,” the 29-year-old says.
Today, six years later, Anila has created cast impressions for over 2,000 customers, of whom a large number are young parents. She has a team of eight members who visit homes and fetch imprints of babies according to the orders placed.
“The youngest child for whom we made a memorabilia was just three hours old. Our team had to go to the hospital and get the imprints of his tiny palms and feet,” Anila shares.
Talking about her work, Anila explains that it takes just a day to make clay impressions and up to a week to make impressions on metal and acrylic. What’s all the more difficult is to convince kids above two years of age to cast a proper impression and make them sit steadily in one place.
Interestingly, Anila and her team have also started making breast milk and umbilical cord jewellery, after multiple requests from parents.
“I was shocked the first time when a mother asked me to make jewellery out of breast milk pulp. But very soon, I found the concept interesting and today, we get orders from parents to make jewellery or keepsakes out of hair (usually after the first haircut) .The mothers courier the raw materials to us and we usually mould them in the form of stones so that customers can use it in any form they wish. Some even request memorabilia from ashes after the funeral of their dear ones,” Anila explains.
However, the young entrepreneur says that at this point, she doesn’t wish to turn the business into just a profit-making entity but would rather like to experiment with more products that can help people create memories. Anila says, “I started the venture out of pure passion and to help parents have their little joy in creating something memorable for their kids. I would like to keep it at that and cater to more parents who like to treasure memories of their babies.”