Shaping Beautiful Minds - Vaishnavi Giri

The mind of a child is a wonderful thing. It can processes volumes of information and constantly learn in ways that adult minds cannot. Children experience the world without prejudice, bias or inhibitions. It is left to us adults to ensure children see the world and its wonders. For only doing that at a young age will they grow up loving the world. The more that they learn about the world, the more they will give back to it.

This is what Vaishnavi Giri an artist, entrepreneur and children’s book illustrator tries to do through her company Wildpaper. As a child Vaishnavi leaned towards art and reveals that she liked drawing better than studying. By the time she finished high school, she decided that she wanted a career that was art related. She chose visual communication for her bachelor’s degree and went on to study communications for her master’s degree. Not wishing to get bogged down with a job in advertising, she went on to work in the art department for numerous films and later on worked with a startup as a developer.

Vaishnavi is an artist who is comfortable working with traditional mediums and digital implements. She cites gouache, watercolors and ink based art as her favorite mediums. She reveals that she is drawn to gouache as it has a lot of solid colors, which appeals to the illustrator in her. Initially the transition to digital art was slightly difficult for her, but she reveals that it was worth learning. Speaking on the ease of learning digital art she says, “Nowadays digital art is much easier to learn and practice, there are a lot of tools to help. There’s also a lot of scope in learning that, because it’s very scalable and can be used everywhere.” She confesses that there is the occasional Tetris effect when she switches to drawing traditionally, when she finds herself double tapping on plain paper.

She tells me that the seeds for Wildpaper were sown when her son was born in 2017. A lot of things, especially learning products that she wanted for her child were either unavailable on the Indian market, or absurdly expensive. So she decided to roll up her sleeves and make the things which she found lacking. She began with one card game called ‘The Wild’ which later transitioned into ‘Indian Wild Safari’. It is a simple card game that while being a learn-while-you-play experience for toddlers also encourages their parents to play with them.

‘Indian Wild Safari’ is Wildpaper’s best selling product till date. After the success of the first game she went to create many other games and children’s picture books, all of which are rooted in nature. Speaking of this she says, “We want children to learn about nature and the world they live in. What they choose to be in the future is up to them, but we can try to teach them love and awareness at an age when they learn without any prejudices.” Of all the things she has made for Wildpaper, she reveals that the Indian Wild Safari is her favorite. Another work that she holds close to her heart is the picture book, ‘Pappas in the Wild’ which deals with fatherhood, and was admired and held in high regard by her own father; a fact that she is most proud of.

By the fourth card game Vaishnavi decided that it was time to go big or go home. When she started out she did everything from product design and marketing to packaging and delivery. Now she focuses her efforts in design and development, leaving logistics in the hands of a very capable team. This leaves her with a lot of time to work on new products, “I realized that this was becoming something serious and not just a side hustle. That’s when I knew that this had become a business.”

Speaking of writing children’s books she says, “A lot of people think that being an artist is different from being a storyteller. Both of those things are quite similar. Every artist is a storyteller. The only difference is in how they tell their stories.” Vaishnavi did a lot of homework to develop her visual language, and reveals that she learnt a lot from the mistakes she made along the way and from other friends in the industry who always helped her out when she was in a bind. A favor she pays forward by helping others when she can, “If you’re in a position to help others, you should.” She says.

Even though they are beta testers of the things she creates, her children are unaware that she makes the things they play with. She reveals that she sneaks in new products while playing with them, “If they have fun and it survives their hands then its fit for the market.” Being a mother of two is a very taxing job, and it leaves her only about two hours to work on weekdays. She makes up for it by going all out on the weekends and occasionally burning the midnight oil. “Right now my work is going a bit slow because my personal life demands a lot of my attention. Maybe that will change in the future, but until then I handle what I can and go with the flow.”

She reveals that things were a bit difficult during the lockdown and work had taken a backseat. Even the art she made during the lockdown was quite different from what she made before. Speaking of this she says, “I took time to ideate and come up with new things and I also reflected on developing new and existing products.” But they crested this wave during June and returned to some semblance of normality shortly after.

She cites the Northern Irish artist Oliver Jeffers as one of her chief influences, whom she admires for his talents as a storyteller and the ethos and love that he has for the world. She tells me that her children are a constant source of motivation, and she credits them with changing her perspective on many things. She advises new artists to keep practicing and to keep learning new things. She says, “To say that there’s nothing to learn in art is a misconception. There’s a lot to learn from art books and only when you learn many things you can put them into your art.”

Right now Vaishnavi is the only artist at Wildpaper, but she hopes to collaborate with other artists in the future and produce amazing material for Indian children. She also hopes that Wildpaper will become a household name in the country, where everyone grows up with their games and books.

You can reach out to Vaishnavi on her Instagram handle @makingwildpaper

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