Bite-sized food to hold and cherish, but not eat!
It all started while she was working as a sound engineer. During her free time, Shilpa Mitha, would try 3D quilling, which was only a hobby for her back then. Today, she is an instagram sensation with as many as 13.9k followers on her Instagram page where she keeps uploading pictures of food miniatures that she makes. Now, Shilpa is so glued to it that she had to give up her profession as a sound engineer to pursue this full-time. Papeta par eeda, Parsi food, chai, keema pav, crispy dosas, vadas, idly, vada pav, fish fry, samosa, dahi, pani puri, donuts... you name it, she will get it done for you in the miniature format.
Ask her how she got hooked on to this, and Shilpa says that art is in her genes as her mother is also a craft teacher. “Probably, I would have picked up my interest in art from my mother,” she says, adding, “As a kid, I used to enjoy art classes, but I never thought of making it my profession. The first thing that my mother taught me was to make a burger using clay. She taught me how to make different shapes out of clay and also taught me to add colours. I was fascinated by it and suggested that she add a bit of cheese and tomato to it; of course, using clay.”
When she surfed online, Shilpa came across a lot of food miniature artists abroad, but not many from India. “I hardly saw any miniatures on Indian food items. Whenever people travel abroad, they buy souvenirs to gift people. That’s when I had this idea of making miniatures of south Indian breakfast items, and having them as souvenirs. These kind of souvenirs talk a lot about our lifestyle and culture,” says Shilpa.
It was almost seven years ago that Shilpa got serious about making miniatures, and even went to Malaysia to professionally learn making figurines. She says, “Initially, I didn’t have any expectations. Earlier, when I had wanted to be a musician and had dreams of making it big, I always ended up comparing myself to others and felt dissatisfied with what I had achieved. On the other hand, when I started doing miniatures, I knew that I didn’t have many others to compare myself with as there was little competition. So, making these miniatures kept me happy and slowly became my profession, too.”
According to Shilpa, each of these food pieces is completely handmade. “It takes a lot of time to make them because these are so tiny. At times, I use tools like toothpick or needle to work on the detailing. There are times when I have worked for 15 hours at a stretch. You need to have good eyesight and a lot of patience to practise this art form,” she says.
maintain the authenticity of the food item, Shilpa says she’s very particular about the size and quantity of each of the ingredients she uses. “I have to keep all the measurement in mind, including colours and size. I make the ingredients separately and then put them all together. I use acrylic and oil paint to colour my food.”
customers are based out of Chennai and Bengaluru. “The South Indian breakfast attracts customers in these two regions, but now, I have started getting enquiries from people from Kerala, Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi and Odisha, too. And social media plays a big role in it,” she signs off.