Creativity & Biz Interview: Karthine Maniam

Meeting the talented artist behind TMK Henna was such a privilege. This was the person who took creative Instagram photos with vibrant colours. Karthine Maniam is a rainbow child at heart. Her passion has led her to work on other side projects of her own, called Henna Crown; where she draws for cancer patients and Henna Belly, creating beautiful henna patterns on pregnant women. I decided to dive in deeper to find out what inspires her and how she finds balance as a graphic designer and a henna artist. If you read on a little bit more, you will receive some Instagram photography insights too.

1. When did you start TMK Henna?

When I was in high school, I used to doodle during class. Eventually, each doodle turned into a meaningful outcome, and the compliments I received from friends encouraged me to create more and more patterns each day. That was the definitely the start of my journey.

With my loved ones' motivation and blessing, today, I am grateful to have grown from a "student that doodles" into a professional Henna artist.

2. Are you doing this full time? What inspired you to start TMK Henna?

I am a full time graphic designer and I manage TMK Henna on the side. I always believed in earning by doing what you love most. In this case, turning my hobby into a small business. There are 4 sources of inspiration in my life that kept me at this:

My family; being the only one that is involved in the creative industry, they have certainly given me tremendous support. My boyfriend; he was with me from the start and until today, always providing emotional support, as well as physical support especially during art markets and bazaars. My customers as well, for making the business possible by believing in my work. When I was doing henna crown for cancer patients and henna belly for pregnant women, just to see their smile or to witness the baby's movement was enough to keep me going.

Another source of inspiration would be my friends. There is someone in particular that I would like to mention, and her name is Mona KV. Mona was more than just an inspiration to me. She taught me how to market myself as an artist, including going out there to participate in local art markets and bazaars to promote my work. Mona has certainly picked me up and out of my comfort zone.

*Editor's note: Mona KV is the artist behind Mona KV Art. Mona was featured in our previous article, titled 12 Inktober Artworks by Creative Malaysians, and was also a contributor for the article, 10 Ways to Improve Your Art.

3. As a creative entrepreneur, how do you juggle your projects or work with your hobby and personal life?

It was hardly a struggle for me because I always enjoyed myself whenever I am working, whether as a graphic designer by day or a henna artist at night. I focus my energy on on my graphic designing work during the first half of the day, and on the second half of the day, I will attend to my henna appointments. Since most of my appointments are brides, I make sure they get treated like a queen by making it a house-call so that they can have their henna done comfortably at home.

In between work, I make sure that I make time for my family and hang out with my friends, so that I don't miss out on anything in life. I think having balance is very important.

4. How do you reinvent yourself and your creative business?

I love keeping my henna designs and patterns modern and contemporary, so that it is unique and trendy for today's generation.

henna crown by karthine maniam
Image by TMK Henna by Karthine Maniam

5. What is the most challenging thing about running a creative business, and how do you deal with it?

One of the most challenging things is finding out that people are using your artwork without your permission and taking credit for it. I have seen my artworks being used as cover photos on social media without crediting back to me. Once, I approached the user to say, 'thank you for appreciating my work, but it will be great if you could credit back to me, the artist.' It was frustrating at first, but I learned to see that if you are sincere with what you do, you will get the credits that you deserve. You don't have to chase for it, because eventually people will see you for your effort and recognize your style.

6. What do you do to market and create exposure for your creative service?

I am most grateful to my lecturers, because I have certainly learned a great deal from them on how to market my own artwork and services professionally, combined with my own style and identity. Now, I don't have to depend on anyone and proceed with designing my own promotional materials like business cards, brochures and even catalogs.

When it comes to exposure, I believe the more places I go and the more people I meet, I get to network. So far, I have participated at art markets and bazaars in malls like Publika and One Utama, as well as annual dinners. I am also part of the Rantai Collective group, that means I am one of their artist vendors for any activities, events or festivals. I personally think that the best exposure is still art markets or bazaars because I get to meet all kinds of people.

7. What are your artistic tricks to create Instagram-worthy pictures for your art?

There are 5 important factors to look into when it comes to creating Instagram-worthy pictures:

First, pick a theme for your Instagram page. Instagram pages with a common, unifying theme attracts people. With a theme, people will know what you are selling or what your page is for.

Secondly, edit your photos before you upload it. You don't have to overdo it until it looks fake, but instead, try touching up your photos and increase brightness. The way you edit your photos have to represent your theme as well. The style and filter that you use should come back to the first point which is your theme or what you are trying to showcase.

Third, always keep your photos simple. Make sure it is not blurry, because when you have blurry pictures, you don't give a good impression. Keep it simple and clear so that the message is conveyed.

Fourth would be take many different styles and angles. Try new positions and layouts. Personally, I love colour coordinating my photos and using contrasting backgrounds. I also make sure the next photo complements the one before, for example if I have posted a picture with a blue background, I make sure the next is yellow. People may not understand this, but I find that by doing this, I am creating balance.

Fifth, upgrade your camera. I do the same as well in my line of work, especially with henna. I knew I had to invest in a phone that comes with a good camera to take good pictures of my work. I think that when you are running a business, it is not a waste to invest in one.

8. Where do you go to, to look for creative ideas and inspirations?

I get my inspirations everywhere. It can be from things like, the tiles on the floor, fabric or patterns on ceramic pots, and even the colour I wear when I go for my henna appointments. It is enough to help me see that there are no limits when it comes to inspirations. I am also inspired by the photos that I take, which you can see most of it in my Instagram. Instagram is a diary of inspiration for me.

I am also inspired by other talented henna artists as well, such as Sara's Henna, an artist that does henna in Hong Kong! She is definitely an inspiration, someone who went out of her comfort zone and made it in Hong Kong! Another favourite artist of mine is Henna by Divya from Toronto. These two are my biggest creative inspirations.

Follow TMK Henna on Instagram and Facebook .

Check out TMK Henna's demo on how to draw a dreamcatcher henna!



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