Charu Swaminathan is the owner and CEO of Mishkalo, a Chicago-based wedding registry for original art. She’s been an artist all her life with training in North Indian classical singing as well as jewelry making. With a master’s degree under her belt in computer information systems, Charu was in the IT world for 15 years before starting her unique wedding registry. She started Mishkalo because she wanted to combine her art and technical sides into one company.
Explain the concept of Mishkalo.
CS: Mishkalo is a wedding registry for original art. We carry a curated collection of art from artists all over the world. Couples can select artwork, or commission an artwork or custom wedding portrait. Guests can come together to crowdfund artwork that is more meaningful and memorable than household items on a regular registry, which the couple may already have.
When did you start Mishkalo?
CS: I did a soft launch in June 2017 and a hard launch a few months later in October.
What’s the process like to sign up with Mishkalo?
CS: All couples have to do is sign up with an email address before they start selecting their artwork. Since art can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the art world, we help curate pieces for couples based on their tastes, preferences and color scheme in their home. We do two things: We help couples select the art if they need help, and we also run promotions from time to time for free interior design services to help couples get ideas to decorate their home with artwork.
How did you come up with the unique concept of an art wedding registry?
CS: A couple years ago, my husband and I attended a wedding. As usual, we bought something off the registry and a few months later we got a thank you note from the couple saying thanks for the blender. Some weeks later, I found a receipt in one of my handbags and it was for a set of wine glasses we had bought for the couple, not the blender they had thanked us for. I thought to myself this is ridiculous! The couple doesn’t remember, and we don’t remember what was given as a gift—everything is so transactional. I thought to myself a wedding is a special occasion, why not get them something that is memorable and lasts a lifetime? Something more meaningful and timeless than sheets and towels. Since I’m an artist and an art collector, I thought why not artwork? It’s something you can have all your life and something to pass on to your children.
Why the name Mishkalo?
I was looking for a company name that was eclectic, artsy and not belonging to any culture. It’s hard to tell where the word Mishkalo comes from. I just came up with this word and it doesn’t have an actual meaning. I wanted the name to sound positive and be brandable.
What piece of advice can you offer to couples looking to create their wedding registry?
I would tell couples to look at the big picture and think long term instead of what is needed in the moment. A wedding is an event, but a marriage lasts a lifetime. Guests are indulgent and willing to contribute to make wedding gifts special for couples, so couples should think about the things that can enhance and enrich their lives and their marriage. For that reason, art is a great option to consider.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018