IT MIGHT seem like an unusual job, but a mother from Basingstoke is making money by carving fruit and vegetables from her kitchen into incredible celebrity portraits and sculptures.
Salinla Mills, from Beggarwood, first learnt the art as a 10-year-old growing up in Thailand, where it’s compulsory to study the 700-year-old cultural artform.
She brought it to Britain when she met her English husband Brett Mills and moved to Basingstoke following their marriage five years ago.
Having last laid her hands on carving utensils over 20 years previously, the former beauty therapist took up fruit carving again in 2012.
The 33-year-old wanted to earn money at home so she could spend time with her daughter Melissa, four.
Now she’s carving watermelons, pumpkins, carrots, peppers, onions, chillies, beetroot and potatoes into famous faces or sculptures for special occasions.
Her work has seen her carve portraits of The Queen and singer Beyonce (pictured below) as well as animals such as swans and owls.
The intricate detail is a tough art to master but Salinla only needs 90 minutes to carve up a watermelon or pumpkin – her favourite fruit to carve.
She said: “I started doing it only two years ago because I wanted to earn some money at home while I look after my daughter. It’s a Thai art and I never did it in Thailand – we learnt it at school when I was 10-years-old and I stopped after that.
“But I came over here with my husband and picked it up quickly again.
“My favourite fruit to carve is the watermelon because of their colour but I like using pumpkins because it is easier and the detail comes out really well.
“When I first started carving them, it would take me about four or five hours to carve but now I can do it in just 90 minutes.”
Salinla grew up near Chiang Rai, Thailand, and lived with her grandparents working on rice fields as her mother left to earn money elsewhere.
But she left work on the farm and began nail painting and hair dressing in Thailand until she met Brett who was there on holiday.
Now living in the UK, she continues to send money home to her family in Thailand, raised from her sales of carved fruit and vegetables from £25 up to £70.