The Makeover Diaries: From junk to funk

Apr 21, 2012, 10:09 IST | Soma Das and Ruchika Kher

For World Earth Day (April 22), Soma Das and Ruchika Kher salute four city-based eco warriors who help you splurge, to save the world with their varied, quirky range of recycled products from bottle lamps and wall clocks to pen stands

Upcycle your universe
The tagline of Workshop Q, “Because scrap needs a quirky makeover,” says all about their vision and their products. Started by two sisters, Madhavi (24) and Radhika Khaitan (25), Workshop Q creates clothes, trays, coasters, cushions and many more things using old and discarded materials.

“My sister and I, attended a year-long course in Visual Communication from Los Angeles and the theme of every project that we worked on was eco-friendly. When we returned, we decided to start a venture of our own especially because we felt the need to start something that takes forward the go green movement,” reasons Madhavi.

The sisters, who are mainly into green corporate gifting apart from selling their products from various stores across the country, like calling themselves the “Upcyclers”. “We call ourselves the Upcyclers. Basically what we do is that we take a waste product and convert it into something of a higher value. We don’t downgrade its value.

It’s not important to just save resources at home – like gas and electricity. Every waste product has an alternative use; we need to make an effort to convert it into something interesting and useful,” reveals Madhavi.

Let there be light
Sharanya Menon (24) is on a mission to ensure a greener environment and a happier home, as her web page says. Her eight-month-old venture, titled High-LIGHT, took shape on a lazy, jobless afternoon when she was playing around with old bottles and paints. It led her to create colourful bottle lamps using acrylic and glass paint and she hasn’t looked back since.

“I wanted to do something different as far as gifting options are concerned. Ultimately, everyone wants their gift to mean something to the other person and symbolise their personalities,” says Menon, who calls herself a Creative Head Lamp.

She customises bottle lamps based on occasions (when couples meet, birthdays), events, characteristics of the person and their preferences, be it in terms of books, cartoons, movies or music. Some of our favourite designs include the Ganesha lamp fixture, the RK Laxman collection, The Beatles and Star Wars collection, the Mario Miranda tribute and the Christmas magic with lights series. Other highlights are the lamps depicting Superman, Batman and Sherlock Holmes as well as others showcasing Kathakali masks and the Tree of Life.

Apart from scouring for used clear glass bottles across the city (including at flea markets), she also uses LED lights in her lamps which are energy efficient, last longer and are safer to boot. Menon admits that she went through a process of trial and error (along with electrical shocks!) to hit on the right combination.

“Everybody needs love and light in their life and these lamps are perfect for that. Also, each needs to be different from the rest,” she adds.
This Microbiology and Animation student also does freelance production design projects but admits that High-LIGHT gives her maximum satisfaction. “I want to diversify to other surfaces and design a lot more bottle lamps,” she reveals.

Junk Matters
Abol Tabol is a Bengali term coined by Satyajit Ray’s father Sukumar Ray which means Nonsense World. It is an apt name for a brand whose USP is to create magic with waste and junk materials and turn them into interesting home decor products using acrylic and oil paints.

Run by the husband-wife duo of Indro (creative consultant) and Aditi IM (founder and director), Abol Tabol was set up six months ago. “We believe that there is no such thing as waste on earth. Nothing is junk and everything can be turned into something creative,” says Indro, who is a commercial artist.

When the duo saw people sell ‘junk’ to the raddiwallah and bhangarwallah, they asked them to lend it to them instead. “We utilise and convert waste products to create new items which can either be bought by the original owner or is put up for sale on our Facebook page,” he adds.

Some of the innovative makeovers include turning a wine bottle into a vase, a tawa into a wall clock, soft drink bottles into candle stands and water bottles into pen stands. Indro admits there is no limit to what can be done with simple day-to-day products. “One of the pitfalls is that our house is filled with odds and ends, bottles and other materials. In a way, working with such products helps keep them useful,” he elaborates.

It takes an elephant to remember
When two friends, Kuhelee Khandelwal (37) and Vrushali Thale (40) decided to convert their love for craft and handmade products created out of junk to a profession, the result was a quirkily named company Elephants Remember. Today, they create waste useful and artistic with their creativity and give it a new lease.

“We are fond of handwork and believe there is always scope to up-cycle or re-purpose the things we outgrow or get tired of. There’s a lot out there that appears like junk to people but looks good to us! It’s how you put it together that makes a difference,” explains Kuhelee.

“For example, we think stones are pretty undervalued. We hope by adding a few strokes we get people to appreciate the beauty of the stone itself. We also make clay creatures using parts saved from use-and-throw pens. You will be surprised how many things are thrown away every day. Our products for children — activity pouches, bags of all kinds, memory boxes — are made from scratch of course but with natural, recyclable materials,” she adds.

Kuhelee also feels that what they also like about what they do is their products look different and unique, which adds an edge to them. “What motivates us is that we have children and it is up to us to surround them in an atmosphere where doing things with your own hands is appreciated and revered.

Nowadays, kids are exposed to too many brands and there is so much mass production that everything looks the same. A handmade product has inherent quirks and really, no two can be the same. That’s where the charm lies,” she expresses.

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