Newspapers, flyers, magazines, notebooks and cardboard boxes—there is no shortage of paper and paper-based materials around us, despite the popularity of concepts like a paperless economy and digital services. As a result, countless trees face the axe across the globe to meet these demands.
What makes paper a close competitor of plastic in terms of waste production is the fact that since time immemorial, most paper-based products and materials are manufactured to only serve a single purpose. Also, because of our consumerist attitude, once used, these are tossed out carelessly; many of us don’t even spare a second thought about recycling or reusing them.
India continues to generate paper at a gargantuan pace, and as far as the scope and reality of recycling is concerned, a very tiny percentage of paper actually ends up being recycled in the country.
Amidst this colossal mess that we have all contributed to, one woman from Jaipur is not only finding ways to tackle the rising mounds of paper waste around us; she is doing this in a creative manner.
Neerja Palisetty hails from a family that has been carrying forward the legacy of weaving for about four centuries, which would perhaps mean that the craft should come naturally to her and it did—only that instead of conventional materials, she uses old discarded newspapers and all kinds of paper waste from scrap dealers!
Sutrakaar Creations, her brainchild, sells a variety of recycled handcrafted articles one can use in their daily lives. But what makes them unique is that all of these products are made out of woven paper!
The venture is a little over two years old now and has also opened up doors of livelihood opportunities for a handful of women in Jaipur, who spin the yarn for Sutrakaar with the charkhas that the former has provided them with.
Speaking to The Better India, she shares that her fascination with paper goes a long way back and the fact that her father was a textile designer from the very first batch of the National Institute of Design (NID), proved to be a blessing with a living repository of knowledge about textiles and design right at home!
“Coming from such a background, I’d always nursed this dream of setting up a handloom centre but it never quite materialised into reality, as I was dissuaded by friends and acquaintances regarding its scope,” she remembers.
Meanwhile, Neerja had been researching upon innovative ways of recycling paper into utility products for a very long time and had even published a paper about this.
“The stimulus to actually consider paper weaving had emerged from various Japanese techniques of paper repurposing that are unique and creative. Piecing that in the Indian context, the idea of repurposing waste paper as fabric to make utility products took form in my head,” she narrates.
Interestingly, the very first yarn made out of shredded paper was spun by Neerja herself, on her father’s looms.
“The dream of starting a handloom venture persisted in the back of my head and through the years as I’d shuttled between one industry to the other, this feeling kept getting stronger. By the time I hit my forties, I’d made up my mind, and with a lot of support and encouragement from my father and husband, I decided to give wings to my cherished dream, and that’s how Sutrakaar came to being two years ago,” says Neerja.
So what exactly goes in the process of weaving fabric out of discarded old paper?
“Spun using shredded pieces of paper (anywhere between 2-4mm) on charkhas, the yarns are then twisted with the intention of making the subsequent fabric durable and hardwearing. This technique alone refutes all misconceptions people have when it comes to purchasing products made out of recycled paper that it would wear away soon and is not durable. Woven like any other fabric, the only exception in this technique is that paper is utilised as the weft while threads of cotton or silk act as the warp,” she explains.
This fabric is then supplied to different artisans to craft products that have been artistically conceptualised and designed by Neerja.
As for the name, she shares that after a lot of brainstorming with her father and husband, the trio hit upon the name ‘Sutrakaar’ which somehow perfectly fits with the legacy that the family upholds!
“I always wanted a name that was essentially entwined with the art of weaving, and one could call it fate or what, the meaning of Sutrakaar turned out to be: one who weaves!” laughs Neerja.
From suave lifestyle products like lampshades, photo frames, wall hangings and clutches to stationery materials like bookmarks, diaries, sketchbooks and pen stands, one can find a variety of paper-woven products at Sutrakaar.
The price range varies according to the product—from ₹300 for a pocket diary to ₹10,000 for a lampshade.
Neerja sources all the waste paper that goes into the making of products from different channels, including handmade paper industries, scrap dealers and even households in Jaipur who are willing to give away their old newspapers.
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What an amazingly refreshing and innovative way to tackle the insurmountable menace of paper waste! Sutrakaar Creations is not only giving people across the country the opportunity to access beautifully handcrafted eco-textile products but is also providing a sustainable source of livelihood for many.
You can look up Sutrakaar Creations and check their products on Facebook.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)