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Jaipur-based Neerja Palisetty is a master weaver with a difference. She believes that contemporary design can be ethical and sustainable and so, makes products by recycling waste paper in an innovative way. Palisetty, the founder and owner of Sutraakar Creations, weaves waste paper into yarn to make attractive utility and décor products. She uses old discarded newspapers and focuses on eco-textile creations made from paper and natural materials. “Paper is considered as delicate but once woven, it is a strong and versatile material, which has vast scope. I did a lot of research, before I started weaving paper,” says Palisetty, who is a a graduate in clothing and textiles (home science) from MSU Baroda and has a post-graduate certificate in higher education from Nottingham Trent University, in the UK.
Converting waste paper, to yarn, to useful products
Explaining why she chose paper, Palisetty explains: “We source the raw material from handmade paper units in Jaipur, raddiwalas and garment export houses, who provide us with excess waste fabric. Pulp and paper have an adverse effect on air, water and soil and add to the landfill. So, it is better to recycle it. Paper weaving it is a Japanese technique. I was fascinated by the idea of recycling waste paper into fabric, to make utility products, ever since I did a project in college, using paper. For 17 years, I worked as a merchandiser at Tirupur in Tamil Nadu and later, as a design professor. However, I always had a desire to set up my own weaving studio. So, two-and-a-half years ago, I set up Sutraakar Creations.”
Explaining the technique of making paper yarn she says: “Small pieces of paper strips are cut. Then the yarns are twisted on charkhas (spinning wheels) which makes the subsequent fabric durable. In this technique, the paper is utilised as the weft, while threads of cotton or silk act as the warp.” Palisetty explains that she learnt weaving from her father, whom she looks upon as a role model. “I come from a family of weavers, from Andhra Pradesh. A legacy and tradition of 400 years of weaving, have played a vital role in shaping my career choice. The purpose of setting up Sutraakar, is to encourage experimental handloom weaving, promote the skills of local weavers, deal with consumer waste and make eco-friendly accessories,” adds Palisetty.
Eco-friendly products of Sutraakar Creations
Some of the products made by Sutraakar Creations, include home décor items like rugs, carpets, wall art, lampshades, room dividers, wall tapestries, pen holders, photo frames and fashion accessories like handbags and clutches, gift and stationery items like diaries, wristbands, belts and ear rings. She sells her products by participating in exhibitions and events and through word-of-mouth publicity.
“I have designed many accessories on order, for home and for commercial premises. There is no limit to being creative. Woven paper can be even used for walls, to make sound-proof studios,” says the entrepreneur.
Today, her team comprises of two weavers, two helpers and one office boy. She also has five housewives, who work from home. She recalls that the biggest challenge, initially, was to find weavers who were willing to work with something other than conventional yarns. “It was tough, as many weavers came and left, because paper weaving demands a lot more patience and precision than ordinary weaving techniques. Then, I had to train housewives to create yarn from paper. Eventually, they learnt and excelled. The next challenge was creating a category of products that would appeal to people and could be produced in bulk. A lot of international and domestic artists have also approached me, to create exclusive pieces,” she elaborates.
Sustainable livelihood, combined with environment conservation
Palisetty says that her main aim is to provide livelihood to skilled weavers and housewives and encourage hand-woven and hand-crafted skills. “I want to ensure a sustainable source of livelihood for weavers. At an individual level, one can make a difference to the environment. There definitely is greater awareness among people and many of them are committed towards making the earth a better place for our future generations.
Many contemporary designers are also prioritising earth-friendly materials, to make sustainable décor accessories. We are seeing many developments in areas of fashion, architecture, interiors, food industry, etc., towards sustainable lifestyles. The use of eco-friendly products, is an important step towards protecting our environment and making us responsible users of its resources. There is growing sensitivity towards eco-friendly products and consumers are mindfully adopting green lifestyles,” concludes Palisetty.