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Lady with the lamp

Last updated: 04 February, 2011
Soumya M Nair 15:53 IST

ECO-WATCH Soumya M Nair discovers that Jenny Pinto is really someone who can spin green gold from organic waste

ONE WITH NATURE Jenny Pinto illuminates rooms with paper lamps made with  banana and pineapple fibre.“Bring back the romance of shadow play into your living space,” suggests Jenny Pinto. A true nature lover at heart, who loves all things green, Jenny has been making paper from natural fibres and tree bark in her studio off Sarjapur Road for over 12 years now.

“After 17 years of making advertisements for instant noodles and chocolates, I wanted to reconnect with nature. Papermaking has put me on the right path,” she says. Her list of creations includes everything from accessories for interiors and stationery, which she proudly says, represent sustainable living.

“After a long and successful career in filmmaking, I moved from Mumbai to Bangalore. I thought I would become a potter when I discovered papermaking,” she says.

From agricultural waste, she illuminates rooms. From the bark of mulberry plants, she weaves tapestry. From grass and pineapple fibre she makes lovely lamps.

A room with a view

Her compact studio, which she built with the help of Bangalore’s green architect, Chitra Vishwanath, is made with mud blocks. The roof harvests rain water and waste water from the papermaking process is recycled to water her garden, where she grows organic fruits and vegetables. “It’s been almost 10 years now and the house and the system is efficient and cost effective,” points out Jenny.

A strict policy around her studio is that only natural fibre may be used to create paper. Her personal favourite being banana, Jenny also experiments with products like kora grass, jute and sisal.

“It is the long silky fibres from the banana trunk that give the paper its strength and translucency. This is an intrinsic part of my design. I spend a large part of the day bent over a Hollander beater, lifting paper with a traditional deckle and mould. This fibre is a true delight to work with,” she explains.

Jenny runs her establishment with the help of a couple of assistants. But there are several challenges to the smooth running of even the “greenest and cleanest” job in town!

“Finding a consistent source of natural fibre is not easy. Getting skilled people is equally hard. But these challenges can be dealt with once people’s perception of paper changes. Everyone should ask for naturally-made paper instead of paper that involves the death of a tree,” she says.

Jenny also reveals that most of her clients are youngsters and people who travel abroad, who are looking for international trends in accessories and furniture.

Although it would be simpler to export her products, as naturally-made paper is valued abroad, it is part of her “green” philosophy to explore the Indian market and design for local use.

Jenny has also stepped into a new area of design — lighting design. She has helped design homes with tips on how to optimally use natural light. “If you are lucky enough to design your own house, I would strongly recommend using natural light in every room. And here’s why: air and light are conducive to healthy living and that’s one of the reasons why I chose this profession.” She also hopes to collaborate with a manufacturer friend to design lights from surplus metal scrap.

Life lessons

Having grown up in Mumbai, Jenny is no stranger to leading an independent life. “When I moved to Bangalore in 1996, I learnt the art of paper making by myself. I pored over books for months and I slowly built around it. I think working with eco-friendly, sustainable material is the best way to give back to Nature.”

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