A bottle for thought

Unique hobbies

A bottle for  thought

It was the morning after a house party a few years ago, when the sun shone bright, that Sonali Mendonsa noticed a stack of empty Breezer bottles on the ground.

Instead of binning them, as she normally would have, she decided to wash and keep them aside. She wasn’t sure what she would do with them but she did know that she wanted to recycle them. People either throw away or sell such empty bottles, but I thought I could recycle them, she says.

Initially, the bottles got no attention from Sonali or her sister, Suneera, both artists. “Then my husband threatened to throw them away, so we started painting on them,” explains Sonali. Now, not only do they recycle the bottles, but also upcycle them into gorgeous decorative pieces and lamps. Each piece is unique as the sisters have very distinct styles of painting and both of them get their hands on the bottles.

Be it round jam jars, ordinary beer bottles or elegant wine and champagne bottles that look like they were made to be painted on, the pieces are transformed into works of beauty. Intricate tribal designs, nostalgic patterns, doodles and crystal art decorate them and each set has its own theme. Quirky owl and fish themes, patterns that represent South India, designs that squeeze out the love for a certain region... these are just few of their works.

The bottles are initially coated with a layer of oil paint, before they are printed with specific designs. Sonali and Suneera tried working with acrylic paints at first but realised that the paint chips off quickly. So, they switched over to oil paints, sprays and enamel. Thin choir ropes, ‘chamki’, sequins, liners and small stones are used as supplementary accessories.

While Sonali works with crayons, acrylic paints and Indian designs, Suneera prefers oil paints and doodle art. They also write positive messages on the bottles to give them a positive vibe. And once they realised that people appreciate such works, there was no stopping the duo. Sometimes, they even pick up bottles from the streets so that they don’t act as litter. “We also get our friends to give us bottles and jars,” they say.

Sonali and Suneera aren’t new to the world of art. Both have been trained in art since they were young. “We were pushed by our mother to learn how to sketch. It was initially a hobby for us, but then it turned into something else, something that takes a lot of our time,” explains Sonali. She adds that she grew up cartooning while her sister preferred to doodle. This shift from canvas to glass also brought a change in their style of painting, and made them friendlier to other mediums.

Indian cartoonist and illustrator Mario Miranda stands as an inspiration to many of their works. Suneera, in particular, says that she loves his works. “I’ve even painted a whole wall which is inspired by his works,” she says.

Though there are many people who paint bottles, not many take it as seriously as these two. Before they gift a bottle, they analyse the person and see if they are the kind who will appreciate their work and understand the effort behind each stroke. “If you were to compare mass produced bottles with handmade ones, you’d notice the difference in expertise and how time consuming completing one bottle can be,” says Sonali.

The best way to look after such bottles is, they say, is to wipe them with a dry or damp cloth as continuous exposure to water will destroy them.

(Sonali and Suneera can be contacted on artiliciouslyyours@gmail.com)

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