You could use paper to write on, to make maps, create money, draw beautiful pictures and even to store lightweight objects. But could you wear it? Could it become a light fixture? And if it comes from trees, could it be planted back into the soil with the hopes of seeing delicate saplings soon? Yes to all! Although even with the popular paper suits of the 1920s London and the paper dresses in 1960s America, it's perhaps not the best idea to flaunt a newsprint maxi dress at the next brunch with friends. Those trends were mercifully nipped in the bud but on the global design scene, paper, specifically, handmade paper is gaining momentum as a new medium to work with. Designers and artists are using it create home decor, unusual home accents and even to grow plants, and this innovative use of handmade paper is refreshing and hopeful.
Noida-based Xylem Papercraft, which manufactures and exports handmade paper and paper products was one of the first movers in this space in India. Mindful of the waste generated in their manufacturing facilities and with the UNESCO seal of Excellence safely under their arm for their innovative handmade paper floor coverings and cushions, Xylem decided to explore this opportunity further and “Rickshaw Recycle,” their retail initiative was born. Rickshaw Recycle uses paper waste generated by the parent company, Xylem as well as other types of collected manufacturing jetsam like fabric, glass and metal to create home decor, lifestyle accessories, and stationery products. The results thus far? A a very rewarding experience according to the partners at Xylem Papercraft.
However, on the larger narrative of handmade paper use as an element of design in home and lifestyle products Anuradha Patni, Partner at Xylem says, “It is still a niche market and the biggest challenge is in selling these products. The durability of functional products made with handmade paper is an issue and it is uphill justifying costs on the basis of the design, craft, and aesthetics, especially in the domestic market although there is tremendous growth in other geographies. The positive response is encouraging and I believe there is untapped potential, design-wise.”
Others are exploring the space too and making headway; like the Bengaluru-based The Purple Turtles that offers, among other products, handmade Banana fiber lights. Inspired by nature and the chaotic urban landscapes, The Purple Turtles' designs are artisanal, contemporary and made with paper that they manufacture themselves. Haathi Chaap, a Delhi-based handmade paper products manufacturer makes paper using Elephant dung fashioning it into bright, colorful stationary and home decor accents for kids.
High on the green index, Haathi Chaap's “ED” paper products are inventive, interesting and have a growing market. Mahima Mehra, the founder says, “In the last 10 years since we started Haathi Chaap, perhaps 50 people have come up to me and said this is 'yucky' product. Most others are nearly always intrigued by the fact that these products are made with Elephant poop and show interest. I see more younger people in our audience and hope this is a trend that will continue.” With a product that does not burn a hole in your pocket, Haathi Chaap also wants to make good design available to everyone and with a labor–intensive, cost efficient production process, they are able to do just that.
Jaipur-based Tomato & Co. manufactures and markets plantable paper in interesting forms like coffee cup sleeves, product tags and branding solutions. Kritika Parwal the founder says, “ Paper is a beautiful medium! Each time I look at the paper being made in our workshop, I marvel at the power of this simple paper...less litter plus more trees packed in a fun innovative product." The paper is a type of the famous Sanganeri handmade paper and can be planted straight into the soil.
The invention of paper by the Egyptians and the Chinese, in different forms though, meant that humans now had a canvas for transferring ideas. And paper is still doing that job; giving design professionals a platform for new expressions and aesthetics. Who knows, that Little Paper Dress just might make a comeback!
Xylem Papercraft Pvt. Ltd.
Tomato & Co.
Purple Turtles Lighting Ideas Pvt. Ltd.