Upcycling in Bahrain

Don't let your household junk go to waste, recycle it and make your home beautiful Discuss this article

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Artisan Vrushali J has a passion for creating products from regular household waste. Just as she launches a brand new online shop, we find out more about her unique hobby.

Take one step inside Vrushali J’s house and you’ll be presented with all sorts of quirky household items, spilling from every corner. On first inspection these products – such as baskets, stools, bottle holders, decorative pieces – might seem quite normal but it won’t take long to realise, or for Vrushali to tell you, about her unique hobby of turning trash into treasure.It all started back in 2009, after Vrushali decided to take a break from her high-powered Human Resources career to look after her daughter.

‘When I was at home, I tried to see what’s in the cupboards and drawers,’ she tells us. ‘I realised there’s so much paper around, so many bottles here and there, creams were finished, tins left, lots of cardboard… I didn’t throw it because every time I looked at it I thought it could be used for something. So, one day, I sat with a couple of things and said to myself “let me see if I can do it and if I can’t then I’ll just throw it away”.’

But she could do it and, ever since, she’s hardly thrown anything away. From empty pickle jars to finished cello tape rolls, discarded fabric softener bottles to old newspapers, everything became usable.

On that first attempt, Vrushali fashioned a basket out of newspaper weave but it was ‘horrible’ she laughs. ‘I still used it for one and a half years to keep some vegetables in my house!’ After a bit of research and patience, however, Vrushali was able to create almost anything out of the discarded paper and now she’s well known on the island, and across the world, for her weaving skills. ‘I have a lot of clientele,’ explains Vrushali.

‘I’m proud of it because it’s actually managed to create employment for a couple of people.’ Her company, called Upcy Arty (‘upcycled art’), now creates profitable products out of discovered waste from its small workshop in Pune, India.

Overall, there’s nine employees including Vrushali and her sister, and they support uneducated yet creative women.

But it doesn’t stop there. Her products are also available right here in Bahrain, across the entire country of India, and she also has followers in Canada and Australia. Vrushali offers group classes here, as well as online tutorials via Skype, and even hosts talks in schools across Bahrain. Just last month, Upcy Arty expanded their online offerings to include an entire shop which allows people to buy her products from anywhere in the world.

‘If you ask me what direction this is going in, frankly I don’t know,’ she laughs. ‘Sometimes I just get surprised when people say they like my stuff – I don’t know if they’re being serious or they really mean it! Not that I don’t believe in the product, but so many people have laughed at me over the years.’

Despite the laughs, Vrushali never gave up. ‘I started this as something to take care of the waste that was in my house, then it grew as my hobby. Now from hobby to passion, and from passion to life! I weave every single day, I recycle every single day… it’s what gets me up.’

The products you can create from waste is limitless, she says. From an empty milk carton she makes pen holders, from bottles she can make chandeliers. ‘This is really just a drop in the ocean,’ she says. ‘There is so much waste.

‘I have an aim that everyone should have one or two upcycled items in their house, which they use in their day-to-day stuff. I don’t know if I’m going to be successful or not but I hope I’m in Bahrain for that day!’

Inspired by Vrushali’s passion, I take home the beautiful jewellery box she gives me, which has been made out of tape rolls, cardboard and wallpaper, and tackled my overflowing cupboard of plastic bags I’d been saving for who-knows-what. I can’t say I’ve made anything worth selling (yet!) but it’s certainly opened my eyes to the countless eco-friendly alternatives to just taking out the trash.

‘In your heart, you know you’re giving back to nature, you’re doing something good for the world,’ says Vrushali. ‘And when your kids see you doing this and they stop you from throwing waste out, I think that is something you should feel proud about.’
Visit www.upcyarty.com.

By Time Out Bahrain staff
Time Out Bahrain,

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