Glass bottles that are disposed off in huge numbers clog lakes and other water bodies and destroy the ecosystem as well. While the authorities failed to notice the damages caused by this human behaviour, Aparna S, a resident of Kollam, Kerala, turned this non-environment-friendly trend into her own little crafts world.
In trying to cleanse the contaminated lakes near her house, the 23-year-old Eco-lover Aparna gathered a diligent team to transform bottles into works of art. An avid crafts lover since childhood, Aparna fishes out discarded bottles from the lakes and roadside, up-cycles those, and creates an aesthetic decor. The venture ‘Quppi’ has a trusted set of fan base on Facebook.
We at SheThePeople.TV caught up with Aparna to get to more about her environment-friendly products. She is in conversation with Ria Das.
After dabbling in different craft forms and learning to make jewellery, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Tell us how Quppi was born?
A nurse by profession, my mom is a crafts lover, and I believe it runs in the family. I love to use a variety of forms to express and not just painting on a canvas with traditional mediums. My brand Quppi, an online bottle art store, was born from the same ideology.
The mission was to launch an initiative that should separate Ashtamudi lake from poisonous garbage. For the past few years now, discarded bottles were thrown into the lake, creating an unsanitary condition. The one thing that has driven my entire journey is to clean up the lake. And, the bigger mission here is to spread the green message.
While focusing on your B.Ed, how did you come up with the idea of up-cycled bottles for decor?
I had participated in fabric painting competitions during my school days. I had also done some artwork on sarees for neighbours. Then I shifted from painting to making jewellery. This encouraged me to learn terracotta jewellery making during my undergraduate days. Productivity upscaled and seeing the demand from all around I decided to sell the craft work. Social media platforms were a big help but the venture didn’t last long since it wasn’t one of a kind idea.
One of my hobbies is to collect conspicuous things from the roadsides, like feathers, rusted pieces, shells, stones and beautiful bottles. During my college days, I had started painting bottles found on the roadside and shared the crafts on social media. Gradually my friends started buying these and slowly it transformed into a business. Now, I am getting orders from different parts of India.
Starting from terracotta jewellery to an Eco-friendly space, was it inspired by any personal experience?
Initially, the idea was to just showcase my artwork, never thought I’d become an entrepreneur. My love for crafts came from my mom. I would watch her transforming our home with beautiful handmade decor items, and that too from scraps like old tubes and bulbs, match sticks, sewing etc. I just followed her footstep to make something new from the old.
One day when I was walking under scorching sun, I noticed Ashtamudi lake. It was rather upsetting for a green-warrior like me to see the reality. Large numbers of bottles clogged the lake. So I started collecting the bottles from the lake. Many people laughed at me first, friends started addressing me as ‘scrap girl’ and called me “kuppi” (Malayalam word for bottle) in public. Sometimes I felt ashamed. However, positivity came from art lovers, family and some friends who helped me hold on to this passion. They appreciated the artwork I was doing and recognised it was something good for the society and environment.
When I noticed that most of these bottles I collected from roadside or the lake were usable, and in fact were in pretty good shape, my intention of up-cycling them creatively grew. I started with simple drawings and later added other kinds of art techniques like decoupage and calligraphy.
Now, I’m using this platform to make a difference in our society. Authorities will collect waste and then dump it at another place, making it even a bigger mess. So the core concept is creating recycled art from the garbage and have a decorated space.
“My passion for genuine art, interests in craftsmanship and inclination to work have made Quppi possible.”
As a 23-year-old girl, it’s hard to convince society that I too can have a different perspective or plan in life. The so-called society wants to keep you inside the home and prepare you as a homemaker with maybe a better academic foundation, but not further. In case, one breaks the rules, she becomes the target of disapproving eyes. So, definitely yes, my gender and age are making a noise in my locality, but as they say, success is not satisfying if comes easily.
I think challenges made me more creative. If we think for the better ideas or something new, there will be a challenge.
Talking about struggles, I saw my parents being separated when I was four years old. Challenges never really left me during my school and college days too. We have had so many limitations and crisis at home. But all this made us stronger. My mom went to study nursing after divorce and I took over the responsibilities at home. In many terms, we became more independent. Also in academics, I studied in Malayalam medium, and was poor in communicating in English, yet I have opted for English for graduation. Now B.Ed is a challenge for me as well. In short, challenges never end.
Being a social entrepreneur, did you always know that opening up an organisation which would help bringing social balance was something you were going to do for the rest of your life?
Frankly, professionally, I want to be a teacher while keeping up my creative work. I think a good teacher can inspire students. So, I would give them the guidance I needed once. I want to teach the same to marginalised people, like kids in the shelter homes.
I can change garbage into beautiful piece of art. Making money is not my first priority. The inspiration is to make our Mother Earth more healthy and pure.
Explain why Quppi is so efficient in the modern market? How many Eco-friendly campaigns do you organise in a month? Is the demand growing
I had planned a one-day programme on March 22, which was World Water Day. The poster for the campaign read: ‘I’m going to collect scraps from river banks and change it into art. Come, join me if you are interested.’
The result was awesome, people showed up in sheer numbers for the initiative. We had collected loads of bottles and other wastes. Beside that they also helped us clean the lake. That’s how this drive was envisioned.
In near future, I am planning to conduct a program as a pre-monsoon activity. I will also arrange some programs like planting trees and making shades at roadsides using plastic bottles and covers etc. After my exam, I will definitely do these things with the support of these nature lovers.
Advice to other aspiring women who dream of following your footsteps but are demotivated.
As I said earlier, all of us have a healthy body but the mind matters. Motivate yourself. Our society needs everyone. The efforts will make our lives better.
Just do something, explore yourself, use your resources… live for the future and stand up in the present.
How would you rate other similar practices that need to display more responsibility on eco-friendly ideas?
Every Eco-friendly idea is important. Not only in the form of any campaigns or protest, but even if you are taking a cloth bag for shopping or plates for parcel food, that makes a change.
Picture Credit: Aparna S
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