Meet Karnataka craft teacher who turns waste paper into flowers

Craft teacher transforms waste paper and cloth into decorative products, which are eco-friendly and economical
Mary D’Souza
Mary D’Souza

SHIVAMOGGA: Turning waste into value is a skill, and turning it further into something beautiful is a craft. It’s this gift to see beauty and art in things normally considered waste that propelled Mary D’Souza, a 58-year-old craft teacher, on a journey of creativity, taking interested kids and fellow teachers along. People often spend a fortune on decoration and embellishments at weddings, birthday parties, and other social gatherings and ceremonies, with most of this grandeur going to waste after the glad tidings. The idea to offer such products in a reusable and biodegradable avatar has been guiding Mary along her chosen green path.

Mary, who is a craft teacher at Dr B R Ambedkar Residential Government School at Ragigudda in Shivamogga since 1993, has been training children and other craft teachers in turning waste cloth and paper into decorative pieces free of cost, in turn leaving behind a zero waste footprint.

She has been involved with this conscious pursuit since 2016. It all began when she once watched a cow grazing by the roadside. The animal was in great pain with an iron wire caught in its throat. The wire originated from a stick used to support gerbera flowers at a function, which was carelessly dumped by the side of the road. Unable to see the bovine suffer, she chanced upon the idea to offer similar decorative products made from biodegradable, waste material, which was reusable and also hazard-free. She also decided to make people aware of this interest. Accordingly, her products take shape from pieces of cloth collected from tailors and paper scraps from printing presses, among other materials which otherwise go waste.

Mary realised that decorations made out of waste and reusable materials could reduce cost while promoting environment-friendly decorations among people at events. After seeing heaps of waste cloth and paper lying on the road, she thought of making flowers out of them.

Sometime later, the wedding of her son gave her the opportunity to popularise her cause. She felt that her son’s wedding ceremony could serve as a platform to showcase her work, and accordingly, she decorated the stage with craft made from waste sarees, and flowers made of waste cloth. Also, flower bouquets were wrapped in reused waste material, while coloured flowers themselves were made from paper. All this cost her a humble Rs 7,000 and the decoration was much appreciated by the people.

She began offering similar decorations to churches, halls and for government programmes, besides other events like weddings, birthday parties, felicitation programmes, baby showers and naming ceremonies, among others, all free of cost, billing only for travel expenses.

Platforms decorated by her using eco-friendly products for various programmes in Shivamogga | Shimoga Nandan
Platforms decorated by her using eco-friendly products for various programmes in Shivamogga | Shimoga Nandan

During her entire venture, there is zero waste produced, which is also good for the environment. Receiving many accolades from people, Mary now works to disseminate her noble, ingenious idea to future generations as well.

“My aim is to reduce waste from decorations at events and work towards zero waste. I make decorations as per the given theme of the event or as suggested by the clients. I also visit government schools to train children in making decorations from waste materials free of cost. During the outbreak of Covid, several craft teachers took lessons from me online. Many children who have learnt this art have tried to replicate it at home during festivals, by utilising the needed materials collected from me. Parents are happy that their children have learnt a useful and environment-friendly craft, which ultimately brings me immense joy and satisfaction. Any extra payment made by clients, after deducting my travel expenses, is given to charity,” she concludes.

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