PaperMelon: Recycling paper to crafty jewellery

Recycling paper has never looked this good! Devi Chanda tells Nupur Roopa about PaperMelon’s recycled paper jewellery.

Recycling paper has never looked this good! Devi Chanda tells Nupur Roopa about PaperMelon’s recycled paper jewellery.

A paper bead necklace by PaperMelon

What do you do with that pile of unwanted paper in your home, those brochures, pamphlets, bills and advertisements? Mostly, it is thrown away and ends up as trash. Even in this digital age, paper is still very much a part of our life. The convenience that paper offers is often the reason for its wastage. According to experts recycling a ton of paper can save 20 trees, 7000 gallons of water, three cubic yards of landfill space, 60 pounds of air pollutants, and saves enough energy to power the average home for six months. The junk mail industry destroys 100 million trees annually.

Peacock Neclace

Recognizing that recycling paper can save trees and protect our planet, Devi Chad started creating elegant jewellery from paper. An enthusiastic designer from Chennai, Devi daydreams, doodles, handcrafts and loves to convert everyday materials into exciting wearable pieces of art.

Participating in a costume jewellery project, she was inspired to make trendy and colourful paper jewellery from recycled paper, which was the starting point of PaperMelon.

Nupur Roopa speaks to Devi about how PaperMelon started and her vision for it:

Nupur Roopa: Tell us the story behind PaperMelon?

Devi Chad: As a child, I loved to make things and would often rummage my cartoonist dad’s dustbin to search for secret treasures. I loved making Christmas tree decorations and Santas from egg shells; glittery baubles from candy wrappers and gift boxes from empty match boxes would adorn the Christmas tree. My parents always supported and encouraged me.

Packaging products

I graduated in Accessory Design from National Institute of Fashion Technology, specializing in bags and footwear. At college we had a module on costume jewellery, a project for which I made a collection from recycled magazines, polythene covers, scrap wire, etc. I called it “Nothing is Waste.” Later, it inspired me to make jewellery from recycled paper. This was the beginning of my venture.

NR: How do you make your products?

DC: I love to sketch; it’s my favourite activity. I jot down the ideas in my sketch book and search for the right materials to create the designs. The next step is to brainstorm and draw many variations of one concept to see how best to blend the design and material. When I find the perfect combination, I put it all together. Sometimes I get attracted to a special paper, and the design process follows in reverse.

Doodling inspires Devi’s jewellery designs.

Paper bead making is a creative activity that requires a lot of time and patience. It takes time to master the technique, but practice makes you perfect. You can create paper beads in multiple shapes, for example, cylindrical, conical or drum-shaped. For me, paper beading activity is a meditative process.

Bead making

Firstly, I decide the shape of the paper beads and mark the paper with a pencil and ruler. The step involves cutting paper strips with a cutter or a scissor and rolling each bead on a tooth-pick. My beads are always hand-crafted; I never use a roller bead machine. I adore the feel of handmade beads. Next step involves applying a coat of varnish to make the beads water-resistant. Sometimes a paper bead may require more coats of varnish depending on the paper and design. Mostly, 1-3 coats are required. The beads are left to dry for a day and then a last coat of varnish is applied. The thoroughly dried beads are assembled to create the final piece. With this technique, you can make also strong beads or rings from cardboard.

NR: Where do you find inspiration?

Sun pendant necklace

DC: I make jewellery that looks happy, and passes on the happiness to the wearer. I love to experiment with unconventional materials, techniques and combination and inspiration from the different lovely things about my country. I am fascinated by bright colours and happy patterns that are a part of the culture and play a lot with them in my designs. The clothes we wear, the festivals we celebrate, even the food is colourful and spicy!

Nature inspires me a lot. For example, the idea for this item came up one day while I was in my backyard, where a cluster of dragon flies were just hanging out. It was beautiful to watch, and I later sketched in my design pad. After a few days, I came across this multi-toned paper; I just knew it was perfect for my dragonflies.

NR: Where can we buy your products?

DC: I currently sell only on Etsy.

NR: What have been your biggest challenges in this field?

DC: As a self-taught jewellery artist, it required a lot of research about tools, materials and techniques before developing the initial collections. The internet was a huge help. Further, it required months of practice before I got the right shape and quality of beads.

Cottage earrings

Another challenge was to develop a packaging system sturdy enough to protect the jewellery from damage in its long cross-border journey, which would also reflect the aesthetics of the brand. As a solution, I developed simple and strong cardboard boxes with a wooden texture, in varying sizes, which has fared well.

While selling online, photos are everything. With no previous experience in photography and absolutely no photography equipment, it was difficult to get the correct light and absorb the details. With practice, my photography skills improved. I use only natural light for my photos and make sure that each intricate detail gets captured in the picture.

Opening my Etsy shop was easy. Initially, however, I did not make any sale, which was disappointing. Later, I realised that visibility on the net is a must. I researched about Google search Optimization and tagging in Etsy, that helped my shop show up in searches, and ultimately lead to sales.

In the past, paper was considered precious as it was a rare commodity. Today it covers the whole planet. This increase in the use of paper is responsible for the disappearing forest cover that sustains life. Reducing paper wastage by recycling, reducing and reusing paper can reduce our carbon footprints to save this fragile planet. Innovative ways like PaperMelon will go a long way in doing just that.

Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She writes on environment, food, history, culture and parenting. She is also a qualified technical writer and instructional designer. more


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Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She writes on environment, food, history, culture and parenting. She is also a qualified technical writer and instructional designer. more

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