What would you do if you come across a discarded bottle? Like most others, probably ignore it and move on. But definitely not Meenu Mariyam, who is literally turning trash into treasure with her unique skill. Meenu, who hails from Nalanchira in Thiruvananthapuram district, has so far transformed over hundred such bottles. She fishes out discarded glass bottles from the roadside with help from her friends, upcycles those in such a way they could be used to create an aesthetic decor.
Meenu turned to bottle art just seven months ago out of sheer love for it rather than with any goal of environmental conservation. But gradually, she began to craft environmentally harmful articles so that they could be used for a better purpose by using jute threads, photo frames, crafts, LED lights, paintings, embossing, lanterns and popular character figures.
Recently, the 25-year-old, who wants to become a teacher, paid a tribute to Noushad, a street vendor from Kochi who donated sacks full of new clothes for flood relief. Meenu, on knowing about his compassionate gesture, painted an image of Noushad carrying a sack full of clothes on his shoulder.
She also wrote a caption for it in Malayalam that says ‘A gift from Ananthapuri to Malayalis very own Ikka’.
An avid craft lover since childhood, Meenu started out painting on canvases and face. She has won numerous awards at inter-school and inter-collegiate competitions.
She cited her friend Jobin Prakash, who is an artist, as her guru and inspiration. He gives her the ideas and tips in enriching her artworks.
Meenu, who completed her Degree and Post-Graduation from Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram, is currently pursuing B.Ed. at Mar Theophilus Training College at Nalanchira. Although it is difficult to carry on with artistic pursuits along with studies, her classmates and teachers give her a lot of confidence.
"My college gave me enough strength to follow my passion," Meenu noted.
Initially, Meenu found it difficult to procure unwanted bottles. In the company of her friends and cousins, she roamed around different places in Thiruvananthapuram, seeking bottles for her work but now the situation has changed. "Instead of discarding bottles, people started bringing their bundles of bottles to me. It is a blessing that I don't have to go searching for it now," she said.
Another breakthrough in her budding career was the overwhelming response for her creative work from many including friends, teachers and acquaintances. Soon, word spread and more orders began pouring in. She then decided to sell her artwork through her Instagram page under the name 'Kanmashi' (which means 'collyrium'). Also, she started to gift her curios to her friends and relatives.
Interestingly, today some people even come up to her with new ideas and want her to transform them into art.
When asked about the name 'Kanmashi', Meenu said "collyrium is black but it can beautify and still spread happiness."
She considers this truth as a major concept behind recycled and reused bottle art. "The black, useless bottles can still be converted into something wonderful and beautiful," she remarked.
Meenu's family consists of her father Jayakumar, mother Alice and a younger sister Julie. "My family gives me immense support and motivation for doing my work. They even give advices regarding the technical side of the bottle art and help a lot in managing it along with my studies," she said.
Meenu plans to continue her tryst with art and encourages more people to engage in such activities. She also ensures that garbage items are made worthy enough for people to continue the upcycling activity. Thus she is on an environmental crusade in which craft and conservation are brought under a single umbrella.
If you are inspired by Meenu’s efforts, she recommends these five easy steps to give a creative spin to the bottles:
● Collect the bottles, clean them thoroughly and remove the stickers on them if any.
● For the background colour, apply three layers of the acrylic paint. This ensures that colour doesn’t become dull and glass is not visible. It will also give a different texture to the bottle.
● Designing. Choose what you want to paint on the bottle.
● Apply a chemical coat or a varnish paint to ensure that paint doesn’t wear off. Apply varnish once every year for best results.