Finding Beauty in Waste

Iris C F Gomes

Kamakshi Shenoy has discovered a way to combine her artistic skills with upcycling waste products to fashion attractive jewellery that should be part of the collection of any die-hard lover of artificial adornments. This native Goan’s passion for craftwork is evident in the ingenuous embellishments she conjures up with a confluence of colours and unlikely materials.

This graduate in Business Management started her career with the Times Group in Mumbai, promoting the Times of India’s ‘Newspaper in Education’ programme. After eighteen months at the Times of India, Kamakshi moved on to the Herald in Goa, and following that took up employment with Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd (92.7 Big FM) as a sales manager for ad space. After her marriage in 2008, Kamakshi moved to Chandigarh and joined the same company. ‘I have been into craftwork since my school days. But with a hectic work life and a busy social circle craftwork had to take a backseat,’ says Kamakshi.

In April 2013, Kamakshi and her husband moved back to Goa after his transfer from Chandigarh. The odds were against getting back into the workforce with most jobs available being six-day week options as opposed to her husband’s five-day week. Besides, the couple’s mutual love of travel coupled with often visiting relatives meant taking up something that allowed flexible working hours. Kamakshi says, ‘I had been posting my work on Facebook for some time. My friends pushed me to go commercial with it, and I did just that!’

Kamakshi’s present occupation of producing striking jewellery out of waste stems from craftwork, which has been an old hobby. She says, ‘While in school, I used to create a lot of junk!’ Her parents, however, must have recognised the emerging talent that was to be and actively encouraged her, storing away the traces of the accomplishments of her childhood.

The first memory of creating something out of waste is set in her history class, history being her least favourite subject. Putting on the pretence of attention, the  backbencher that she was, Kamakshi cut empty ballpoint pen refills  and strung 

them together, thus producing her first piece of creative jewellery with waste. ‘I love handmade stuff and creating something beautiful with objects that are otherwise discarded is a fabulous feeling. It’s not just business to me. It's more a mixture of passion and convenience. Passion because I love creating things and convenience because I do it when I have free time on my hands,’ says Kamakshi.

The main components of her jewellery are derived from paper and plastic waste. This includes wedding cards, fliers, cartons (soap boxes), etc in paper and mainly soft drink and shampoo bottles in plastic, collected with help from relatives and friends.

A few preliminary measures make sure the buyer procures quality items. Any stickers on the waste objects need to be removed. The plastic waste is then disinfected with Dettol or a similar sterilising product followed by shampooing. Paper is coated with a synthetic enamel to make it water resistant. Beads are then shampooed or washed 2-3 times as a quality check.

Some examples of Kamakshi’s jewellery from waste are as follows:

The necklace in image one has been made using a gold-coloured wedding invitation card. The paper was cut into long triangles and rolled with a toothpick starting with the wider base. The glue was then applied evenly and the paper was rolled to form the beads as seen in the picture. These beads were then dipped in wood polish and left to dry. Once dried, they were washed with shampoo and Dettol and dried again. A nylon thread was used to string the beads together, with additional decorative beads if required for a chic enhancement to your fashion statement.

A Garnier shampoo bottle was used to make the feathered earrings in image two. The plastic bottle was cut in the shape of a feather, using a paper punch for the hole. The plastic was cut along the edges to make it look like a feather and jump rings and hooks were added to form a fashionista’s delight.

Image three shows earrings made from soap and toothpaste cartons (9 layers). They can be cut in various shapes: round, square, oval or rectangle. Holes were made evenly, using a paper punch. The shapes (of a particular type) were stuck together and dried with a heavy book kept on top of them for pressure. Once dry, the edges were polished with sandpaper and paint was applied. (For the same sort of earrings, a wedding card could be stuck on both sides, dipped in polish and dried). It was then washed with disinfectant and shampoo. Once dry, jump rings and hooks were added for a charming addition to your earring collection.

People’s response to Kamakshi’s creations has been positive. The wide array of upcycled jewellery is sold mainly through stores under the name of Paperkrafts. Occasionally Kamakshi participates in exhibitions like Wipe Out Waste. ‘At every exhibition, people like to see  something different,’ she says.  
She also sells through an online portal called,  which recycles shipping materials as well. As for registering with other online giants, Kamakshi disapproves of their packing and shipping standards, which are not in agreement with her own as they generate a lot of waste. 

Kamakshi’s reaction to the consumerist culture that generates all this waste is pragmatic. She acknowledges that it is the consumer who aids economic growth and that these are products we have been habitually using. It will take time to eliminate them from our lives completely. She says, ‘Unknowingly, we generate almost 3-4 kilos of plastic waste every month, even if we carry a bag to the market! The only way out is to recycle waste. I parcel (India post) my plastic waste to Rudra Environmental Solutions ( in Pune, where it is melted into fuel (alternative to kerosene) and sludge for road building.’

Reduce-reuse-recycle is the advice Kamakshi has for those addicted to shopping. Once a serial shopper, she confesses she was out of control, buying things she did not need. Now her self-control and restraint is commendable.

Even though some extra elements are required to enhance the appeal of the final product and some stores ask for plastic packaging for her jewellery, Kamakshi does her utmost to reduce any resultant waste. In her own way, she is contributing to alleviating the burden on the environment through her upcycling of waste, adding aesthetic value to what was once considered only fit for the rubbish heap. Her example is one we could all stand to follow to preserve our planet from being inundated with waste.

To view more of Kamakshi’s 

creations, please visit her 

Facebook page Papercrafts