Typically, when you think paper, you think disposable. At least most of us do, which is probably one reason the UAE has such a notably sized carbon footprint. It is a mindset Dubai-based Raina Chandra is working to free us from. Back in 2005, she set up Rainassance, a line of jewellery made from recycled paper. The idea came to her while studying at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in India.
‘We used a lot of paper for our projects, and as I hardly threw away anything, when the time came to dispose of it, I decided to think of ways to make something useful instead,’ she says. The ‘something useful’ turned out to be paper beads that were then used to make necklaces and earrings. She didn’t expect any financial returns or commercial success when she began her experiments.
‘The jewellery was something I made for myself,’ she says. ‘Eventually I passed my work along to friends and they responded positively. So I started selling my jewellery at the Artisans of the Emirates souks.’ By the end of the interview, I find myself several dirhams poorer, but five jewellery items richer. Chandra obviously gets a sense of satisfaction when people appreciate her art.
‘It’s rewarding when people buy my work. They’re not just buying another necklace; they’re buying something that means something to them,’ she says. She also admits to getting a high when she has customers coming back for repeat buys.
Of course, we can’t help but wonder whether her line could be part of a fad. I mean, isn’t it possible that the appetite for ‘green’ goods could be waning? But Chandra isn’t worried, partly because she doesn’t view what she does as just some trend.
‘This is something I’ve always chosen to do,’ she says. ‘If you’re creating something, you have the freedom to choose your medium; that’s where you can exercise your creativity. It’s just how you perceive things. Paper, after all, is a very precious resource.’
Rainassance is an interesting name – an obvious play on the word ‘renaissance’. How did she come about with that flash of inspiration? ‘As you know, “renaissance” refers to rebirth or giving something a new life, which is in line with my concept. I just played around with the word and fit my name into it. The name reflects my ideas.’
Expanding further on the work involved in her creations, she tells us quite indignantly that her paper jewellery must not be mistaken for papier-mâché: ‘What I do involves rolling the paper into tight beads; I make lots of beads simultaneously, rather than working on one piece at a time.’
The process sounds like it takes a lot of hard work and an equal amount of patience. She agrees. But something special does come out of all her efforts.
‘Since I make the beads by hand, every bead is different. That means each piece is unique, almost like a limited edition’ she tells me proudly. What are her plans for Rainassance in the future? A little boutique on the street corner perhaps? Chandra says she would love to expand her concept even further and make it a bigger venture. She also has plans to use more eco-friendly material in the future. ‘I use water colours to colour some beads,’ she explains ‘If I had more time I could use natural dyes or make the dyes myself. That’s something I really look forward to doing when I have more time to dedicate to making Rainassance even greener than it is now.’
Rainassance jewellery is available at Arte – Artisans of the Emirates – souks (www.arte.ae, firstname.lastname@example.org). Times Square Centre, Dhs10-50.