Aardra – Lending a makeover to paper waste

by Team Conscious Carma

Aardra means new or fresh in Sanskrit. Now, it also means giving the much-loved newspaper a long-overdue makeover. It’s about weaving used newspaper into products to carry around, take home, and hold precious memories.

“At aardra, the aim is to upcycle newspaper. So it’s not turned into papier-mâché or pulp. Instead, we make sure the newspaper can no longer absorb moisture, then roll and manoeuvre tubes of the paper into clever patterns of warps and wefts, before priming and finishing. What you get is a product that not only looks good and strong but can be immediately used”, says its founder Vidya Nag who started the venture in 2014.

A native of Bangalore, Vidya Nag has worked for startups and enjoyed corporate life at Wipro before turning to art, full-time.  Her formal education has been in Engineering from RVCE and a Master’s degree in Marketing from Symbiosis.  

She has been practising art since her childhood, inherited the skill from her mother. A self-taught artist, she spent her growing years focusing on academics to lead her to corporate life. But her heart was in the paints and the canvas. Once she created a good financial cushion for herself, she was ready to risk moving towards what she wanted to do, PAINT. 

Her first public presentation as an artist was through a series of paintings, which were transcreations of temple architecture and monuments. She chose to celebrate the splendour of Hoysala sculptures by recreating them in paint and by visualizing the ruins as completed works of art. Two years of extensive research and travelled to these creations. While her explorations in art continue strong,  Vidya has initiated Aardra, upcycling the humble daily newspaper for personal, lifestyle and interior décor purposes. 

What’s unique about Aardra?

The choice of the newspaper as the primary material. “Let’s consider some of the existing alternatives. Comparable products made of plastic or rubber will have to be made from scratch and will eventually turn up as non-biodegradable waste. On the other hand, newspapers are easily available and in huge numbers. By upcycling, we would be eliminating an entire layer of landfills”, adds Vidya.

Why should someone buy it?

Because you’re not simply buying the product, you’re buying into a more sustainable and responsible lifestyle choice.

The Aardra ecosystem

Aardra products are typically created using a two-stage process. The first part being drawing tubes using newspaper strips. The second part is weaving the tubes into functional products. Every stage requires skill and dexterity.

We found both attributes readily available in the elderly – it’s one reason why our ecosystem heavily relies on their strengths and availability as our workforce. Our experience in working with them has also made us realize that they bring along an abundance of patience, perseverance and an irrepressible zest to contribute to the creative process. On their part, when they see the final product, they see a solid, tangible result that they have hand-woven and hand-made. We have witnessed the joy and triumph they feel as much as the tactile sensation that is created by working with their hands. We find that fills them with a sense of purpose, which is infectious. We could not ask for a more enthusiastic or energetic bunch of co-creators. And, It has benefitted them physically, mentally and financially.

Aardra Coaster set

While the happiness of a hand-made product is arguable, we have found evidence and encouragement through research that indicates that working with hands can forge new neurological pathways in our brains. Such pathways are not possible in a less physically active environment.

Working with hands has been known to help people struggling with anxiety, depression, panic attacks or post-traumatic stress. Physical activities such as knitting or weaving can bring back much-needed focus, purposefulness, calm and satisfaction. 

Aardra’s product line includes totes, market bags, sling bags, clutches, handy organiser boxes and trays, packing cases, jewellery chests, book racks, and magazine holders to name a few. 

Available at: Selling it through word of mouth so far.  The website is coming soon as they plan to spread their wings

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