In Jenny Pinto’s hands, the humble banana fibre turns into art that can also illuminate your living room
A successful career in advertising is not something you give up easily. But in the late 90s, Jenny Pinto felt her job was no longer creatively satisfying. And conversations on sustainable living, which had just started making the rounds of Mumbai drawing rooms, had made her want to do something about it. So she moved to Bengaluru and decided to take up pottery. “I’d even registered with Ray Meeker in Pondicherry when I met someone who was making paper at home. I hadn’t realised until then that it was so easy to do. I read up about it and instinctively felt this was the medium I wanted to work with,” recalls the petite 56-year-old.
Her leap of faith 17 years ago has resulted in a range of sculptural lighting solutions and home décor. And we’ll get to see her latest collection—some inspired by her love for nature and others by city skylines and her interest in architecture—which she is bringing to the city this weekend.
Making paper the old-fashioned way at her eco-friendly brick-and-mud studio in Bengaluru, Pinto says she uses banana fibre to create her translucent and textured paper. “The way I process the fibre makes strong paper that gives me a lot of scope to do sculptural work,” she adds. But she admits the learning curve was gradual because in India we are still just scratching the surface of this art. “During the early days, I used to correspond a lot with artists abroad. I even spent the summer of 2000 with Helen Hiebert, an artist in the US, who had the same interests as me,” says Pinto, who helped Hiebert out with her book, Paper Illuminated (2001).
With the help of 12 crafters at her studio—which is open to anyone who wants to observe them work—Pinto has since broadened her range to include accent windows (textured paper sandwiched between glass) and tapestries, where the paper is woven on looms. “While our smaller lamps take four days to make, the larger, site-specific lights—like an architectural ceiling light we’ve just sent to the Mumbai airport—take us over four weeks to do,” she states. Admitting that the scenario has changed in India today (“the fact that paper is something people will consider is a huge change and I hope I’ve been instrumental in it in a small way”), she adds that there is so much more left to do. “I want to experiment with more sculptural work in the future. One lifetime isn’t enough,” she smiles.
October 10-16, at Amethyst. From Rs 1,500. Details: 45991633
Surya Praphulla Kuamr