Jenny Pinto was the quintessential Mumbai animal in the early 1990s, happy with all the trappings that a 17-year-old successful career in advertising could give her—a car, a house, a full social life. Till the day the creativity bug bit her.
“My family and friends couldn’t believe that I wanted to walk away from the career I had slogged so much for and from the advertising film production company that I set up from scratch, in the quest of a vague creative urge that had taken hold of me,” says this diminutive 47-year-old. Even so, in 1996, Pinto decided to move to Bangalore and start afresh.
The result of her leap of faith is an amazing range of lights, home accessories, and sculptures that she creates out of handmade banana fibre paper, at her quaint brick-and-mud studio in the outskirts of Bangalore. And her range now sells at FabIndia, Mumbai’s Palette, Kian and Bungalow 8, and Chennai’s Amethyst.
Making paper the old-fashioned way, Pinto has spent the last five years creating a range of striking translucent and textured paper from agricultural and craft waste fibres such as banana, sisal, mulberry, and various river grasses.
The shift to Bangalore came after years of ad film production for multinationals such as P&G and Hindustan Lever Ltd. “I was sleep-walking through it and wanted to do something creative with my hands and something that would also be ecologically friendly.” So, when she read up on the Internet about paper artists, she decided to try her hand at it.
Her foray into making lights was not planned, but “was a natural extension of my involvement with ad film-making where lighting is so important”, says the artist.
While the move away from Mumbai was meant to get rid of the pressures of deadlines and the rat race, she now describes herself as a reluctant entrepreneur, having been discovered by Bangaloreans at a craft fair she took part in some four years ago. FabIndia, which runs a large outlet in Bangalore, persuaded her to do a line of lamps, and before she knew it, she was chasing delivery deadlines to meet that commitment.
Her portfolio soon expanded to include a range of accent windows—textured paper, grass or leaves—sandwiched between glass, to be used as windows to visually stunning effect.
Pinto’s products take inspiration from nature, be it a luminous shell-shaped lamp using paper and twigs, or a towering granite pillar embedded with textured paper.
Her love for nature led her to build a studio that harvests and recycles rainwater for the very water-intensive papermaking process.
While her smaller lights take two or three days, she says a recent custom-made one, 20ft in diameter, took more than three weeks of manual work and cost about Rs3.5lakh. “But like everything else in our country that is handmade, people crib about the cost. They don’t realize the amount of work that is involved.”
Having found her groove in the last five years, Pinto says the restless feeling is creeping back again.