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Updated: March 7, 2012 18:53 IST

Bottling up Dr. Seuss and Qwimby the mouse

Archana Nathan
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Chief cook and bottle washer: Sharanya juggles a full-time job in production design in Mumbai and designing custom-made lamps. Photo: Satish Badiger
Chief cook and bottle washer: Sharanya juggles a full-time job in production design in Mumbai and designing custom-made lamps. Photo: Satish Badiger

She puts together recycled bottles and energy efficient lamps to craft lights

The ingredients are specific, yet simple — some acrylic paint, a strip of LED lights, and some Johnnie Walker. Put together on one lazy afternoon some seven months back, the ensemble made up Sharanya Menon's brand of custom-made lights that she calls High-Light.

Based in Mumbai, Sharanya was at Palace Grounds to showcase these unique lights at the Sunday Soul Santhe, an arts and crafts bazaar held regularly in the city.

Sitting behind the counter in her stall at the santhe, Sharanya narrated the story of how High-Light was not something she had planned.

“I was between jobs back then and had nothing much to do. One afternoon, I came across these old Johnnie Walker bottles in my grandmother's house in Mumbai where I live. I decided to paint them. And then I came up with the idea of putting lights in those bottles,” she said.

Little did she know then that these bottle-lights would become a hit among her family and friends who were her first customers.

Playing with light

“I wanted to do something different. I have seen lamps and even bulbs in bottles. I wanted to explore how else light could work inside a bottle along with paint,” she explained.

So first she tried different kinds of paint. Acrylic, instead of watercolours, she felt added more texture and depth to the painting on the bottle. When it came to lights, initially, she tried using dry cells. But then, she realised, that if the bottles were not big enough, they would melt and there was a risk of short-circuit.

“I then thought that since I'm using old bottles and recycling them, why not use a more energy efficient option like LED lights. They don't use as much energy as bulbs and also last longer,” she said.

The end-product is put together by placing a strip of LED lights inside the painted bottle.

How is the theme for the painting chosen? “Generally people tell me what they would like to see on their bottle. Though most of the time they leave it up to me. I also have a list of themes I'd like to explore,” she described. Lined up on the counter were a variety of bottles and Sharanya had names for most of them. “Bhoomshankar, Quimby the mouse and tree of life were some of the names; and the names were quite literal. “For example, there was this bottle I painted based on a comic-strip featuring Quimby the mouse,” she said.

She prepares the outline sketch of the painting on paper and then sends it across to the customer for approval.

This sketch, she says, is also prepared after doing research and using some references.


The idiom ‘chief cook and bottle washer' fits best to describe what Sharanya is to her brand. She handles everything from the design, to the website, to publicity and sales.

“I believe in giving the person a personalised, custom-made product. I have set up a page on Facebook, where I upload pictures of my work and people send me emails when they want to place an order,” she added.

She now juggles a full-time job in production design in Mumbai and designing custom-made bottle lights. Dropping in at the Sunday Soul Santhe for the first time, Sharanya was overwhelmed with the response from Bangalore.

“The response was fantastic. People thought it was a nice concept and appreciated my work,” she said.


Dropping InMarch 9, 2011

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