Couple Cristelle Hart and Ravinder Pal Singh’s store, Amay, hosts a curious collection of products from reused goods
At the entrance to a little lane, tucked away just off Bazaar Road in Mattancherry, is a wooden window shutter standing upright with the name ‘Amay’ on it. “Social, recycled, ecological, handmade, bio, colourful, ethical,” read painted words below it. That’s a good enough introduction to Amay, the shop run by Cristelle Hart, a British-Swiss decade-long resident in India, and her husband Ravinder Pal Singh.
Step into Amay and to your left are two large empty water cans, each immersed with a long wooden pole. Another pole with hangers off it connects the two rods, and bright shawls, scarves and dupattas hang from it. Beside, sit upturned buckets with cushioned tops that display more folded scarves. Four large tyres with a wooden plank across them present bags and purses, while recycled fruit and vegetable crates nailed to the walls around make for tidy shelves. “All the display furniture at Amay have been picked up and repurposed from Mattancherry’s many markets,” says Cristelle.
Amay began four years ago as an initiative to fund ‘Dil Se’, the NGO for children run by Cristelle and Ravinder. First housed in a small space on Calvathy Road, the shop stored handmade and recycled goods that the couple picked up from their travels in Madurai and Pondicherry.
“Back then too, we wanted to keep things simple, showcase goods that reflected what we believed in and display everything as cost-effectively as possible,” says Cristelle. While Amay now resides where Kashi Art Gallery once was, crates and old doors, bamboo rods and buckets have always made for their display furniture.
These principles extend to what Amay retails in its current avatar as well. Its products are sourced from NGOs across South India, as well as handmade by Amay itself. “The Belaku Trust in Bangalore gives us their block printed scarves, bead necklaces made of old magazine papers, embroidered shawls and notebooks from handmade paper,” informs Cristelle.
There are bags made of leftover cloth from tailoring units, or recycled salwars and saris by artist Radha Gomathy, floor mats from the relief settlement in Palluruthy, magnets, coasters, scrapbooks, and cards made of paper from elephant dung, and trays and pendants made from discarded glass bottles by Joy Menachery in Kochi. For a dash of colour, there are products by Chumbak, Purple Jungle and Pink Jalebi as well. “When we chose products, we always try and trace where they come from. It’s important to us that their processes are ethical and responsible to the environment as well,” says Cristelle.
Besides the innovative display methods, Cristelle’s creativity is visible in Amay’s own products. A wooden board with the word ‘Recycle’ written in soda-bottle caps announces goods made from used milk tetra packs. “We drink a whole lot of milk as a family,” laughs Cristelle, “So we found ways to reuse the packs.” Smart re-folding of the pack makes for several pockets in a purse that is held together with a string and a wooden button.
The shelf also holds Cristelle’s use-and-throw slip-on chappals for budget travellers that are .made from opened-out cartons cut in slippers’ shape and covered with soft cloth. There are even ashtrays and candle holders made from old cartons; former night dresses are now handbags and discarded lungis are little coin purses. “The hope is just to show people that if they want to make a difference, they can!” Amay is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.