Eswari Amma says that paper has to be soaked for three days in starch, and then ground into a paste.
Eswari Amma beats paper to pulp and creates spoons, glasses and utensils from it.
The 66-year-old, who retired as a cook from the noon-meal centre of a Chennai Corporation school, now works as a cook at the residence of M.B. Nirmal, founder Exnora International, a non-governmental organisation.
“I saw my mother do this when I was a child, and learnt from her,” she says, sitting amidst students of Madras Christian College (MCC) on Tuesday.
As they sit together applying a paste of fenugreek soaked in water, the students, who are from various departments, say they will use this craft at their college to create dustbins and baskets using all the paper generated on their college campus.
Mekala Rajan, professor, department of English, MCC and Shyamala Lionel, professor, department of chemistry, say that they would be involving 20 students or more in the Centre for Women Studies’ ‘Clean and Create’ project. Ms. Mekala says that they collect close to 10 kg of paper from places like the record room, library and godowns.
Talking about the making of the utensils, Eswari Amma says that paper has to be soaked for three days in starch, and then ground into a paste.
“Once you choose the mould, you have to place a cotton cloth over it and apply the paste on it,” she says, adding that it has to be dried in the sun for two to three days to take shape.
When asked about whether she has considered making paper utensils to sell, she confesses that it has never crossed her mind. She adds that the utensils can only be used for dry storage.
Ms. Lionel says that the college is planning to host an exhibition of the products created by the students later in March.