By Shalini Passi, artist and entrepreneur
For an instant I could see myself from above: wading through heaps of rusting metal, plastic bags and the remnants of former lives people had discarded. As I picked up the piston of an engine, imagining the beautiful silhouette it would create if transformed into a candle holder, I thought how funny it would be if people knew that here, in a pile of garbage, my business sense was born.
I have been actively involved in recycled Art for the past four years and my passion took me to many such places to find discarded treasures. I have found that my country, India, is changing and with this change comes unforeseen environmental impact. Whereas in the past it was considered culturally inappropriate to throw away unwanted food or goods, waste is now becoming commonplace. Previously, it was uncommon to buy items wrapped in plastic bags; now, everything from milk to produce comes individually packaged. These changes are turning India into a throw-away consumerist culture, a transition mirroring other emerging nations. Now, more than ever, we need socially-conscious entrepreneurs to help mitigate growth’s negative consequences on the environment. Social entrepreneurs and artists specializing in recycled Art have much to learn from each other about reusing and improving both materials and ideas.
I strongly believe in the importance of artists to practice social responsibility; Art and design should not be limited to their visual appeal. With its substantial possibilities for connecting with people on a deeper level, Art needs to be something that impacts society in a positive way. I wanted to give new form and function to discarded material. Each object and material has its own beauty and a unique story; old materials no longer retain their previous function, and thus have infinite possibilities for transformation and adaptation. As a young artist with a unique perspective, I have been able to find innovative solutions to turn waste materials into functional and beautiful pieces. Just as social entrepreneurs push sectors to rethink business approaches to societal problems, I want to change the way people look at “junk,” and open their eyes to its beauty and utility.
Art has helped me, and many other young entrepreneurs, to build the necessary skills to create in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The process of creating recycled Art has taught me to rethink used materials into something appealing and completely novel, a concept that has greatly shaped my understanding of business and entrepreneurship as well. As the famous Australian economist Joseph Schumpeter eloquently stated, “Business has much to learn from the Arts … Companies are scouring the world for new ideas. In their quest for creativity, they surely have something to learn from the creative industries.”