Feats of clay


Embodying innovation and creativity, Panaji-based Alpa Pai Raikar has started designing eco-friendly Ganesh idols using clay and paper


For Alpa Pai Raikar, what began as a fun little hobby catapulted into a full-blown entrepreneurial and design venture. The Panaji-based architect reveals: “I began folding paper as a hobby in school. And as time went on, I mastered these skills; from folding tiny butterflies to crafting giant paper flowers and so on.” Presently as the proprietor of Hasanchitr, she has been crafting wonders out of paper showcasing an exquisite range of eco-friendly and innovative paper products such as chandeliers, lamps, bags, envelopes, and backdrops crafted using different breeds of paper.

And as the idol-making process begins ahead of the Ganesh festival, she has also started designing eco-friendly Ganesh idols. “After the ban on Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols a few years back, I started wondering what could be better alternative,” she says. The answer came to her when she along with a friend, stumbled upon a similar thought: paper and clay. Using paper and clay is a green alternative to the traditionally used PoP idols crafted using synthetic paints, she shares adding that the latter do not dissolve in water easily and even reduce the oxygen level in water, killing fishes and other aquatic species.

But despite the major threat to the environment, moving away from traditional PoP idols isn’t so easy. Novel ideas take time to get assimilated in society, she says. “However many are already aware of the dangers of using PoP idols and are doing their bit. It may take a while but the message will definitely get through,” she adds.

For Raikar, it typically takes almost four days to craft an average-size idol of one foot. “It is a tedious job to put together paper and clay in the mould. This mould has to stay steady and firm,” she says, adding that she uses all kinds of paper to create the idols such as handmade paper, textured, tinted, newspapers, and more.

And each product stands as a testament to the creativity, heart and energy poured into it. “Creativity is something that knows no bounds. Though challenging, it is fun to experiment with different items and put it together to create a masterpiece,” she says.

The latest idols are made using ‘rewa’ red soil found in the Konkan region. “So the idols are absolutely non-toxic. On immersion, the soil can be used for growing plants,” she says. The idols are lightweight and stronger than other idols.

“What we take from nature we should ensure to return,” she says, emphasising on the importance of keeping festivities green so as to keep the carbon footprint at a minimum and thus restore the balance in nature.

“Protecting the environment is protecting ourselves. Stay safe, stay healthy,” she says.