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How Jenny Pinto’s Oorja uses paper to create stunning installations-like lighting

Besides exquisitely crafted furniture, charming wallpapers and art, lights can add character to anybody’s living space. But with so much available, it becomes a task to pick up lights that blend perfectly with your decor scheme. There are interesting options available in mettle, wood and even concrete, but Jenny Pinto’s Bangalore-based lighting brand Oorja, is taking it to a different level – their hero material is paper.

Quirky table lamps, oversized ceiling lights, cylindrical lamps, and statement pieces which blur the line between lighting and art come to define Pinto’s vision. After being in advertising for almost 20 years in Mumbai, she found her sweet spot in making and experimenting with different forms of paper, and gradually realised that lighting and paper can be a great combination. Something which started with experimenting with different ways of conceiving paper now is an acclaimed brand – Pinto has intrigued home decor aficionados and has collaborated with the likes of FabIndia, Bungalow Eight in Mumbai and Amethyst in Chennai. 

Pinto speaks to Lifestyle Asia on her brand’s journey so far and how paper became a tool for her experiments.

Image: Courtesy Oorjaa
Image: Courtesy Oorjaa

Tell us the story behind your brand? Why did you choose to experiment with paper? 

Oorjaa is a recent story. The story really began 20 years ago, when my lights were still marketed under my name – I discovered hand paper-making. It was a craft that really captivated me because of its ephemeral nature on one hand, and i’s resilience and strength on the other. I began to explore its amazing qualities that allowed me to sculpt, manipulate, and create. On another level, I also loved the fact that it could be made by recycling waste and in fact, paper can almost be endlessly recycled.

What inspired you to launch your brand? What gap did you observe in the Indian market that prompted you to go ahead? 

The paper that we were making from banana fibre and lokta fibre was so beautiful, it inspired me to use it for lighting. It has romance and poetry when combined with light like no other material has. It was almost a no-brainer. Paper and light are made for each other – a serendipitous combination.

Image: Courtesy Oorjaa
Image: Courtesy Oorjaa

Can you walk us through your creative process? Is there any specific philosophy that you are driven by? How do you blend art in your creations?

Paper from the natural fibres I was using had a very gossamer and tactile quality that inspired me to look at nature itself for inspiration. The organic geometry of the natural world inspired many of the organic and sculptural lights you find in my portfolio. Nature combines science, art, and design in ways far beyond human imagination, we just have to have the humility to see it and respect it.   

Tell us a little bit about your studio/manufacturing unit? How big is your team?

We started as just a two-member team in 1998. My assistant and myself. today, 20 years later we have about 35 people working in Oorjaa. Apart from our small design team, all the artisans are trained in our studio. 

Image: Courtesy Oorjaa
Image: Courtesy Oorjaa

How did your shift from ad-films to decor come about? 

I do not put a label to what I do. Whether I am directing ad films or making paper or designing lights, or writing or cooking,  I see myself as a creative being finding a way to express myself. So from ad films to paper-making was not a shift. Just movement and very often the movement is inwards. 

In a market which at times is driven by very traditional sensibilities, how do you plan to familiarise the idea of your label to the masses?

The Indian market today has a very open mind. People have an awareness and a curiosity about other cultures, other places other ways of doing things. People are willing to experiment, even with personal styles. So we find people have a lot of interest in Oorjaa. 

Sustainability is a buzzword these days. How do you incorporate it into your brand’s functioning?

In many ways. All our material is basically from waste and can be recycled. Paper is from agricultural waste, our wabi-sabi range is from quarry waste, and we have a range of lights made from waste cork. Our processes are handcrafted so minimal energy is used. Our studio is a green building, we harvest rainwater and recycle grey water, we minimise the use of plastic and thermacol in our packaging.

Image: Courtesy Oorjaa
Image: Courtesy Oorjaa

Expansion plans?

2018 was a year we expanded. Oorjaa as a brand was born. We now have several shop-in-shops. And yes, you will see more and more of Oorjaa in the next few years. 

How Jenny Pinto’s Oorja uses paper to create stunning installations-like lighting

Anupam Dabral

Sr. Associate Editor

It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

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