Meet the Kerala man who makes art from waste materials in his spare time

Sunil hopes to be able to make an income out of his art, in order to further support his passion.
Sunil B
Sunil B
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The job of a security guard is generally considered a mundane one—sitting in a cabin or on a chair, for close to 12 hours a day. However, Sunil B’s job as a security guard of a housing society in Mudavanmukal of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is conducive to his real interest—art. The 48-year-old is stationed in a small cabin outside the compound of SI Glen Valley Embassy Homes. Near the register for visitors to sign in are two beautifully painted bottles, with plants growing out of them. Inside the cabin as well, there is an array of bottled painted in interesting colours and patterns, as well as other handicrafts made using waste materials. All of these were made by Sunil during his spare time on the job.

"When I was in school, I used to get prizes for drawing. I was interested in craft too, but I hardly got any opportunity to do it. I didn’t continue my education after pre-degree (Class 12), and from then onwards it has been a struggle to make a living. I did not have the privilege to follow my passion," Sunil says.

Until recently, Sunil said that he could not find the time to draw even one picture, as he was always busy with daily jobs. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was struggling to find work to make ends meet.

"During the lockdown, my 13-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son learned how to do ‘bottle art’ through YouTube videos. Apart from drawing, they also made different crafts. I would watch them do all these things, but I wished I could join them,” Sunil adds.

Six months ago, Sunil decided to join a security agency, through which he was hired to work at SI Glen Valley. "When I had day duty, I had a lot of time. I started watching YouTube videos on bottle art. Since I had many disposable bottles lying around, I decided to try making art on them. Almost 30 years after my schooling days, I finally started doing some art," he shares.

Sunil bought some glass paints and brushes out of his salary, and collected waste materials on which he could make his art. Painted bottles, table lamps made of coconut shells, cardboard and paper, and pen stands using disposable glass PVC pipes were all crafted by him.

"People who lived in the villas encouraged me a lot after seeing my works. They brought me more bottles, and some asked me to do art for them and even paid me. Initially it was a bit tough as I did not have any experience," he shares.

Though Sunil is happy to have found his passion, he would like to do more with it. "I would like to do this more. The more I do it, the more expertise I am gaining. To take it to the next level, I should be more professional. I cannot get the required raw materials out of my salary alone; if I start to make an income through my art, I would be able to do more with it," he expresses.

Sunil’s preferred medium is waste materials. “They are low-cost, and if they are used well, we don’t even have to litter,” he adds.

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