“We only use The Hindu,” says Danny Merguei, of Wellpaper. “It’s the only newspaper where the print does not smudge the women’s hands.”

The Wellpaper team: Danny and ‘Boss’ Devi

It is this attention to detail that characterises Wellpaper, an organization born out of the destruction wreaked by the 2004 tsunami. “We witnessed so much catastrophe. The tsunami left villages homeless and unemployed,” says Danny.

Danny and his family had just arrived at Auroville two months before the tsunami. They decided to stay back and help the communities through this empowerment project. “And I never left,” says Danny, nursing a bad throat and sipping hot water from a flask.

Today, nearly 18 years later, the WELL project (Women Empowerment through Local Livelihoods), has as its mainstay the creation of products and personal accessories made from recycled newspaper (not any old newspaper, as Danny tells me). The women who are part of the project conduct workshops for other women and organisations.

A bowl made from recycled newspaper

The Wellpaper unit is the last building in the village, and is an airy space. Built from natural brick, the open workshop space and the store feel cool and natural, much like their products. Women walk in after their morning’s work at home, and start on their projects. Apart from the recycled newspaper products, there are others too: jewellery made from old CDs, for instance.

As Danny and Devi (‘the boss’, as Danny calls her) show me around the store, there are an amazing array of products, made from three processes: papier mache pulp, weaving, and coiling. Once the newspaper is made into the desired shape, it is painted on. Here too, the organisation’s focus on sustainability is apparent, as the paint they use is lead-free.

How a paper mache elephant takes shape–from the bottle to the trunk!

There are bowls, baskets and the like, home décor items, and jewellery. The small “store” at the back of the shop has Christmas ornaments, paper mats, paper mache bowls, and many other products.

COVID wreaked havoc on Wellpaper, and they are looking for orders to get the women’s livelihoods back on track. Your purchase on Club Artizen will go a long way in ensuring that.


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