Upcycling means creative reuse, is the process of transforming waste materials or unwanted useless products into new materials or goods that have a better quality or for better environmental value. Greece has quite poor waste management and single-use plastic is very popular, only to consider plastic shop bags and straws for drinks. But, at the same time, there is also a plastic-free movement growing fast. In this scenario, there are many creatives who are using their talent to upcycle plastic into something with a new vision, to transform single-use plastic into art.
Diti comes from a country full of colors, smells, and contradictions. She found herself in Athens following her heart. She considers living in this country an opportunity to start her plastic upcycling initiative, Théla, which aims to reduce the amount of the single-use plastic that ends up in our landfills and oceans, and increase awareness about its impact and alternatives.
I met Diti while visiting 3QUARTERS, another great upcycling project in Athens. As in some situation happens, we discussed not only about their work, also about personal lives, sharing our experiences. John told me he was married to Diti, whom he met in London, where I also used to live. That they just came back from India, her country of origin. When I was in London, I used to also work, for almost 3 years, in an Indian Restaurant, I asked him from which region she was from and he said Gujarati. My eyes lighted up as ‘my’ restaurant name was Gujarati Rasoi. For three years this place had been my lucky talisman and not only, and I am still very attached to it.
Almost by the end of my visit to 3QUARTERS shop in Psyrri, Diti came in, she went up to the workshop to speak to John, and when she was about to live, we got introduced and, on her way to the door, I said to her ‘augio’, which in Gujarati means ‘bye’. She turned to me very touched saying that it was the first time she heard that word in Athens (months later she would have heard also a lot of food-related Gujarati words, my only knowledge of Gujarati language!).
This is the way we met and this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, going from Athens to Santorini, passing by, on a long route, Gujarati.
Sometimes it only takes one word to create empathy.
Since then, I discovered her project and get to know her better.
Visiting her studio was delightful!
Colorful balls of yarn sit on very organized shelves and there is a very strong peaceful vibe which comes out of Diti naturally.
It’s impressive to understand the creative process behind the final result, beautiful objects out of discarded plastic bags.
She collects single-use plastic bags from markets, from the garbage, from friends or people who deliver them to her (by mail or in specific collection points). Then she washes them by hand and dries them, cut and divide them into balls by colors. Have a look at this clip to understand it better. Then comes the actual making: Diti sews and crochets by hand all the amazing products you can find on her website.
I was charmed by her personality. She is very sweet and aware of who she is and how she wants to live. We had a really interesting chat about what means living on an island (she experienced this too), the relation with the community, the lack of ‘your people’ sometimes, the need (and opportunity) to focus on yourself as the only way to make sense of the time you have. We talked about what means taking certain kind of positions (being vegan, living a sustainable life, …) in front of the others. A process of learning, which, at some point, becomes a silent and resilient way of educating.
I am trying to live a more sustainable and plastic-free life in Santorini, where it’s not always easy being an island. I am trying hard to reduce my plastic waste, and reuse what it’s possible. I am also a big supporter of projects like Thèla, because they can educate people with consciousness.
It needs a lot of thoughtfulness and awareness and Diti’s got them both: through her commitment, her love for making things slowly and by hand, she is a great source of inspiration for me!
I wish her the best of luck with her next projects too, which will involve the empowerment of women in India and of refugees in Athens. Μπράβο Diti!
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©Nicoletta Barbata/One Quarter Greek