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Waste to Wealth



… Meet Esther Ubak, the Creative Genius with Specialty in Turning Every ‘Crap to Craft’

At a time when an increasing number of young girls rather choose the easy route of ‘hook-up’ and other easy, lazy and self-destructive lifestyles, Esther Ubak, an Akwa Ibom state-born artisan, has taken an exciting and demanding creative spin around crafts and decorations, using inorganic waste materials like plastics bottles, corks, polythene bags, disposable spoons etc.

The founder of _Audrey’s Unique Craft and Signature,_ in this exclusive interview with Adanna Udoka, speaks on her unique creative venture that has set the social media on fire. Let us meet her.

Can you tell us the source of your crafts?

Well, at _Audrey’s Unique Craft and Signature,_ we make creative decorations using inorganic waste materials like plastic bottles, polythene bags, disposable spoons etc. About 90 percent of our products are made from waste materials.

Let’s say, we turn what many consider as scrap, useless or disused into beautiful crafts. In our studio, we convert these so-called crap materials into durable and valuable items for beautification and other purposes.

How did you venture into this business; I mean, did you learn it in school?

No, I did not learn it anywhere. This is my talent. Creating something out of nothing is one big passion I have. It comes naturally and keeps me going; that’s all.

How have people reacted to this curious, even weird, innovative idea?

Well, the truth is that people react differently to engagements and innovative ideas that are not commonplace. A lot of people have actually passed uncomplimentary comments about what I created on social media. Some will come straight and say something like “why not go get something else to do; you’re wasting your time, rubbish, madness,” etc.

Such negative comments do hurt actually, but they don’t discourage me from doing what I love doing. This is because it gives me joy and satisfaction to see what could have been a waste material become an ornamental item being used by people.

On the positive side, I have had a lot of patronage for my works and my target audience are lovers of art, schools, public utilities, offices, etc.

One important lesson I have learnt in all these is that what I do is a work of art and, as we know, artworks are not always for everyone. Those who appreciate works of art will definitely marvel at it while those who don’t will see it as rubbish.

Funnily enough, some of the costumes I have created from those scraps are being rented out for modelling events and shows like pageantry, fashion show, etc.

I do not just create costumes; I also make beautiful wall art, flower vases and other aesthetic, decorative and very valuable products from waste materials.

How long have you been in this business and what has the experience been like?

I have been in the craft industry for three years now. Initially, I was doing it just for fun because I enjoyed every single bit of it. I can tell you that I was very attached to my art. But, then, at some point, I decided to pursue it as a full-time career. I would say that, so far, it has been a success story for me.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

Honestly, I can’t even tell. It just comes naturally. It’s like it is instinctive, inborn, innate. Everything is just art, for me. I could walk on the street and see something beautiful and will pick it up, even if it’s inside the dirty gutter. As long as I can access it, I will get what I want and go my way.

People around may be wondering why this girl is walking around, picking up waste materials like a mad person. They will never know I am just gathering prized, important pieces for my next masterpiece creation.

Indeed, the inspiration comes from God and nature. I love adding value to whatever I see, using what we have discarded.

Why use waste materials and why not any other type of raw materials?

I went into creating something out of waste because I have a passion for creativity. I, therefore, decided to channel my energy towards that direction.

I also go for disposed materials in because I want to have an impact in my community and environment by helping in the reduction of non-degradable waste, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Number 13.

It is a way of going green, as encouraged globally by the United Nations Organisation, UNO! So, my innovation is to re-use the waste in creating durable and valuable items for beautification and other various purposes.

What actually do you consider as the major challenge you encounter in this career?

Nothing weighs me down as much as the thought (call it fear, if you may) of not achieving my goal, especially when I have an idea of what to create and do not find the needed materials or tools. This is especially so if such materials are not available in this country or I can’t afford to acquire them, where available.

What makes your work unique?

What makes Audrey’s products unique is that they are manually crafted creations the production of which are heavily time-consuming.

This has affected the brand positioning and the quantity of them that can be produced. Of course, you know that there is advantage in mass production, something that is not easy in this unique business of mine.

Looking back, what are the factors that defined your journey in this business?

When I started this art, I did not get the motivation or encouragement I needed from the people around me. At one point, even my mum would tell me that I was wasting my time and that art doesn’t pay in this part of the world.

So, I grew up without having the desire or passion for anything else because I was being discouraged and dissuaded from engaging in the only thing I had the love and passion to pursue. So, I just had talent and was joking with it. Even till I became mature enough to decide my career path, I couldn’t consider art as my first option because we all grew up with the mindset of becoming medical doctors.

That’s what my mum always wanted. Unfortunately, I wasn’t just good enough in the sciences.

I struggled very hard to please them even though that was not what I had the passion for. Fortunately, today, I am happy that I am into art because it keeps me going and happy.

What is the plan for the future?

My next plan is to go back to school. I’m, however, not decided on what I will like to study. If it turns out to be art, I might need to tailor my choices in the direction that will exactly blend into what I do. Whatever I study, the fact remains that I love what I do at the moment. It is my everyday meal; my energy giver.

Even when I sleep and an idea comes to me, I will say to myself, ‘stop sleeping!,’ and I will get up and start working immediately. Unfortunately, this is often hindered when there is no electricity supply around.

On such occasions, I improvise with the flash light from my mobile phone, getting on with the work until the power supply is restored.

The only thing that stops me from working; the only thing that will force me to take time to rest and make me remember that I have not eaten, is only if I fall sick! I’m a workaholic and, most often, don’t feel it.

What is your marriage plan and how do you intend to balance your vocation with your family responsibilities?

The truth is I’m not actually concerned about marriage, for now. My focus is on building my career as a creative artist and how to return to school to complete my study. But on the other hand, I know that marriage will happen eventually and at some time one may not expect it.

My plan, however, is that by the time I am ready to settle down, I must have built my business to a level that I will employ workers to assist me in keeping it going while I take care of my family responsibility.

But, I’m optimistic that marriage won’t affect what I am doing because my prayer is to settle down with someone who will appreciate what I do and be ready to support me, not see it as a hindrance to our family.

My dream is that I will have a supportive family with my kids and husband also playing key roles in taking my business to the next level. This is a life-long journey for me and I have no intention of turning back.

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