Turning old news into good news

Earthbound Creations handmade in Sri Lanka newspaper craft recycled newspaper Sri Lankan handicrafts

Meet Sagara Ranga Liyanage, the man behind all the newspaper products we sell at Serendip. He is the founder of Earthbound Creations in Sri Lanka.

He began his business in 2013 with a simple mission: to create mats, baskets and bowls out of old newspapers, as he had seen done by artisans from abroad. "But I had no idea how to do it," he says, "so I experimented at home. Eventually I created my own unique system."

At first, he hired just three people who worked from his home. Today, he hires over 350 people, who can work from their homes or in the small factory which he built in the hills near Kandy, and he exports his products all over the world.

Lucky gold necklace
Sagara started life in a very poor family, but he was determined to break out of the poverty which his and many other local families were trapped in. He worked hard at school, despite having to revise for his final exams in very poor lighting as they had no electricity at home.

He wanted to become a photographer, but he had no camera. "I got my start in life from my mother," he says. "She gave me her gold necklace to sell so I could buy my first camera". At the age of 20 he started taking photos of newborn babies in his village which he would sell to the proud parents.
However, life was still not easy for the would-be entrepreneur. "I had many difficulties," he tells me, "and I became enemies with a person that I hated so much I wanted to kill him!"
Of course, he didn't do that. Instead, he did something remarkable - he went to a meditation retreat to try and understand how to cope with the hatred in his mind. "I was taught to love my enemy and wish him happiness," Sagara recalls, "which was very difficult!"
But eventually he succeeded. "My enemy became my friend, and we are friends to this day". 
This determined mindset is evident in his first small business, which he started in 2006, selling greetings cards handmade by his sister from recycled scraps of card and pressed flowers. "We had no money even to buy the paper," he recalls. 
"I took the cards to all the shops in Kandy," he says, "but every shop rejected them because they were handmade. Then at last I found one place which bought ten cards. I got 300 rupees [about £1.50] which I gave to my sister to make more cards."
After that, he started selling the cards in tourist hotels. But there was one particular retailer he was determined to get into. "After 15 failed attempts, they finally relented and bought 50 cards," says Sagara. "They are now one of my best customers."
The newspaper factory
Walking into the storeroom at his factory is like entering a vault full of treasures, with shelves reaching to the ceiling packed full of brightly coloured bowls, baskets, mats and picture frames - all made out of newspaper. They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, and in this case, it all starts with a single piece of rolled up newspaper.
The newspaper strips are used both plain (left) and coloured (right). They are flattened and woven together around moulds with white craft glue. The glue dries clear and hard, making these bowls and baskets much stronger than they look.
Afterwards, if it is sunny, they are left outside to dry (see below) or put into a large glasshouse if the weather is damp or raining.
Sagara's inspirational story of never giving up is one we can all aspire to! Check out his wonderful newspaper gifts and products here

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published