SukkhaCitta (SC): Hi Lessa! You started your career as a litigation and corporate lawyer - and yet you now run a company that focuses on upcycling through craft. What was behind that transformation?
Lessa Gresh (LG): Actually, it was strangely my wedding that gave me an insight to this issue! After my husband proposed to me, I was really excited preparing for the wedding event - a moment I've dreamt on since I was a girl! Being quite hands on, I was shocked to see first of all the amount of things one has to arrange, but most importantly the amount of resources spent - and wasted - for just one night!
I started thinking, if just ONE event creates this amount of waste, how much waste is being created through our current lifestyle every day? Once you start thinking this way, there was no going back. I knew I had to do something.
SC: What finally made you start The Heart Project?
LG: After I got married, I left my hometown to be with my husband in Surabaya (East Java, Indonesia). I decided to leave my career and started teaching there. One day, one of my students gave me a present: a sign with my name that she had created from upcycled plastic. It was one of the best things anyone has ever given me - and today three years later I still have it with me.
Perhaps it was a coincidence, but this simple gesture inspired me to act on a problem that's been on my mind this whole time: creating something of value out of stuff noone wanted anymore. Instead of waiting for someone else to solve the issue, I'll find a way to do my part. This was the beginning of The Heart Project, with no background whatsoever I started experimenting on how to create beauty from things around me.
SC: Upcycling definitely is not a common subject in Indonesia, especially in your city. Can you share about the beginning of your journey?
LG: When we started in 2015, we had no clear vision and mission really. We knew that we wanted to address the problem of there being too much waste. We knew that a big part of it was going to have to involve working with the waste, but we did not have any clue as to the specifics: the how, the where, and even the what!
And you're right, upcycling definitely is not a common idea here! Most of our friends who heard about this adventure we were to embark upon thought we were crazy - and rightfully so I suppose. If you had told past-me about this, I too would think that you're crazy! Alas, they wanted to help thinking that we were trying to collect used objects for charity purposes. Little did they know what we had planned for these items!
SC: Can you walk us through your creation process?
LG: It's pretty much learning on the job. Once we receive shipments of unused items, we start brainstorming on what we can make out of this. This collaborative approach often come with a surprising result that noone ever thought before, like our Canjolele!
If you grew up in Indonesia, you'll be familiar with these cookie cans that's made from metal. We tossed and turned for an idea on what kind of product we can make from it besides of its obvious storage function. Finally, collaborating with artisans who are expert in music-creation, we managed to upcycle these cans into high quality, electric musical instruments. The resulting music sounds like a crossover between a banjo and ukulele - hence its name Canjolele (laughs)!
SC: What's your favorite part from running The Heart Project?
LG: My favourite part is the fact that I do what I love and am passionate about - the creative process, as well as meeting new people and sharing and learning. I am always learning.
Lessa is the founder of The Heart Project, a platform that aims to inspire the community on ways to be kinder to the Earth. Based in Surabaya, Indonesia, they produce creatively upcycled products and run community workshops to raise awareness on simple zero-waste living.
She is wearing PAGI Back Button Top, KUPU Kimono in Burgundy Red, and SENJA Traveller's Pants.