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Designer turns trash into gold

Art they say is a way of expressing oneself. But 28-year-old Thomas Longosi does more than that; he makes a living from it.

In a week, he can design about 30 collage pieces which he distributes by order and at shopping centres.

Longosi uses newspaper cuttings, wood, ribbons, feathers, photographs and sticks them together into beautiful designs.

His smallest design goes for Sh250 while the biggest one retails at Sh2,200.

Clients can make orders by phone while Longosi uses the internet to research on his work.

“Technology has eased things as it enables me to get a clearer picture of the artwork a client wants,” he said.

It all started after Longosi saw heaps of feathers dumped in a drain in Pipeline estate where he had visited an uncle.

That was in 2003. He had just completed his primary education and was looking for something that could generate income for him.

“I could not stop thinking about the heap of feathers and that is how I got the idea of making money from trash,” he said.

Without second guessing, young Longosi picked up the duck feathers and carried them home where he used his father’s masonry equipment to make his first design.

Before getting home, he borrowed carton boxes from a shop, then got some torn blankets his mother had kept in the house.

“The design impressed everyone at home and when my father’s friend visited later that day, he bought it for Sh100,” he said.

Determined to show the world what he could do, he used the money to buy materials for more designs. 

“I bought nails at Sh25, glue for Sh20, wood for Sh30 and used the rest as fare back home,” he said, adding that he borrowed carton boxes from another shop since he did not have money to buy a piece of cloth to paste the designs.

Of the seven pieces he made, he sold three, each for Sh100 and reinvested the money to make 10 other pieces.

Within no time, he was supplying his designs at Embakasi Village, Mlolongo and at the national museum where he met other artists who helped him refine his skills. 

He now runs a shop at Donholm where he braves the harsh weather to satisfy his clients’ desires and make ends meet.

“The greatest challenge is convincing clients that although the designs are made from local materials, they take time and energy thus their price,” he concluded.