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Robert Downey Jr, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson: After factory layoff, artist starts ‘leaf art’ venture

When the coronavirus struck and cost Mary Mae Dacanay her factory job in the Philippines, the 23-year-old came up with a unique new source of income – turning leaves into celebrity art.

Dacanay saw her redundancy as chance to enjoy her favourite pastime – art – but at first had difficulty sourcing materials in a country that has had in place some of the world’s longest and strictest coronavirus measures.

SEE PHOTOS: Artist turns to leaf art venture after being laid off amid Covid-19

With no luck finding canvas, Dacanay has instead picked leaves from a jackfruit tree outside her home, intricately cutting away tiny pieces to reveal well-known faces, from Robert Downey Jr and Oprah Winfrey to Michael Jackson and even the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte.

“Because of this pandemic, I wanted to try making artwork but purchasing art supplies in my town was very difficult because of the strict lockdown,” she said, speaking at her home in Laguna province, south of the capital Manila.

“The only way was to buy online but it was also difficult. I experimented using leaves as a makeshift canvas and it turned out really nice.”

After gaining thousands of followers on Facebook, Dacanay has sold hundreds of pieces of her “leaf art”, each for about 400 pesos ($8.24). The exact price varies according to the level of detail in each piece.

Now, instead of working seven days a week at the factory, plus overtime, she said her new venture allows her to enjoy her hobby, take things easier and still pay the bills.

“This leaf art has helped me so much financially during this pandemic,” she said.

“The money I use to pay bills, buy food for my family, and our other daily expenses are from my earnings from commissioned work.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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