Archive: Broken Ocean installation at Collect Open 2019.

Following the success of our glass bottles, The Seven Stages of Degradation (shown at the Royal Academy Summer show and other exhibitions, see the other post), and the prototype ‘Ghostnet Chandelier’ at the London Design Festival 2018 (see this post too), this installation piece continued to develop our ideas around the theme of ocean plastic. Working with Louis Thompson once again and with hand-blown glass and waste glass fragments, found ocean plastic from Hawaii and other beaches around the world and recovered ghost nets this piece references the chaotic beauty of an entangles ghost net being pulled out from the deep ocean.  These hand-crafted colourful objects represent a horrific future that our Anthropocene age threatens to leave behind if we do nothing about our dependency on plastic and its easy disposability.

Broken Ocean installation at Collect Open 2019.

Marine litter is one of the clearest symbols of a resource inefficient economy. These objects that litter our beaches and impact our environment should be captured for their value before the reach the seas and create problems, but this currently does not happen at the scale required. Adopting a more circular approach, which puts emphasis on; designing systems that prevent waste and encourage recovery of valuable materials, designing products that use materials that can easily be recycled and reused, and simplifying the use of plastics, especially in packaging would be the most effective solution for marine litter.

The plastic fragments used in this series were collected in 2014 on a trip to Kamilo beach, Hawaii. This remote beach (also known by the locals as Trash Beach) sees the results of the global plastic waste tragedy wash up onto its shore every day on every tide. The amount of plastic-to-sand ratio is shocking. Everywhere you look plastic is present, deep in the fabric of the beach and seemingly almost impossible to extract. Everything picked up had a story; a journey from Japan after the Tsunami or from the landfills of the USA. There are snatches of words on bottles bleached by the sun. Some plastic had been in the sea under the hot UV sun so long it turned to powder when touched. 

Using these fragments along with images of microplastic swirling around the ocean gyres as inspiration the pair created work using waste glass to illustrate this chaos and intrusion into the natural environment. The creation of each vessel starts with picking a plastic ocean waste fragment to inform the shape.

This is followed by a process of gathering and adding waste glass, shaping and blowing. Some of the waste shards are engraved and enamelled with illustrations of seas, nets and packaging details. The piece is completed by the addition of the original plastic piece.

Using images of fragments of plastic swirling around the ocean gyres as inspiration these large vessels use waste glass fragments to illustrate their chaos and intrusion into the natural environment. The creation of each vessel starts with picking a plastic ocean waste fragment that will inform the shape. This is followed by a process of gathering and adding waste glass, shaping and blowing. Some of the waste shards have been engraved and enamelled with illustrations of nets, seas and ships. The piece is completed by the addition of the original plastic piece.

These smaller hand-blown glass bottles have waste glass fragments melted into the surface, clinging on like the barnacles attached to floating plastic in the gyres. Pieces of the waste glass are etched and enamelled with illustrations of ocean currents and fragments of nets. Each piece has a bottle top recovered from oceans around the world referencing the bottle’s once useful life.

The work was shown all together in a large installation called Broken Ocean at the 2019 Collect Open. Broken Ocean used nearly a ton of salvaged ghost nets, pulled out of the ocean by Surfers Against Sewage and represented the rubbish truckload of plastic that enters our oceans every minute. The installation won the prestigious Collect Open award.

Getting clay under the fingernails* (drawing and creating again)

In recent years I have re-discovered my love of drawing, collaging and generally loosening up and developing ideas in sketchbooks. It started with a New Years Resolution a few years back: to fill up all the unfinished sketchbooks from all the years since art college (I have a habit of acquiring beautiful sketchbooks with the ambition to fill them up straight away). I am still filling working on this (and starting new ones). Here are some random pages from them.

Letterpress sketchbook studies for Climate posters.
Pages from my Berlin inspired sketchbook using billboards and letterpress.
Black ink carbon sketch (working with carbon black pigment (black bear carbon) extracted from discarded tyres.
Fishing rope tangle study, love these greens.
Fishing buoys painting study. These turned into glass buoys in a chandelier.
Painting bits of old rope.
Where I was painting bits of old rope (and where I found them).

I now always take a sketchbook with me when I travel. It’s better than a camera for memories for me.

Canadian view from a mountain top.
The rock formation on this beach in the Basque area of Spain was very satisfying to draw.
Beach sketch, Lekeitio.
Surfers and buildings at Biarritz.

When I was pitching for work I did a lot of live sketching at Philadelphia Zoo, drawing the animals quickly, then going back later to finish.

Three monkeys swinging on a rope, backs to the audience.
The Giraffe at Philadelphia zoo
The Hornbill playing with a nut at Philadelphia zoo

I am still working on my life drawing of people and drawing glassblowers is particularly challenging. It is like choreographed movement as they constantly move with the molten hot glass.

Life drawing glass blowing
Painting from still life on black poster paper – interesting rocks
Pages from sketchbooks (studies of beach plastic and collage).
Pages from sketchbooks (beach pollution and fishing hooks and rope).
Collage studies for glass Plastiglomerate pebbles.

I will be posting my drawings and books done for the glassblowing and collaboration work with Louis Thompson on a separate blog as they make more sense together and there are loads!

* thanks to Grayson Perry for this quote.