Sunday, October 5, 2014
Like Diamonds, Plastic is Forever
September 27- January 4
The North Pacific Gyre - a swirl of plastic debris in the ocean has been described as an island of trash, some say the size of Texas. Folks ask- why don't they just go and clean it up? Who is this they? If they could remove the heap of trash from the ocean they would put it where?
Scientist and engineers, teams of brilliant people, are designing high and low tech clean-up schemes from vacuuming the surface of the ocean to trawling deep to retrieve the accumulation from the ocean floor. Unfortunately all of the ideas, albeit sincere, have serious drawbacks — the problem of by-catch and the removing of vital plankton along with the plastic.
In this exhibition at the Bolinas Museum, my scheme is to consciously create the conspicuous consumption of plastic by making beach plastic jewelry a status item. As with rare gems, the value of pelagic plastic will increase, making it so valuable that pirates and swashbucklers will trawl the seas seeking treasure.
Scarcity can also be a multiplying factor in the creation of value. When all of the oil has been extracted, plastic as we know it today will be a rare commodity, people will look to mine existing plastic and recover the hydrocarbons. Petrochemical plastic will have tremendous value as a treasured reminder of days gone by, when plastic was a term for something cheap and disposable. An increase in the value of the plastic bits floating in the ocean could make for a contentious situation. Imagine the Great Pacific War of 2050 where nation against nation are out at sea mining to clean up the mess.
Since 1999, my husband Richard Lang and I have collected ocean-born plastic debris exclusively from 1,000 yards of Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Each piece of plastic used in the creation of this jewelry was collected from that 1,000 yard stretch. The brightly colored bits are "curated" from the confetti strew that washes up on to the beach. In my studio they are cleaned then sorted into color and kind and become my "inventory." Sometimes an unusual shape will spark a design reverie. Sometimes the rich surface, the sea-buffeted patina will incite the creative process. Sometimes the recognizable part of a something (a piece of a comb or a juice lid) will evoke the question - could that have once been mine?
Wearing one of my eye-catching pieces always attracts much attention and is a perfect segue to talk about what is going on with plastic in our oceans and on our beaches. Although the news about plastic pollution is dire, by putting a little fun and fashion into the conservation conversation, I hope that the value of the plastic detritus will increase so that soon everyone will be out at the beach “shopping” for a special piece of plastic trash or will be eager to “mine” the North Pacific Gyre for plastic treasures. Then, we get some great things to wear and to look at, plus we get a clean and healthy sea.
After years of collecting plastic, I craft my choicest finds into unique art-to-wear pieces —hand-crafted, one of a kind, made exclusively from Kehoe Beach plastic. They can be worn or displayed as a precious artifact, a relic of contemporary consumer culture.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
When I got word that Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Museum, decided to purchase and display two of my beach plastic necklaces together and call the combo “shotgun wedding” I laughed out loud.
Why hadn't I thought of that?
Why hadn't I thought of that?
Needless to day, I am thrilled to have my work in Yale’s growing collection of contemporary jewelry that features acquisitions that deal with issues relating to the environment and recycling/reusing.
From my email to Yale University:
My husband, Richard Lang and I collected each piece of plastic used in the creation of my jewelry as part of our project One Beach Plastic, now in it’s twelfth year. All of the plastic was collected from a 1,000 yard stretch of Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Collected one piece at a time. The brightly colored bits are "curated" from the wrack line of debris washing up on to the beach. In the studio they are cleaned then sorted into color and kind and become my "inventory." Sometimes an unusual shape will spark a design reverie. Sometimes the rich surface, the sea-buffeted patina will incite the creative process. Sometimes the recognizable part of a something (a piece of a comb or a juice lid) will evoke the question - could that have once been mine?
It’s important to me to keep the things I use close to what they look like on the beach. To have the impact I’m looking for, I want them to not reference anything else but themselves.
I am thrilled that you have selected my Sabot necklace for purchase.
The name Sabot (rhymes with ago) stems from a confusion on our part. A true sabot is a casing to enclose a bullet. These are used to enable a smaller caliber projectile to be fired through a larger caliber rifle. They look very similar to the plastic florets we find on the beach, but the sabot have much thicker walls. I think the problem stemmed from the fact that I like the name Sabot, and I like the etymology of the word. Sabot comes from the wooden peasant shoes and clogs worn throughout Europe. In times of revolutionary fervor, sabots were used as weaponry. Hence the word sabotage and like a foot fitting into a shoe, the projectile fits into its casing.
What we have been finding are wads. Wads are used to encase shot inside a shotgun shell and are one of the most pernicious pieces of plastic that Richard and I find on the beach. We have thousands of them in our collection. The walls are much thinner, protecting the pellets from the charge restricting the shot pattern to a more coherent pattern. They shoot out of the gun and remain in the landscape long after the ducks and the hunters are gone. They float their way down rivers, from the wetlands to the sea. We have never been to the beach when we don’t find these in great numbers. Historically they were made of compressed paper, but with the advent of cheap polypropylene, they are now made of exclusively of plastic.
Since “wad” isn’t a very lyrical title, and not something you would want to wear around your neck, the new working title for the piece is Duck!
I am happy to have been on this hunt—I now know more about weaponry, gunpowder and the history of revolution—your interest has sent me on an unexpected etymological journey. Accuracy is a hallmark for the work we do.
Another email to Yale University:
Here is the photo of my tampon applicator necklace. Each of my necklaces is a unique creation made from plastic that washes up onto Kehoe Beach. The applicators have been sanitized by days at sea. Because so many of the applicators are now washing up on beaches everywhere- to avoid the embarrassment of speaking their true name, beachcombers now call them “Sea Whistles.”
Back in my day, tampons were made from cotton batting with a compressed cardboard applicator. Since I am years past my last use of a tampon, I decided to search the Internet to learn more about the technical improvements and the features that make the tampon with the plastic applicator so popular. http://www.tampax.com/en-US/Products/Products.aspx
Yes, do purchase this necklace for YUAG, display it along with her other one, and please use Judith’s wonderfully descriptive and humorous language when you create the text labels for showing our new “his and hers” Beachcomber jewelry – the two necklaces now form a true “shotgun marriage” of flotsam and jetsam.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Join us for an exciting trunk show of fashion and jewelry.
Judith Selby Lang and Joui Turandot
Eco Fashion in Clothing and Beach Plastic Jewelry
Saturday, September 11
3 to 5 pm
RSVP to www.donnaseagergallery.com
Judith Selby Lang has distinguished herself as an artist interested in the environment. By giving aesthetic form to what is considered to be garbage, she serves as both cleaner and curator. While the content of her work has a message about the spoiling of the natural world by the industrial world, her intent is to transform the perils of pollution into something beautiful and celebratory.
Joui Turandot is an emerging leader in the field of eco-fashion. She creates evening gowns and ready-to-wear pieces from over 90% reclaimed material. Joui sources most of her fabrics from antique stores, grandmother's closets and artist's leftovers. With each piece, Vagadu boldly affirms that high fashion can be achieved using sustainable practices, a statement as daring and unique as the woman who wears it.