A couple of months ago, I was holding a craft demonstration at the Mosman City Council on how to upcycle your wardrobe as part of National Recycling Week. While I was setting up, I couldn’t help but noticed a lady who was knitting with something pretty unconventional – so naturally, I just had to strike up a conversion with her!
She smiled and told me she was crocheting out of plastic bags – but it was the reason why that was most intriguing.
Angela Van Boxtel is an eco artist and designer who explained she makes pieces of art out of waste material, namely plastic bags and other rubbish that is polluting our oceans, to help take the message from environmental groups to a wider audience. I knew instantly I’d met a kindred soul!
Plastic bags were a huge issue, she explained. Australian’s were using over six billion plastic bags a year – enough to form a chain long enough to go around the world 37 times. “We have to stop sending them to landfill,” she told me at the time.
She also showed me the plastic bikini she had made once on boat trip that she made for herself “as sort of a joke” during the East Coast Odyssey project, a ship that sailed from Tasmania to Sydney to educate communities about the issue of plastic pollution.
My mind started furiously ticking – by happy coincidence, I knew of a gorgeous model at my agency who is not one of Australia’s most successful plus-size models, but is an environmental scientist who is hugely passionate about environmental issues.
So I put them in touch, and now, the results are these stunning pictures of Laura Wells modelling a bikini made entirely of plastic bags!
Laura Wells recently hiked 140 kms across Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest with Responsible Runners, and is also aligned with Greenpeace. PHOTO: Courtesy BGM Models
“It’s absolutely stunning and I still get goose bumps when watching the photo’s, even if I’ve seen them a hundred times by now,” says Angela.
“If you can look darn sexy in a plastic shopping bag that’s a hell of a strong statement to make,” she adds. “In the end, I guess the image speaks louder than what any word could ever portray!”
In an interview after the shoot that I did for Lifestyle Channel, Angela, who publishes her work on her blog greenwithenvyideas, explained how she got the idea to start crafting with rubbish.
“I’ve always been interested in exploring ‘waste’ materials,” says Angela. “Things other people throw out, I call them precious resources.”
Starting out as a young child crocheting clothes for her dolls, Angela always had a penchant for usual materials usually destined for the bin – t-shirts, sheets, orange net, hessian bags, old wool blankets and video tape – soon, she moved on to plastic bags.
“I’ve made bowls, bags, jewellry and a pouf, and of course the bikini’s I also made large art sculptures such as floating mandala’s and even a larger then life reindeer which was constructed of crocheting 2000 plastic shopping bags.
“At current I’m working on a version of boards horst and speedo’s and swim costumes. As I love to work towards a fashion show made of a swim collection of plastic bags.
Angela’s blog documents her ideas and projects to help inspire “people to make a change.
“It’s about giving them small and simple ideas to start with.
“As often I see environmental issues are to overwhelming for most people and that is when they zone out and become apathetic and do nothing.”
“In the end I’m not the poster girl of your every day environmentalist, I’m a mum of four boys, who is just questioning things I encounter in every day life as a family and how we can become more sustainable and green.”
“All I can wish for is if I can plant some seeds of thought or inspiration in other people’s minds.”
And now, Angela’s plastic bag bikini has also recently been selected for the International Women’s Day Art Prize. It’s so wonderful to see her recognised!
Angela has really inspired me to start thinking more about ‘single use’ items of plastic – I’m working towards getting rid of things that are disposable one use out of my daily life, but also got me thinking about how we could be a little more environmentally friendly with our craft.
So, after a bit of researching, I came up with some suggestions I hope might help you out.
Make sure you go check out Angela’s fantastic blog at greenwithenvyideas.blogspot.com. And while you’re there, like Laura’s Facebook page!
My five tips on making sustainable crafts
1) Look for unconventional items
Keep a sharp eye on hard rubbish collection days. I recently salvaged a huge frame in Mosman that I turned into a chalk board. Old building materials can make great material for crafts. Some old bathroom tiles from a skip bin are going to be a mosaic project.
2) Try to use recycled materials where you can.
If you are in Sydney, drop into Recycled Garbage. They have a warehouse full to overflowing with waste material that is just waiting for someone with creativity and imagination. I always seem to find buttons and sewing supplies in op shops too. Most capital cities and large centres should have something similar.
3) Be aware of your foot print.
If you have plenty of material left over from a project, don’t throw them out, why not donate it? Your local council should be able to advice. If you’ve finished a painting project, don’t pour the rest down the drain. Donate it, or use it for another project. Also, if you’ve had a craft fail, perhaps consider how you salvage it for another project instead of throwing it in the bin.
4) Get the kids involved
Upcycling inspires creativity, so get the kids involved. Save old wrapping paper and ribbons and start a craft box for the kids and let their imagination run wild.
5) Get resourceful
There are many great resources online for inspiration. You only need to type in ‘recycled craft’ into Pinterest for hundreds of ideas!
Check out my full story on LIfestyle Channel!