Choosing to be a contemporary jeweller is certainly the road less travelled as far as career paths go. The journey is long, thoroughly rewarding and cannot be travelled alone. I am extremely lucky to have a great group of family and friends who have helped me along the way and if there’s one person who’s always had faith in my ability to turn my passion into a self-sustaining career, it is my lovely Mother.
Given our close relationship and shared passion for jewellery, Mum is usually the lucky recipient of my new prototypes or any pieces that never quite makes it to market for one reason or another. Though she is always very grateful, on the odd occasion I also like to take the time to make her a specially designed bespoke piece, and late last year I did just that.
Poor Mum has spent many hours being dragged along for yet another beach collecting expedition and as a result has become quite the fan of my Plastic Soup jewellery. Over the years she has developed an eagle eye for microplastics and at times gets more exciting than I do when she finds ‘a good one.’ It seemed only fitting that her next piece was to be a Plastic Soup necklace.
When constructing my Plastic Soup or Interlace Adornment, I always begin with a pile of sticks which I cut, file level and sand. I then create the tiny little boxes which will contain a precious collection of microplastics.
The box shapes are loosely based on the shapes of phytoplankton: the tiny organisms which sea creatures believe they are eating when in fact, they are ingesting microplastics. For mum’s piece, we decided on circular boxes and so I constructed a variety of sizes to suit the necklace.
To form the tiny windows of the boxes, I have sourced industry offcuts of thin acrylic which I use sparingly to minimise my contribution to the plastic problem. I hand cut the acrylic and then file it until it fits perfectly within the outer ring shape. I then create another, slightly smaller ring which sits within the large ring and forms a ledge for the acrylic to rest on to avoid crushing the tiny plastic fragments within.
Once all the components are ready, I bring them to the soldering bench. I first create a seaweed like structure to form the geometric foundation of the piece, then strategically position each box on the structure to give the illusion of the plastics being snagged within a seaweed tangle. As all of the Plastic Soup pieces are handmade and unique, they will sometimes come together perfectly and other times look a little unbalanced. At this point I will cut pieces off and reposition the components until I am satisfied with the composition.
Choosing where to hang the seaweed structure from can be a little tricky and it is always important to ensure that the piece hangs well when worn. Once I have decided on a suitable position, I attach the chain, check that all of my joins are well soldered and then construction is complete.
From there the most time consuming part of the process begins: clean-up. I file off any excess solder and scratches to the surface of the metal then sand the piece to remove the file marks. Any surface scratches will distract from the overall effect of the whole piece so I really take my time, spending days to ensure that the finish is consistent. This can be rather fiddly given the intricacy of the interlacing structure and so I have developed a range of tiny sanding tools to access those hard to reach places.
Once I am completely satisfied with the finish, I blacken the necklace and begin to choose the precious but deadly plastic collection to sit within the boxes: In this case, turquoise, blues and greens.
I then dust the piece and set the acrylic on the underside of the boxes. From there I carefully place the tiny collection of microplastics in their new home and close the lid. The protective tape is removed from the acrylic and the final piece is revealed.
It was a little while in the making but Mum was thrilled when she received her bespoke Plastic Soup Necklace. The colours and length of the chain suited her perfectly and she ‘feels wonderful wearing the piece.’ It means so much to me to have her support and knowing how proud she feels when wearing my jewellery makes my day. Thanks Mum!
If you would like to commission a Plastic Soup piece of your very own, please contact me to make an appointment.