When you see discarded and used plastic bottles littering the streets and spilling out of bins, do you see something aesthetically pleasing to the eye? If you do, then frankly, you have more of a conceptual vision then the average person. And Sarah Turner has not only a discerning eye and a creative imagination, she also has a strong desire to create something beautiful and environmentally friendly out of something which is one of the most un-green products on the market. Sarah makes ceiling, table and floor lamps from waste drinks bottles and recycled card. I spoke to her about this unique and ultimately positive response to the stacks of plastic bottles which pile up around us every day.
Your work is made of recycled plastic drinks bottles – What inspired you to do this?
-The project originally started as my dissertation whilst I was in my final year of university. I found through these studies that only 5.5% of plastic drinks bottles are recycled here in the UK. So I thought that I could save a few from the landfill sites and make something creative with them. I started collecting waste bottles and did loads of experiments to see how they could be manipulated. I melted, sanded, sawed, burnt and cut them up. I wanted to get the most from the waste material, to see what could be achieved.
- Where do you get the bottles from, and how many on average are used per item? Can you describe the process of how an old plastic bottle becomes a finished product?
I collect most of the bottles from local cafes here in Nottingham, plus of course contributions from friends, family. Occasionally if I see a nice bottle littering the street I have been known to embarrass who I’m with by going over and picking it up! Once collected I then remove the labels and clean them up, then I sandblast the bottles which if they are transparent turns the surface white. I then cut them up transforming them into the decorative shapes, which form the basis of the lampshades. They can be made in many different styles, I feel like I’ve turned it into a bit of an art form! Using different coloured drinks bottles, different brands and sizes can lead to different designs too. I make the base of the shades from recycled card, the bottles then get screwed onto this and secured using the bottle’s own top.
I have reused between 1 and 67 bottles in any individual light so far. Two of the products I am developing currently are called ‘Cola 30′ named as it reuses 30 Coca Cola bottles and the smaller version ‘Cola 10′ reusing 10 Coca Cola bottles. I have made a light especially for a company in London, which was a very large piece reusing 67 bottles! The smallest light I have made is called ‘Little Oasis’ as it reuses just the one Oasis bottle.
Are you inspired by environmental issues in general? Do you forsee your future works keeping with these themes?
-I love the challenge of making something from waste materials and it feels so rewarding too. I like how my work makes people think about what can be achieved from recycling and how ordinary boring rubbish can be transformed into something special. The novelty of seeing people’s reactions when they realise what the lights are made from has never worn out. So yes I definitely shall be making many more products from rubbish in the future.
- I have noticed on your website the Past Project and Current Ideas section. Is all of your work made from recycled materials?
Not all of my work on my website is made from recycled materials, the projects in the portfolio section are mostly past university projects from briefs that they set. Although I did use some recycled materials during some of these projects. For example, the garden bench I made whilst on my foundation course and is mainly made from an old willow fence. Also the flat pack stool and Hula lights are made from polypropylene, which is often considered a more eco material. Since graduating I have concentrated all my efforts on my bottle lights and I do intend to carry on reusing waste materials in my work in the future too. I just find it so much of a challenge and also find it extremely rewarding saving stuff from landfills!
What has the response been to your products?
The response has been great towards the drinks bottle lights. They have been in several exhibitions and some retailers have offered to sell them. They were recently on an American eco blog so that has resulted in many enquiries from the US. One of the best opportunities I’ve had so far is the Innovation Nation Competition at The Ideal Home Show. About 25 graduates have been chosen from all over the country to exhibit an innovative product at the show and the winner is chosen by the public vote. So if you would like to show your support you can vote for the ReDesign Bottle Lights by clicking on this link: http://www.idealhomeshow.co.uk/ideas/innovation-nation/concept-products-2009-vote/
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