Ghost Gear investigations… weeks five and six…

So far, our project – ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastic can become Precious Plastic’ has been focused on the ghost gear that can be picked up from beach cleans themselves. This has resulted in quite a range in types of material being gathered along with a range of qualities of material too. There has also been a significant amount of bio-fouling on the gear with regards to seaweed entanglement, which means that the amount of time that it takes to ‘process’ each of the batches can be quite high (and sometimes for little useful material return). However, these more community based collections allow for public empowerment – and a potential for education on the areas of Ghost Gear and marine plastics themselves, which is always useful.

However, the last two weeks we have not only been processing and recording the materials we found, we have been looking at one of the industrial sectors on our map – Newhaven Port.

By speaking directly to the fishers themselves in Newhaven and Eastbourne too (not on our map, but an area where a very influential and well respected local fisher works), we were able to understand the scale and complexity of the material that is available directly at end-of-life rather than being recovered from the sea / beach.

Quantities were huge – with materials being available in tonnes rather than kilos as we had been working with on the material recovered from the beaches. These materials were also very varied – from different types of nets to traps and fish boxes too – but many were relatively ‘pure’ in material with little or low biofouling.

There is a distinct advantage from getting end-of-life material directly from fishers to create a critical mass for re-manufacture, therefore we are considering that this may be our main focus for the ‘waste food’ for the project, with beach clean material being added in, rather than forming the main material stream. Space was a key issue for the fishers as many of them had limited access to storage, so regular pickups of material were highlighted as being important.

We were also keen to understand how nets were / are currently recycled in this area, as some of the fishers had been working with an international partner to recycle their nets. Due to the distances that the nets have to be shipped, it is currently unfeasible financially to process the material, which gives strength to this projects investigations – would more localised re-manufacture of material that is ‘lower cost’ in recycling terms make more financial sense?

As we start to quantify the ghost gear materials into type and weights we will should be able to start to look closer into the finances and establish feasibility for each type…

WEEK FIVE and SIX summary…

  • end-of-life gear shows potentially a more economically feasible route for the ‘waste as food’ for the project
  • partnering with the fishers will be key to create trust and also to ensure purity of material for reuse.
  • adding in ‘beach clean’ materials could be used as an additive to create public connection.

Ghost Gear investigations… week four…

Week four has been a pretty big one in our Discover stage of our ghost gear investigation project – as it was also the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean Series week (and we are also volunteer Regional Reps), we employed a crowd collection tactic for our data collection.

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With multiple beach cleans all occurring on the same weekend, with the same weather, we would be able to compare the data from each area very clearly… materials, quantities – and crowd knowledge of ghost gear itself.

So – we identified the three key SAS Beach cleans that were focussed in our areas:

  • SAS Autumn Beach Clean, Hove Lawns 28/10/17: our Sector 3, which attracted around 70 volunteers over a 2 hour beach clean
  • SAS Autumn Beach Clean, Rottingdean 29/10/17: our Sector 5, (volunteer numbers tbc)
  • SAS x Pier2Pier + Silent Disco Beach Clean 29/10/17: our Sector 4, which attracted around 110 volunteers over a 3 hour beach clean.

We created a poster that acted as an introduction to the project, and spoke to the volunteers at each Beach Clean – asking them to separate out the ghost gear that they found…

This was an experiment – many people we spoke to at the start of these beach cleans had never attended a beach clean before, so asking them to both identify, and separate lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear was a trial. After a briefing talk from us, each pair were given a small collection bag and sent out on to the beach.

The benefits of this system soon became clear. The vast majority of the volunteers filled their collection bags with ghost gear, clearly identifying them to keep them separated from the rest of the litter they had picked up. Some did come back with questions, but even those who had never done a beach clean could identify ghost gear. As our project is ultimately looking at how ghost gear can be incorporated into a new material stream to make new products, creating an empathic connection between cleaning the beach – doing a good thing – and a new item, could be critical.

It also meant that we had around 100 bags of ghost gear pieces picked up in a VERY short period of time over three separate areas that we had marked for research.

Week five will be spent looking at two of our other key areas – Sector 1 – Shoreham Port, and Sector 7 – Newhaven Port, speaking to fishers themselves and investigating the issues with collecting end-of-life nets and gear, rather than collecting it on the beaches itself.

And we will be washing, categorising and photographing the VAST quantities of ghost gear that our marvellous volunteer army collected over the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean series weekend…

WEEK FOUR summary…

  • ‘ghost gear’ is a term that not many members of the public know.
  • however, anyone can be easily briefed on the issue – and pick up ghost gear correctly.
  • mobilising volunteer collectors was very effective for collecting large quantities of material over a short period of time.

We’ve been at the Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM…

That’s right folks – we’ve been away. Apologies for the radio silence these last couple of weeks, but things were rather hectic here at the studio, including a rather lovely trip from Brighton to Miami for the third Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM. Coming together with people from all over the world, we were there as representatives of the World Cetacean Alliance, speaking about the different outreach projects we completed in 2016 based around marine litter.

Ghost gear is the term given to abandoned, discarded or otherwise lost fishing gear, which causes continued entrapment, entanglement and ingestion issues of all species. As modern fishing gear is plastic based, it does not degrade, so continues to fish for decades… The GGGI brings together the vast amount and variety of people needed to find solutions to these issues – from industry, fishers and policy makers to recyclers, NGO’s and manufacturers.

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Arriving in Coconut Grove, Miami, Day one of the GGGI AGM started with a series of inspiring presentations from World Animal Protection (the current Secretariat) and break out sessions with each of the three working groups – Building Evidence, Best Practice and Replicating Solutions.

Due to the studio’s work, and activities with WCA, I sat into the review from the Replicating Solutions Group who reported a series of brilliant projects from around the globe, concentrating on ghost gear removal and recycling. There was much discussion about what worked well and how activities could be improved and scaled up.

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After lunch, we sat back in our working groups, where I was officially adopted into the Replicating Solutions group – the largest (and loudest) group of the three. Figures. We then started to plan out our voyage for 2016-2017, coming up with some rather audacious goals for new projects, scaled up projects, new activities and new forms of communication. Day one finished and we were exhausted…

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the 2016 GGGI delegation!

Day Two dawned hot and bright on the Miami coast and we started the final sessions reporting back to the other working groups about our plans – and starting to link the dots between the activities that both Building Evidence and Best Practice were planning. Things took shape. Comments were made, plans were set.

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One of the last sessions was the Lightning Talks – a set of ten 5 minute talks from different members of the GGGI community. From gear recovery projects to working with developing countries, the logistics of gathering and storing ghost gear picked up at sea and what needs to be considered when transporting it for recycling – each person whizzed through their 5 minutes.

I was delighted to be reporting with Natalie Barefoot from CetLaw about the work we had both undertaken with WCA over the past year – from the interns who travelled to work with whale watching groups to educate visitors on the issues with ghost gear to the Ghost Gear Chandelier we made earlier in 2016 and exhibited at the Clerkenwell Design Week in May. The link-up between WCA and the Brighton Etsy group was also presented, along with the wonderful Lulu by Designosaur – one of my most treasured pieces of jewellery.

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It was also great to see the range of products that are currently made from recovered ghost gear – either in an unprocessed form, or as a raw material in a mini pop-up exhibition. From Econyl based recycled nylon swimwear to door mats, bracelets and of course, Bureo, who were showing their skateboards and sunglasses. I was rather taken with their Yuco glasses…

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A final sum up and we were done. It was great to be invited to be part of such a great group of pro-active people and we cannot wait to get going with the work we have got as part of our WCA / GGGI Replicating Solutions working group activities…

As always – watch this space!

(images by Claire Potter)

***EVENT REVIEW*** – March of The Mermaids with World Cetacean Alliance…

Last Saturday, we were out and about again – this time with the World Cetacean Alliance at the March of the Mermaids in Hove, helping them spread the word about ghost gear netting and specifically, what you can do with it. Armed with a raft of experimental pieces of jewellery we created for our exhibit at Clerkenwell Design Week 2016, we were there for the day running making workshops with recovered netting from the beaches of Brighton. With attendees from age 3 upwards, we were busy!

March of the Mermaids 2016 WCA workshop

It was great to show everyone the issue up close and actually encourage them to feel the rope and see it as a material resource for new products, rather than something that should be consigned to landfill.

March of the Mermaids 2016 WCA workshop ghost gear jewellery

We knotted, weaved, plaited, threaded and combined the synthetic netting with simple jewellery findings and each attendee went away with a few new skills, loads of information and a new bracelet or two to help them tell the story to others. It was an encouraging sight.

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one of the ghost gear bracelets made at the workshops – complete with a nickel and zinc free little whale!

We also had time to catch up with the great guys and gals that make up the Brighton Etsy team, who have also teamed up with the World Cetacean Alliance to create new pieces inspired by their Untangled project brief. Launched at March of the Mermaids, the pieces range from patches to jewellery again – with a percentages of all the product sales from now until Christmas being donated directly to the World Cetacean Alliance.

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And one of them is Lulu – of which I am extremely proud have the very first prototype for. She always gets stacks of attention when I wear her and I’m delighted that I can now direct people to Designosaur’s shop to get their own!

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One of the purchases we made was this awesome print as a tote bag by Hello Dodo… just made us smile!

March of the Mermaids 2016 Hello Dodo

Take a look at their blog here to see all the pieces created by their members for WCA.

So, overall, a great fundraising and awareness raising day at March of the Mermaids for the World Cetacean Alliance – and watch this space for some more very exciting news about our work with WCA soon…!

(images by claire potter and the Brighton Etsy Team)

Clerkenwell Design Week 2016 and May wrap up…

There is little saying which states ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Well, that is May for us. And we made it. With Artists Open Houses each weekend, regular studio work and teaching, May is always rammed, but we decided to pile on the pressure and add on our very first appearance at Clerkenwell Design Week too. Why not.

And it was fantastic. 

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We were based in the old police holding cells of the House of Detention for Platform – a curated show of ‘up and coming design talent’ which showed a mix of mostly furniture and home related products from a fantastic mix of designers. We were there to show and discuss our ‘Ghost Gear Chandelier’, which we created earlier this year for the World Cetacean Alliance and other products which were borne from the plastic related litter we recovered during our Big Spring Beach Clean for Surfers Against Sewage.

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Utilising the Parley A.I.R. principle, (Avoid Intercept Redesign), we created a series of sculptural vessels, woven seat bases and jewellery pieces from waste plastic, netting and rope, which were shown in our little cell alongside the Ghost Gear Chandelier. We had the plastics collected by us and our volunteers on our two hour SAS Big Spring Beach Clean and scattered them in a ‘tide line’ on the sand floor of the cell. We had some beautiful graphics that showed the bubble netting feeding method of the humpback whales and the issues with marine plastic.

marine litter claire potter design clerkenwell design week 2016 1

We were ready for people to visit and talk to us about the issues with plastic waste, and how, as designers, we sit on the forefront of the battle lines not only with the materials we specify, but utilising stuff at the ‘end of life’. What took us rather by surprise was the incredible response we had to the pieces – from tears of sadness to enquiries of how large we could make a similar piece – ‘would you be able to make it large enough for a hotel lobby…?’ Er, yes. Our base material is, unfortunately, far too easy to source.

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remember that 25kg rope we recovered in Hove? 7.5 hours untangling later and some of it becomes a woven seat base…

We could make these chandeliers anywhere in the world – possibly the most depressing product plan we have had to date.

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But this was the point. We were there to open peoples eyes to the issues. Make them think. Make them notice stuff. Pick up a few bits when they were on the beach. Refuse that plastic straw. And from the responses we got – from joy, hugs, business cards and emails, to tears and shamed silence – we certainly reached people.

This is why we design.

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And as the three days whizzed by, we found that people were asking what we were going to do next with the project. What were we going to show at Clerkenwell Design Week next year? When could they buy the stuff on show? How could they stay in touch – and how could they help?

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Well, we think we have found our calling. Expect to see a deeper level of research and a deeper amount of transformation of marine litter into new products at Clerkenwell Design Week next year, hopefully working more with our great partners this year – Surfers Against Sewage, Parley for the Oceans and the World Cetacean Alliance – plus others we have already chatted to…

We truly believe that designers have a great power and great responsibility and need to use it for good. Just like Spiderman, or maybe in our case Aquaman.

Thank you to everyone who visited us. Thank you to our awesome partners – Surfers Against Sewage, Parley for the Oceans and the World Cetacean Alliance. Thank you to Monty Hubble who allowed us to use his drone imagery of humpbacks bubble netting in our info section. And thank you to Clerkenwell Design Week for inviting us to exhibit what is quite a left field thing (and asking us back next year). See you at Clerkenwell next year, and keep an eye on the blog to see how things are developing in the meantime…

(images by claire potter)

our Ghost Gear Chandelier for the World Cetacean Alliance pt4…

Since December 2015, we have been working on a very lovely project for the World Cetacean Alliance, as part of a group of artists and designers responding to their ‘Untangled’ brief – a project to highlight the hugely destructive issues with ghost gear. This abandoned, discarded or lost netting, rope and filament floats about our oceans across the globe, maiming and killing marine life of all sizes, and as it is usually plastic based, the material never truly degrades.

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So, we have been collecting Ghost Gear from the beaches of Brighton, to create what we dubbed our Ghost Gear Chandelier – a large bubble formed light that was inspired by the ‘bubble netting’ hunting technique of some humpback whales.

Netting was found, washed, dried, washed again, washed a third time, dried again and then shredded and put into clear plastic bubbles…

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And now the Ghost Gear Chandelier is done.

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Ghost Gear Chandelier 1

The Chandelier uses a salvaged bike wheel for the main ring, with a variety of Ghost Gear filled bubbles hanging in a cascade of blues, greens and oranges.

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The central point of light is a huge clear ball eco-filament light from Factorylux, connected to a bright blue fabric cable flex and wall plug. Hanging from chains at a height of around 1600mm, the Ghost Gear Chandelier is quite a statement- and we are delighted with it.

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So what now for the light? Well, as part of the Untangled project by the World Cetacean Alliance, each piece of work created by the designers and artists taking part will be auctioned off to raise funds for the issues raised by ghost gear – which includes our Ghost Gear Chandelier. Watch this space for details on the auction and also, keep your eyes peeled for our little film, which will show the making of the Ghost Gear Chandelier…

(all images by claire potter)

Creations for Cetaceans – the Untangled Project for the World Cetacean Alliance… pt1

At the start of the year we hinted at a few of the exciting projects that we were going to be part of in 2016… and we are delighted to announce the first of these – the Untangled Project for the World Cetacean Alliance. 

World Cetacean Alliance ghost gear 1

Regular readers of the ecospot will know that the studio has been getting more involved and researching the area of marine litter and plastic over the past year and how, as designers, we respond to these as challenges. We have looked into the issues of microplastic, examined our own relationship to plastic in our work and championed projects who seek a solution to the issues – including those working with Ghost Gear – abandoned or discarded fishing nets which continue to catch and kill as they drift around our oceans. And in late 2015, we launched our popular Ghost Gear Baubles which contained rescued netting from the beaches of Brighton, sold during our Artist’s Open House open studio, with all proceeds going to Surfers Against Sewage.

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And so we are very excited that we are working with Ghost Gear again, as part of the Untangled Project for the World Cetacean Alliance, which has brought together a huge range of artists, designers and makers to develop ‘creations for cetaceans’. We cannot wait to see what is being created.

But what are we doing? Well, we have a couple of things up our sleeve that we will be talking about here in the next two weeks or so, plus we are creating a video of our development, sourcing and making process. Taking the bauble we created in December, we are scaling up to something rather large indeed. 

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Watch this space for developments of our process, and head over to the World Cetacean Alliance Facebook Page – Creations for Cetaceans to see how the other artists and designers are tackling the brief – and how you could own one of the pieces being created…

(images by claire potter)