Plastic Soup, Anyone?

Blue Rope Triptych - John DahlsenMmmm! I’ll have mine with a side of packing peanuts.

Plastic and I sorta have this love/hate relationship going on. (It’s presence has saved human lives through technology and medicine, yet it’s sheer abundance has created a deadly “plastic soup” in the Pacific Ocean. Birds constantly mistake plastic pellets for food.)

I’ve also been noticing the new decorations in the trees on our street, put there by the recent harsh winds that have dislodged local litter from it’s hiding places. It has prompted me to go on a few garbage collecting journeys recently. Otherwise known as “shopping for art supplies”.

While trying to figure out new things to do with all this plastic garbage that I’ve found myself collecting, I stumbled across artist John Dahlsen, who makes daily trips to his local Australian shoreline to collect the garbage that washes up there. (See the short feature video at to see John in action.)

This Blue Rope triptych (above) is something I could stare at for a long while. Found colors—whether it be colors of autumn leaves or colors of collected garbage—is something that intrigues me. The washed-up ropes, layered and intertwining together, creates a feeling that is both like a painted landscape and a geological diagram. To me it reads as layers of sedimentary deposits in the earth’s strata…mapped-out all neat and tidy. With just a splash of irony.

Bronze Plastic Purge - John DahlsenAs well as assemblage art, Dahlsen offers “plastic purge sculpture” such as this one here (Bronze Plastic Purge 2005). These sculptures, byproducts of industrial manufacture, take on a variety of colors and shapes. I especially love how this one in particular reminds me of skin, or like a glorified internal organ. I could write many paragraphs about it’s tactile qualities, but I don’t want you to feel like I’m teaching a biology class here… (geology, now biology—yes, I’m a sucker for science of all sorts.)

Also, have you:
—heard the statistics on Ireland’s taxing of plastic bags in their grocery stores?

—seen a flyer posted in your local “health food store” notifying that they’ll be doing away with plastic bags in the next few months? (Although, toss-able paper bags aren’t that much better, considering how much energy and resources it takes to produce them.)

I can imagine that other artists are going in a similar direction as John Dahlsen (at least I hope so), and I’ll be doing more research in the future on problematic plastics.

About Jamie

Jamie is an award winning artist who specializes in textile/fabric pieces (art that you wear), but also creates paintings, sculptures, and quilted works of art.
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3 Responses to Plastic Soup, Anyone?

  1. Theodora says:

    Hi there! I lived in Galway for a while, and the plastic bag tax was amazing! No one used plastic bags anymore, and a whole DIY industry had sprung up over night at the local market…bags of all shapes and sizes and colors.

    I know that Aldi charges for bags here, but it’d be great if every store in the US would do the same. Its astonishing how inhibiting a 5c or 10c charge per bag can be for folks…enough motivation to bring their own bags!

    love your site…thanks for putting your energy into it!

  2. jamie says:

    Thanks, Theodora 🙂
    And I agree completely. I think that stores should charge for bags here in the US, too…even though there would probably be an uproar about it! Americans would get used to it eventually, and it would be a big step in the right direction.

  3. e rega says:

    I just took a look at your plastic dress on Craftster, and I just wanted to say I perused your blog, and your work is really awesome~I’m a Fibers major in school right now, so I love to see others using unusually materials and processes!

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