The Plastic Sea – by Frankie Moughton-Small

With so much waste, particularly plastic, already in the world, I felt I should use some of it to create, rather than just add more to the pile. The challenge to transform and elevate unwanted rubbish into something of value appealed in both its trials in making and in challenging people’s views on waste and value.

Using wasted fishing gear and plastic marine debris as materials and transforming them beyond recognition, my aim with my work is to set up a conflict for the viewer: the bright colours and fun textures suggest a playful happiness, yet the grim reality of where these materials came from, and the larger issue they represent jars against the initial visual appeal. The realisation of what you are actually looking at versus one’s initial reaction can have a powerful impact on a viewer. My aim is for an initial visual engagement to then translate into a reconsideration of the unvalued, throwaway position plastic largely occupies in our current society.




  1. The Rainbow Sorting Bin.

An interactive sculpture consisting of hollow, clear tubes. Each tube is designated a colour, and the public help to sort and place plastic debris into the tubes. In the end, the tubes are full of colour-organised plastic debris. The location for this activity is flexible, but I would like to work with local beach clean-up initiatives to gather the plastic.

A visually-appealing, colourful piece of work with an element of fun would be created, yet would also serve as a demonstration and reminder to people of the amount and variety of plastic waste that ends up in our seas. I think having people be involved in the sorting/handling of the plastic helps personally connect them more to the issue; direct involvement hopefully leaves a lasting impression on them and makes them more conscious of plastic usage in their daily lives. The interactive element of the piece could especially appeal to children, an important demographic to engage and educate on this issue.

  1. Your Plastic Footprint.

Have people select and arrange plastic waste, heat it, then step onto the malleable plastic to create a shoe/foot imprint they can then take home. The plastic could be collected plastic debris from the beach/waterways of the location the event is in; Las Palmas or another coastal location could be a good site. There would be some sort of protection for people’s shoes and a safe, fume-free method for melting the plastic, with the correct extraction.

Most people know about their carbon footprint, but people often don’t think about their plastic footprint, which cannot be ‘offset’ in the same way as plastic is non-biodegradable. This interaction aims to make people consider the amount of plastic in their lives and the size/impact of their own plastic footprint. The personal plastic shoe imprint to take home with you would serve as a reminder of this.

  1. Plastic Fish.

An installation of a reclaimed fishing net, dotted with fish made from plastic recovered from beaches/waterways. The piece would be on a bridge, with the net stretched over peoples’ heads, attached to lamp posts. The fish would all be species particularly affected by plastic pollution, and there would be information telling people these facts. I think this event would work well in Amsterdam or Venice, due to all the waterways, or perhaps somewhere along the Rhine or Danube: other European rivers which experience plastic pollution.

Many people know about oceanic plastic pollution, but are not aware of all of the consequences of this rubbish in the sea: industrial pollutants building up in fish, microplastics ending up in the fish people eat, etc. I would use this interaction as a chance to raise awareness about how far-reaching and diverse the consequences of plastic pollution are for animals and humans alike.

Art focussing on plastic pollution often emphasises the gruesome and horrific aspects; statistics and imagery that will guilt and shame the onlooker. Whilst this type of work is powerful, and can definitely shock people into action, I feel other approaches haven’t been explored as fully; an art which engages the public with the issue of plastic pollution in more positive or subtle ways. It is this other approach I would like the chance to explore through the Universal Sea project. Colourful, fun, interactive art and design that just as effectively informs people about the problem of plastic pollution, and could perhaps engage members of the public turned off by more antagonistic methods.

Frankie Moughton-Small is a UK designer and 2017 graduate from BA Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins. Her graduate collection, focussing on the issue of plastic pollution in the seas, has been exhibited as part of the Theo Fennel ‘Gilded Youth’ graduate showcase, and at ‘Creative Unions’, a Central Saint Martins graduate exhibition, in association with London Design Festival 2017.

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