making plastic precious


inspired by nautical craftsmanship and folk art, the designers at Studio Swine went in search of plastic in the ocean for their Gyrecraft project – and found a lot to choose from. sailing 1000 nautical miles from the Azores to the Canary Islands, they passed through through the North Atlantic Gyre: one of five points on the planet where swirling megacurrents concentrate vast quantities of floating debris, including plastic

“it’s one of the biggest problems facing our civilisation,” says Studio Swine’s Alex Groves, “plastic is in every part of the ocean and the effect it’s having on plankton is only just beginning to be investigated. plankton are the base of the entire planet’s food chain, and they are responsible for producing one third of the oxygen we breath. if we lose plankton we are headed for another mass extinction. in the swirling gyre, most of the plastics have broken down into tiny fragments which are spread over massive stretches of the ocean. due to their size, they are incredibly difficult to recover in any large quantity – making this once disposable material very precious”


sifting this resource from the open ocean, the team used a custom machine they designed and built that uses the sun’s rays to melt and extrude the precious plastic. back on dry land, they crafted the now-transformed sea plastic and other waste into five stunning art objects, each representing one of the five major ocean gyres and the indigenous and modern cultures which surround them


in the North Pacific, green abalone shell, rope and a stylised brass net allude to fishing, while the South Pacific sees plastic transformed into a turtle shell – a nod to remote island communities that thrive entirely on the sea, and their vernacular handicrafts. their Indian Ocean object “envisages a new plastic craft made by the Sentinelese people of the Andaman Islands, the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world. although isolated from the modern world, they receive the newest synthetic materials in the form of ocean plastic washed up on their shores”

read more about designers working with plastic in our piece for Amuse