Artist Statement about the RECYCLE Collection
RECYCLE is a new series of jewelry constructed from post-consumer recycled plastic containers such as milk, orange juice and shampoo bottles; trash that would normally be thrown away.
My commitment to use, or should I say “reuse”, consumer waste materials started from a sense of social responsibility. Picking up ordinary, commonplace items reflects two competing principals in the same material.
One issue acknowledges that thousands if not millions of dollars are invested in packaging technology and seductive design with jewel like colors and interesting forms.
Sometimes the container’s character reflects the contents, such as the “orange” of orange juice plastic or the “milky white” container for milk. Other times, the container seems more like an exotic Aladdin’s lamp attributing magical properties to an elixir that we never see but consume.
Plastic is seductive material with serious environmental impact. Consider the volume of single use containers that are irresponsibly thrown away, the quantity of plastic waste in our oceans and inner waterways, the particulates that are eaten by fish and animals, and the exposure issues to plastic in our food. The list just keeps growing.
The second principal is that plastic, despite its amazing properties, is one of the most denigrated and most negatively valued of materials. The public views plastic as socially inferior and environmentally irresponsible. People who are shallow or insincere are even described as “plastic.”
A man made invention, plastic can be seen as a miracle of modern science yet somehow retains a negative public image.This material has no intrinsic value. It is not as precious as gold or silver, but in many ways it symbolizes the values created through mass-marketing and consumption.
Does value exist within the craftsmanship, by who made it, or by what materials are used? Or is value created through controlling messages, mass-marketing and mass-consumption?Either way, we have become immune to visual saturation that entices consumers to buy. But as soon as the invisible contents are gone, we throw the container away, magically disposable and replaceable.
“Our culture expects us to be manic – to overproduce, to over consume, and to waste – but in all this, something is missing: the knowledge that life can be transformed by a sacramental experience.”* By appropriating cast off containers destined for the landfill, my work gives this material new life and new purpose. By resurrecting disposable material into a fresh and ;exuberant new life, this new series furthers the commentary about the overabundance in our consumer society. - Harriete Estel Berman
* Has Modernism Failed? By Suzi Gablik 1984 Thames and Hudson Inc. New York