Replicating Nature to Transform E-Waste into New Kinds of Rock

The global issue of the dumping of e-waste inspired jeweller Stefanie Cheong and Thailand based designer Kawisara Anansaringkarn of Coth Studio to experiment with ways to mimic the processes of nature and create new kinds of rock during their residency at Cove Park earlier this year.

This blog is part of a series by the Scottish makers participating in a programme of residencies with makers in Mexico, Thailand and Canada as part of the AAS international exchange project to create new work on the themes of identity and sustainability for an exhibition, Meet Make Collaborate.

Research resources

Introduction to my Practice

My work is underpinned by ethical making that considers process, business practices and use of materials. I work predominantly in Fairtrade and recycled metals paired with rock which is currently fuelling an interest in Geology and the history of our Earth. I source and collect my rocks throughout Scotland and transform them into jewellery and art objects sharing the connections to place and time.

I use traditional stone cutting techniques with a contemporary aesthetic often with interchangeable elements that encourage the wearer to consider sustainable design.

In addition to my making practice I am an educator and curator delivering projects, exhibitions and workshops collaboratively with arts organisations and other educational services. Through my posts with Fife Contemporary and Board Member of Applied Art Scotland I hope to inspire and empower people through making, and encourage sustainability within the Craft Sector.

Introduction to Kawisara Anansaringkarns’ Practice

Kawisara is one half of COTH Studio (CreativeCollaboration Thailand) which is a Thailand-based interdisciplinary design studio, which was founded by Chalermkiat Somdulyawat and Kawisara Anansaringkarn in 2015. 

Driven by a deep interest in Thai cultural identity, their design practices lie in an exploration of relationships between traditional and contemporary elements while offering a new layer of meaning. They approach each individual work by way of experimentation and research-based practices, blending together various disciplines in order to blur conventional boundaries.

This approach allows them to work in collaboration with a variety of people from different fields and inspires their creation to take various forms, ranging from crafts and artistic products to designs for meaningful experience.

Collaboration

I was introduced to Kawisara via email where we shared our practices, interests, web and social media links to explore. Quite quickly I was able to find parallels in our work, materials and concepts and became excited to meet her. Fast forward a month and we were together at Cove Park for a 10 day residency which also included research trips to Edinburgh and Glasgow to help support our exploration.

We were given the themes of sustainability and identity to respond to and found ourselves discussing the global issue of e-waste. Kawisara spoke of problems such as the dumping of e-waste on Thailand from other countries including the UK and this became our starting point. Scientists and artists have already been exploring the extraction of precious metals so we looked to the tonnes of plastic and other components that ended up in landfill, heavily polluting the environments they end up in.

Film of collaboration findings at Cove Park

Kawisara looked to nature to see if we could borrow or mimic any processes that could help transform these parts of e-waste into something new and interesting. Fuelled with my interest in Geology we looked at a few rock types and how they were formed – sedimentary, conglomerates and fossils.  We tried to figure out ways of replicating these processes in a naive and experimental fashion with all our e-waste components, thanks go to Cove Park for donating an old telephone for the sampling.

Timelapse of stripping the Cove phone
Smashing up the Cove phone

We wondered and imagined if these were what future rocks and fossils would resemble, a glance at the Anthropocene in future geological ages. We stumbled across a term plasticglomorate that related to rocks found washed up on our beaches, rocks made from plastic, sand and other rock particles.

Making plasticglomerate

By the end of our residency we had created 12 separate rock samples made from 3 different rock cycle processes. I felt we were at the beginning of a new research project “The New Kind of Rock” with so much more to explore.

First rock sample
Rock sample one cut open

We left each other with no definitive final outcomes but more of a foundation to build on. That was back at the end of February, since then we have kept in touch and developed the project when possible. Both Kawisara and I found it difficult for a while to explore further material play as at the beginning of the pandemic we both did not have access to our studios or a safe place to experiment. We saw this as an opportunity to gather further research that has informed our outcomes. For the exhibition Meet Make Collaborate we will share the rock samples from Cove Park along with an individual response to the research and development we have been gathering in the form of film, objects and jewellery.

Overall I found the experience very refreshing, the residency challenged me to consider ideas from other perspectives and I thank Kawisara for being an excellent, inspiring collaborator. I think this body of research and process of exploring is going to stick with me and I’m excited to see how and what ways it will manifest in my overall practice.

Top image: The New Kind Of Rock samples, photo Stefanie Cheong


Read about the experiences of other Scottish makers taking part in Meet Make Collaborate – ceramicist Susan O’Byrne, weaver Cally Booker, textile maker Fiona Hall, basketmaker Sarah Paramor, textile designer Kate Davies, artist Louise Barrington and weaver Lynne Hocking-Mennie.

The Meet Make Collaborate exhibition is part of an international project by Applied Arts Scotland SCIO in partnership with the British Council Crafting Futures programme including the British Council Mexico and British Council Thailand, the British Council ScotlandHigh Life HighlandMuseums Galleries Scotland and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and funded by Creative ScotlandEdinburgh College of Art and Highlands and Islands Enterprise

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