Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Away Is Where It’s At…

A Plastic is Forever pop up shop on Friday the 20th of April was the climax of my three week stay in Eleuthera

It was the welcome party for a weekend of Earthday Festivities in Eleuthera and I was the featured guest with a gallery full of Plastic is Forever – earrings, bracelets, necklaces, scarves, tees, kerchiefs, stationary, and even a pair of pants and a “red carpet” dress.

linen “shipwreck” pants hand sewn with orange mono-filament

I took over the Beach House Boutique which belongs to my friend Jude (she had generously donated the space for the day.)  Usually the shop is a cornucopia of treasures, a feast for the eyes, a trove of endless fashion goodies- something for everyone, but I had planned to strip it down to a white, bare, breezy gallery space. A place where the colors of a new generation of beach plastic would speak loudly to an audience that came from all over to celebrate Earthday in Eleuthera.

For starters I needed five sheets of plywood, painted white, to cover the walls, and had located them as soon as I’d arrived in Tarpum Bay. They were stored at the fire station, they were already white, and they were mine for the event, but eventually would end up as the ceiling of a community building. Perfect, no waste, they would be recycled….

On Thursday, the day before my  installation, I drove past the Governor’s Harbour park where Saturday’s festivities would take place. Stalls for local vendors (food, crafts, drinks and community info) were already built around the perimeter and in the middle stood a small hand-hewn stage prepared for the eight consecutive hours of island music  and  speakers.

The white backdrop of the stage looked vaguely familiar. It was made from five sheets of roughly painted white plywood.

Hmm.

Of course I panicked.

But no one else did.

I melted down NYC style. Where TF was my plywood?

Don’t worry man… they laughed…

The next morning between 9am and 12 am ten sheets of plywood materialized. And a jar of white paint. And two brushes. Word had gone out that the lady of the plastic needed plywood…

poster in the Sands liquor store

I was disappointed that the dates of my daughters’ FCA tests in Miami made it impossible  for my family to get to Eleuthera in time for my event.

But.

I was sent three fashion angels… the A-team of style mavens … they arrived from NYC on Thursday night…

Julie Gilhart, Christine Park and Berrin Noorata had planned to spend Earthday in Eleuthera. To help me! After two weeks of lonely nights in my castle I had a house full of women – four sleepovers – I couldn’t believe my luck and they couldn’t believe where they had landed – paradise – a mere five hour trip from Seventh Avenue (same as a trip in the Hampton Jitney to Montauk on a Friday afternoon in July).

We spent Friday hooshing. I laid out the store after the plywood had gone up. Gallery in the front, One Beach  screening room and check-out in the back …

front to back

Julie, Christine and Berrin have worked together for years and easily fell into creating the pop up store.

Together we played shop and it was fun…

Christine hangs the napkin rings

Berrin styles packaging and check out

Julie works pricing

At 3pm a giant inflatable plastic purple foot floated across the deck outside the shop’s window. Barefoot Wine, the sponsor of the One Beach film and the wine sponsor for the event, had arrived for set-up. Erected, right outside my temple against beach plastic pollution, was an inflatable purple plastic palace constructed from enormous Barefoot logo feet.

Hmm.

Those purple bare feet were not walking the One Beach talk. The message about plastic pollution, as in the single-use senseles plastic gifts of purple plastic leis and purple plastic barefoot key rings which were handed-out to our guests, evidently had not trickled-down from Napa Valley to Nassau.

With Miss Bahamas Earth

The welcome party was a hit. Over 200 people attended and we sold a lot of Plastic is Forever pieces.

 

  

 

Eleanor Phillips from the Bahama chapter of  The Nature Conservancy welcomed the crowd, Shaun Ingraham and Michele Johnson introduced  the One Eleuthera Foundation.

I spoke about how Away is Here.

waiting my turn

Wich means that whether we “get Away from it all” or “throw our plastic trash Away”,  Away is the same place – the beautiful beaches of Eleuthera – and how we, visitors, come from societies that litter the oceans. I urged the crowd to take responsibility, on behalf of Eleuthera, the place we all claim to love so much, and  help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans and on the pristine beaches of Away – Eleuthera, Hawaii, Bali, etc.

Shaun Ingraham introduces the One Eleuthera Foundation. Photo: Azaleta Ishmail Newry

The next day Michelle and Craig Symonette hosted the VIP lunch at their stunning home on Twin Coves. VIP indeed, $600,000 was pledged to One Eleuthera and they were off to a flying start. Shaun was beaming when I handed him my, by comparison, measly check, the % contribution to One Eleuthera from the sales of the previous night. I pledged more to come as a % of Plastic is Forever will continue to benefit One Eleuthera.

table settings with the first ever beach plastic napkin rings

Saturday night was party time in Bayfront Park  with reggae, rap and even a Junkanoo…

  

Sunday morning was very wet as a storm passed over the island overnight but Shelby White who created  the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, in memory of her husband, said it was the best gift mother earth could have bestowed on Earthday – rain was what they needed most.

Shelby White, #1 on Eleuthera’s best-dressed list with Craig Symonette #1 fun host

The afternoon picnic at Coco di Mama hosted by the Urgo family was a windy affair.

Most people stayed indoors and drank.

Mark from the Leon Levy preserve at the Coco di Mama party

Coco di Mama is by far the cutest hotel on Eleuthera on the usually calm and turquoise Alabaster Bay . It has been my favorite ever since it opened. With the Urgo family as its current owners it is poised to expand to 42 rooms by January 2014, which is great news for the island.

Coco di Mama seen from the sea

By the end of the day, thanks to three powerful weeks and Sammy’s cocktails, I was giddy and somewhat worse for wear.

And sad that I had to tear myself away from Away….


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Team Tarpum Bay

My core team: Davette, Sterlene, Zach, Lynn, Queenie, Rose, Simone and Louise, missing is Audrey,  team captain

After the Easter celebrations my studio slowly became a hub. Word was out that the lady with the beach plastic needed help. On Tuesday five women came to sew and throughout the day more joined in. Zach had been helping since the first day – my master assistant who washed the plastic, laid it out to dry, cut it up and drilled it.

harvested beach plastic drying in the sun

We had 180 tee shirts to do. 540 bits of plastic to attach. We also had to make 100 napkin rings for a fundraiser lunch on Saturday the 21st. Another 1200 pieces of beach plastic went into those. I did not think it could be done. I worried. Audrey said don’t worry. Two days later she was right and they all laughed and poked fun at my concern as if my worries were the funniest thing that had happened all week, but I had no idea there were so many talented artisans in town.

adding beach plastic to the tees

By Thursday we were doing bracelets and necklaces. Together we sat around big round tables. I prepped each piece, dismembering the monofilament nylon drift ropes that tangle all over the beaches and reefs, strangling birds and turtles and poisoning whales, dolphins and big fish.  The colors of the monofilament are striking and I look for matching beads from turquoise to seed pearls and crystals. The crafters strung them and I attached the magnetic closures.  We did dozens like this.

 

Before  &  After

Friday was earring day and everyone was excited to learn. I prepped crosses by cutting old washed-up lobster traps, bait pouches and one red and one orange crate. Zach drilled holes in their centers. I laid out the findings and gems.

 

Before & After

While we put the earrings together we  compared birth stories. Rose had six kids, Audrey one, Sterlene two. I had three in two births. We talked about which of the Tarpum Bay super markets had OJ.

Sterlene: I have to get myself some orange juice

Me: I need orange juice, I went to Bert’s but they were out

Sterlene: They were out?

Audrey: Try 6 to 10.

Sterlene: And they stay open till 10

Me: They still have orange juice?

Audrey: Yeah they have orange juice, boat came in yesterday

On the island the rhythm of shopping is determined by the boat and the assortment an important part of daily dialog. As I sat and listened to their languid drawlin’ Bahamian dialect I wished I could stay long enough until I had their way of speaking   down.

On Sunday I went to my favorite beach one last time and spent the morning drawing and collecting beach plastic.

Monday was my last day as artist in residence. I packed up all my belongings, my 180 tees, 100 napkin rings and another 100 pieces of jewelry. I was ready for the Eleuthera Earthday Weekend. But I was melancholy. I had loved my time in the Castle and the Prep building. I loved my new friends. I relished in my daily routine of working at the castle in the morning and sharing my trash to treasure process with my local team in the afternoon.  I’d miss my early evening swims in Winding Bay where dozens of giant starfish dot the sandy ocean bottom and coming home salty and tired and having a vodka lemonade while cooking myself dinner and then working more into the night.  I’d been oddly lonely, but I’d enjoyed the solitude of spending time with myself after many years of being immersed in the bustle of my wild and intense family.

Early Tuesday I moved to Palmetto Point, closer to the Beach House where I will show my new collection and One Beach film during the Welcome Party of Jammin’ for Nature, three days of Earthday celebrations sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and benefitting One Eleuthera. Tomorrow friends arrive from NYC to help and party and I shall be alone no more….

Plastic is Forever website

come and join us!


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Eleutheros – freedom

a sand-cast mural on the castle wall depicting MacMillan Hughes and wife....

I am here because I love Eleuthera.

My love has been reciprocated and the island has given me many gifts. First I found the beach plastic and became fascinated by its implications. This fascination led to a new stage of my creative life where everything I’ve done so far has come together, taking me to a new level of engagement. Over the past year I’ve been invited to share the life of people here and work together to not only make Eleuthera (which is already just perfect as it is) prosper but also to be a beacon to the world. In the coming two weeks we are working together to create a memorable  Earthday that is genuine in its intent to increase respect for our environment; the beaches, the ocean and the island’s natural heritage. The Nature Conservancy, Ginny and Eleanor,  have made an amazing effort to make this happen and the new organization One Eleuthera, Shaun and Michele, are poised to make a huge impact on the ecological future of the island. I am proud to be a part of this team, and feel so priviliged to be the island’s artist in residence.

     

handmade details from the castle, a glass window light, the studded “portal”, cross on the old back door.

In the kitchen of the castle hangs a sepia picture, a history of the island with a map made from bits of sea glass and it is framed with local shells. MacMillan Hughes, the original Eleutheran artist in residence and creator of his castle, wrote in perfect calligraphy the legacy of Eleuthera’s name and the first settlers who came to escape the  “rigid imposing upon all, in matters of judgement, whereby divisions have been made, factions formed, persecutions induced.”

Does this sound like elements of our culture? Has Eleuthera’s destiny come full circle?

Here’s what it says.

             Centuries ago the Arawak name for the island was Cignateo or Cigatoo and when a certain Juan de la Cosa drew his first chart of the island this fact was not known. In 1598 Ortelius of Antwerp called the island Cignatoe, then in 1631 the Dutchman Hondeus printed a map on which Eleuthera is called Gjantteo and also Guatteo. In the 1700s the island usually has two or more names, such as Lucayous, then Alebaster or Cigateo. On very early maps a group of rocks on the eastern coast of Eleuthera are called the Alabaster Rocks. However in 1731 a Natural History of the Bahama Islands was written and Catesby called it Ilathera. Historians have now established beyond a doubt that the name Eleuthera is derived from the Greek word Eleutheros, which means freedom and that was what the early settlers sought through religious liberty. Many people think that the name Lucayos is a derivative from Los Cayos or Cays.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

A certain William Sayle of England in 1647 placed an advertisement in a poster called the Broadsheet. This resulted in the formation of a “Company of Eleutherian Adventurers” in London whose purpose was the settling of the island and the establishment of a colony where religious liberty could be enjoyed. The Articles and Orders of the Company of Eleutherian Adventurers was drawn up on July 9th, 1647. They announced publicly that the Eleutheran Colony would be a republic and enjoy Freedom of Conscience in religious matters.

The Establishment of The Eleutheran Adventurers
             “Resolved to insure … WHEREAS experience has shown us the great inconveniences that have happened… by a rigid imposing upon all…in matters of judgement and practice in the things of religion, whereby divisions have been made, factions formed, persecutions induced. Whereas experience has shown us, that the peace and happy progress of all plantations doth much depend upon the good government thereof, the equal distribution of justice and respect to all persons, without faction or distinction the certain knowledge and manifestation of everyone’s rights and properties and careful provisions for common defence and safety to those who showed godliness, sobriety and justice.”

During the summer of 1648 William Sayle with a group of seventy settlers set sail for Eleuthera. His partner was William raner together with an aged clergyman Patrick Copeland. There was also a young man, Captain Butler, who later quarreled with Sayle and they parted company on reaching Eleutheria as Sayle called the island in his dream of unbounded liberty. After the setback Sayle then set out for what is now believed to be Spanish Wells. Most of the settlers were driven from their homes by the Spaniards in 1680 and many, being destitute emigrated to Boston, setting in North Yarmouth, near Portland Maine. Forty one heads of families are listed in the “Early Settlers of the Bahamas” and to this day many names such as Bethel, Culmers, Ingraham, Knowles testify to the pioneering spirit of the settlers.

foot note by MacMillan Hughes


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Rhythm

view from my writing turret

It takes a while to settle a routine as an artist in residence and its hard to let go.

I miss my family yet they just keep movin’ to their usual beat.

First I want to do it all, and then I don’t know what to do.

But I have so much to do.

I need a rhythm, a rhythm.

Winding Bay

I went to  Winding Bay last July with 28 kids from the Cultural Center but this time I am alone. This time I follow the “public beach access” sign and turn left instead of right to take the sandy road all the way to the end.

At first I am annoyed, I am still annoyed by the pedestrian e-mails that came in from life back in Miami, like a client who’d promised to send a wire last week and now tells me that she sent a check by mail. Bullshit stuff I don’t want to deal with, but it’s the jostling and jousting we all do for our lifestyle, from health insurance to school acceptance letters and 2011 taxes.

I am annoyed that the local public beach is half a mile up a potholed dirt road whereas private vacation homes are conveniently dotted all along the easy access paved road to the right. I know it’s silly but I still feel controlled by the powers-that-be back home. I am so not in the here and now. I am allowing negativity into my life. I’m not feelin’ the island love. I am grumpily thinking that I have no freedom no matter where I go.

After much bumping around I make it to the end of Winding Bay beach. I park the car and get out. The wind swishes through the Casuarinas, they may not be indigenous, they may kill other plant species, but I do love them for their sound, that gentle hush through their long thin needles. A rhythm. I walk across the burning sand to the water’s edge, it’s high tide and perfectly clear. Tiny waves lap back and forth. A rhythm. I notice a small turtle swimming a few feet away. I stay very still and watch her. A tiny head breaks the surface and she glances at me while taking a breath.

That’s when I forget about wires and threatening e-mails from Bank of America. It all dissipates as I stand knee deep in water and watch and listen to the harmony of what happens around me. I hear the chorus of birds in the trees behind me. I see two more, mature, turtles who also check me out. Their perfectly round heads pop in and out, black and glistening against the aqua marine water. A rhythm.

           

I take out my camera and change the lens to macro. This forces me to really look, drawing me into my environment and out of myself. I notice the texture of a bleached branch rather than just a dead tree, the repetitive patterns in the sand, the sharp edges and chiseled surface of the rocks and their shadows. The color of water, sand, wood, rock, shell, seaweed, plastic, all become part of me as I shoot frame after frame.

My rhythm.

  

  

I sit down to draw the patterns of the sand. I am happy. I can stay here forever but a big fat black fly comes at me with persistent rhythm and eventually drives me away.

           

pen and ink:  “sand”   and   “rhythm”

Click on image to see larger


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Finding the Future on Lighthouse Beach…

The windmill at the Island School

“My career is really taking off here” was not something I expected to say seven years after I first walked the beaches off Eleuthera . When I first noticed the colored plastic bits in the  surf line and was strangely attracted to their paradoxical existence, the color they added to the natural elements, the way many plastic shapes seemed to find organic companions and together created still-lives in the sand. Like the green flip flop perfectly aligned with matching green beach grass, a white bottle top buried in black seaweed paired with a round shell of the same color and texture, two golden seeds cozied up against the edge of nylon string as if they had agreed to meet there.

synergy

Seven years later I notice it still and still crawl the beaches hungry for more, for pieces I have neither found nor captured before.

I sat with my friend Maureen on her most perfect porch overlooking the long curve of Wyckee Beach.  The sand and sea tinted vibrant pink by the early sunset.

Career and Eleuthera in one sentence, how’s that possible? I asked.

I had just returned from the Island School down in south Eleuthera, beyond Green Castle near the settlement of Deep Creek. The school takes juniors and gives them a mind, body, and spirit journey that takes them away from their traditional high school curriculum wherever they live.

Nadine, the art teacher, had invited me to teach a beach plastic workshop to 48 kids  in the Fall semester.

But on the first day I taught a workshop at the Deep Creek Middle School which is affiliated with the Island School.

We started the day with a beach sweep at the Cotton Bay Club (Juan Tripp’s Eleuthera dream  of more than half a century ago.)  Its ruins hide just beyond the dune amongst the Casuarinas, gaping and crumbling fifties bungelows some with indestructible nylon drapes ghostly in the wind. Here we collected beach plastic that had been swept into the dune grass and beyond by hurricane Irene last August. Stories of the eye passing over the island twice still fresh on everybody’s lips.

It was a good time for harvesting beach plastic…

That evening Nadine showed the One Beach film to faculty and staff of the school, projected on a white wall in her apartment. The film, which is 24 minutes long, took about an hour. Five minutes of  loading, five minutes of watching, everyone was used to slow connection, laid back, on island time.

I answered questions while waiting for buffering.

The next morning we had our first Island School workshop.

I love the intensity in the class room, everyone scavenging the piles and looking for ways to make beautiful from beach plastic, tentative at first, picking up a piece, feeling it, studying its color and shape, teaming it with another, then picking up the tools and shaping it, insisting that NO it’s not trash, it’s not orphaned, it is material.

Insisting that “Away” is right there, in their hands… claiming ownership.

(We did stop for 11.11.11.11, standing in a large circle counting down while one girls kept trying to peek out of the window to see if the end of the world was reaching the Bahamas.)

By the end of this workshop Nadine and I felt we were out of good beach plastic which was a perfect excuse to take my first trip to the famous Lighthouse Beach, where beyond the dune amongst  Casuarina pine needles we found enough for many more earrings, bracelets, neck and other art pieces.

harvesting on Lighthouse Beach

The next morning was workshop #2, a second group of 24 students.

Afterwards a 16 year old girl wrote about her solo overnight camping experience and beach plastic on the school’s blog:

(It made me weep for it captures past, present, future and the possibility of change…)

by Cacique Claire

Sitting in my solo spot on one of the most beautiful beaches in existence it seemed that the world was perfect. That was until I turned around and saw the pile of trash behind me that had washed up on the beach from Hurricane Irene. In my time in this spot, I had picked up a tiny fraction of the trash and put it into a pile. But, what good was it in a pile? It was organized, and parts of my spot looked neater, but I had done nothing more than transfer the trash to another spot. For the next forty-eight hours I continued to try to pile the trash. I found funny little things including many bottles and a strange little dog toy in the shape of a bear. As I walked away on day three I looked back. Now my spot looked clean of trash, only I knew that behind the bushes was a large pile of garbage I had hidden, but it was there.

I have been thinking of this a lot lately, this whole idea of where our waste goes. The reality of it is that when we throw away our garbage and it disappears into a truck it still sticks around, forever. Our guest artist today Barbara de Vries talked about how when you buy a drink in a bottle we have this idea of just owning the liquid, but we need to own the plastic bottle as well and realize that it will never really go away. When I walked into Barbara’s workshop Saturday, I was astounded. Lining the walls were beautiful pieces of art, it wasn’t until Barbara began to explain her materials that I realized the earrings, necklaces, bracelets, shirts, rings and decorations were all made up completely of trash. Then Barbara explained that we would be working with the same plastics today to create art. She said that she had found all of the materials for today’s workshop from Lighthouse Beach, the same area where we had our solos. My mind flashed back to my pile of trash in my spot, and I had this strange feeling of relief. Finally, the junk would be put to use and be safe from washing back into the ocean. I went out to look at our options, and staring back at me was a blue and white dog toy, resembling a bear. She had discovered my pile of trash, and saved it. I watched, amazed as the trash was transformed into art. At the end of the day one of my friends had created a pair of earrings made from the handles of the dog toy. I realize now, this trash may never go away. But we can save it. We can transform it into something beautiful, and continue to educate about keeping our beaches clean. This experience forever changed the way I look at plastic and ‘garbage’. Instead of feeling guilty about the trash at my solo spot, I am wearing a little silver ring, with a piece of blue plastic set into it, that came from a funny little dog toy.

Did she know that the face of the little dog toy is in my toolbox? I had nabbed it off her table to incorporate as the clasp of a yellow necklace.

But now I am keeping it with me, just as it is, to remind me of Cacique Claire, Nadine and everyone else at the ground breaking, paradigm changing, most awesome Island School.


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Steve Jobs, TED and thinking different…

Beach plastic necklace. Crosses made from crate embellished with seed pearls

Today the ether is atwitter with quotes from Steve Jobs to “think different”.

Everyone is encouraging everyone to think different.

(A paradox I think)

The TED movement is based on this Steve concept, in fact TED has branded thinking different with “Ideas Worth Sharing” and encourages people from all over to share their ideas, their ways of different thinking, around the globe.

Many people are asking about my TED talk, “How did you get in? How did you do it?”

To be honest it had not occurred to me until I was invited by TED to share my recent work at their next event in Miami.

The evolution of my relationship to what I find on the beach and what I do with it has been organic and compared to the speed of my previous life on 7th Avenue where a new collection was due every six weeks, it was slow.

Very slow.

Slow is good. Slow gave me more time to think . But, because the thoughts happened over an extended period of time, they no longer feel different. They have become part of who I am.

So when I talk about my passion for beach plastic it does not feel like I think different.

Different may well be in the eye of the beholder and it’s in constant flux.

For instance.

Sixty years ago plastic was a “different” material. It was introduced as the material that would give nature a break because we were depleting wood, bone, ivory etc. Now there is not a moment in our life when we do not interact with it. The entire planet is awash with plastic. Oceans carry plastic particles around like cells in a bloodstream. Plastic has been found in tens of thousands of living species, including us. Single use plastic is no longer giving nature a break, it is suffocating life.

In the past I put my creative work out there, but not the thought behind it. I have always been more interested in the outcome rather than the explanation of the creative process and believe that authenticity resonates on its rightful frequency.  But because my work now has an element of activism I succumbed.

Still

I’d hate to preach. I am not here to make any individual feel guilty. I can inspire but I cannot tell you what to do.

(Corporations, hell yes, I’ll make them  guilty all day long, as well as government and policy makers).

But as individuals we have free will. We are in charge of our own destiny. We can inform ourselves and choose to act. We can decide to  bring our own bags to the supermarket instead of using 20 plastic bags instead. We  can recycle, reuse, repurpose and refuse. We have the choice to take responsibility.

in between the lines

My personal transformation started  in Eleuthera 8 years ago.

On my first beach walk  I noticed,  in between the lines in the sand,  bright flecks of color. My initial thought was how pretty but then I realized these specks of plastic were  not supposed to be there.

By the end of that first walk I had encountered everything that mankind had ever made in plastic.

Crates, chairs, brushes, lids, containers, barrettes, flip flops and sneaker and endless lengths of nylon rope.

Even on this remote “pristine” beach I realized that we live in a man made world.

Being a designer I look at almost everything as shape, color, texture and inspiration and what I saw that day I’d never seen before.

The beach plastic had been tumbled in sand, salt and coral. and was bleached by the sun. It had been in nature for so long that it had taken on a natural patina. Some pieces looked like stone, like little colored gems.

I started picking them up.

My love hate relationship with plastic started in that moment .

Back  home I tried to find out more.

I learned that we each consume roughly 300 pounds of plastic a year of which a mere 7% is recycled and 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into the ocean every day.

What could I do?

I had an ever increasing “collection” of beach plastic in my studio and I started making earrings.

Eventually I had an awakening to the possibilities of this material that was never really owned but had been thrown to the mythical place called away.

To make jewelry was a transformation, not just for me, but also for the material.

Think of a water-bottle top. Does anyone ever feel that they own a plastic bottle top? It just keeps the liquid inside the bottle, right? Which you don’t feel you own either. Does the manufacturer of your water feel he owns that bottle?

Nobody owns single-use plastic.

I like finding weathered bottle tops. They make great earrings, and I love selling single use plastic, beach plastic, into ownership.

If plastic is made to last forever then maybe, like diamonds, it can be loved forever.

I got this comment yesterday:

“Keep cleaning up the beaches lady.. but what are you gonna do with all those balloons with the plastic string ties and can you make something with all the garbage those people in Miami leave on the beaches while you’re at it???”

He does NOT think different!

I am not cleaning up the beaches for him or anyone. I do it for me. Creating beauty with beach plastic makes me happy and by getting your attention I implicate you in the tragedy of our single-use throw-away culture.

I hope I make you think.

Not just different.

Different is fleeting.

But think.

All the time

About everything.

website:

http://www.plasticisforever.net/


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The making and premiere of One Beach, the movie…

Q and A at the premiere of One Beach

Last Spring I got  that  e-mail

That uber message we look for in our otherwise boring Inbox.

The one that says:

We have been following your work with beach plastic pollution, we love it, would you be interested in being featured in a movie we are planning?

Delete?

Not me!

Looking for a hidden sales message? Like the next line would say: If you take part in this short questionnaire  you too can be captured on film.

You bet! I did not trust it. I proceeded with caution.

It was not until I had spoken with all the makers of the film, the creative director Sean, the producer Michael, the director Jason and had signed a non-disclosure with Barefoot Wine (to keep it all hush until the premiere, hence no previous mention here at BDM) that I became excited.

They wanted to shoot in Eleuthera, where I find all my beach plastic, and so I sent them the  limited  list of places in Governor’s Harbour. Three low-key hotels, Cigatoo, Pineapple Fields and Coco Di Mama, and a handful of rentals that have 5+ bedrooms.

They chose Squires Estate.

Squires Estate, Toad Hall in foreground, Main Russell House beyond...

I had always wanted to stay there, ever since it had been restored two years ago. Alastair and I even looked at the main house when it was on the market. Its a dream property, on the hill, a 120 year old Victorian House, overlooking Cupid’s Key, walking distance to Club Med Beach – the most beautiful beach I know.

They booked me for four days early June. Two travel and two shooting.

“Bring your tools and your favorite designs, we’ll do the rest.”

If the camera added ten pounds then it was the time for a diet.

I did a two-day fast, a nine-day shake/powder regimen and swam a million lengths of the pool.

I departed, lithe and pre-tanned.

First to arrive, I chose the ground floor bedroom of the main house because it was the most private, like a mini wing, overlooking the pool and the Caribbean sea to the west. Everything was new, done by an Italian designer with exquisite taste, who’d mixed old with high-tech, quirky with traditional.

I got my old red truck from the garage.

I was already happy.

A few hours later the crew arrived. Curt, Sean, Jason, Michael, Scotty and Tyler.

Six surfers from California.

Had I died and gone to heaven?

OK. Yes! I am happily married. I’m a mother of three. I’m not young as such.

But hey, I’m still a woman!

lunch at the Beach House

I had an eery feeling –  after  years of being a service-driven mother, feeding, cleaning, chauffeuring, organizing and wondering  (within the safety of my own head):

What about me?

A dawning sense that maybe someone (who can hear beyond the safety of my own head), had been listening, that somehow I had been good enough, that getting attention was actually allowed when you try your hardest to be a good wife and mother and employee and world citizen…

And I let go.

Snap.

This was  going to be about me (and my obsession with beach plastic) and it was OK.

Those six guys were awesome, I don’t know much about them beyond those four days, but they were easy going, considerate, creative, charming, talented, professional and funny, so funny…

They made it possible for me to be me. To do my work, make my stuff, tell my message without ever making me feel self-conscious or insecure. At least three cameras captured me at work for at least 24  hours. It felt natural. It felt great. I felt beautiful. They helped me believe that what I was doing was worthwhile.

I wanted it to last a bit longer.

Last shot, left to right, Tyler, Jason, Barbi, Curt, Sean, Michael and Scotty

Still, we dispersed. They went on to do the next “innovator”, Tim in Australia, and I was just a tad jealous.

But I mainly felt empowered. Things were falling into place. back home I was asked to apply for the Miami TED talk. I went on my teaching trip around Eleuthera.

*

Last night I saw I Don’t Know How She Does It with my three daughters. I had read the book at a time when I identified with the author, when I was the overcommitted mother of three little girls who felt she had to do it all, or else…

Leila wanted to know if I had ever felt like Kate did in the film.

You mean, like, I Don’t Know How I Did It?

Kiki and Leila @ 2 years, by barred stairs in Milford.

My daughters are now eleven and fifteen. I asked if they remembered when I was the Mother with a Career in NYC.

They don’t!

They don’t remember that I went to Hong Kong for two weeks over Christmas when they were six months old, nor being in day care at age two because the latest nanny had disappeared without trace while I worked on 7th Avenue three days a week (living in Milford,PA). They don’t remember my equivalent of  Kate Reddy’s bake-sale angst amongst the zealous fundraising stay-at-home mothers of the Homestead School.

Its great to find out that it it did not matter. That they are fine. More than fine. That I can forgive myself for those perceived shortcomings, that getting off the fashion merry-go-round to have more time at home with them was a good choice too. That feeling out of it and disconnected and fat and dumb maybe was just a cocoon, a small, limited space, where the next incarnation of me could shape itself.

Of course we always are exactly where we should be.

This is easy to see with the gift of hindsight, like looking at an old photograph and wondering why you did not really enjoy the way you looked back then.

When I first saw One Beach I felt that I was exactly where I should be in the big picture of life.

So.

Thank you all Barefooters for making this possible.

Jason Baffa, Scotty and Tyler for making me look good.

Michael Pizzo for producing and Curt O’Brien for setting it up.

Sean O’Brien for his creative foresight and green spirit that gave birth to the idea of One Beach.

And of course the entire Barefoot Wine team in California and New York that worked so hard to pull it all off in time for the premiere in NYC  last week.

We were all there.

In New York.

The team that made One Beach and the people it featured, called The Innovators in the film.

Kevin Cunningham, a surfer from Rhode Island who incorporates beach plastic in making surfboards from recycled materials.

Richard Lang and beautiful Judith Selby Lang, the king and queen of beach plastic, fell in love on their first date while combing Kehoe Beach for plastic debris. They incorporate beach plastic in their art from installations to photography and jewelry.

Left to right: Stephanie Gallo, Kevin Cunningham, Sean O'Brien, Barbara de Vries Jason Baffa, Judith and Richard Lang, Elizabeth and Anne. Lying in foreground is Tyler from Smash.

We watched the first screening together, wept at the end, and were all amazed at the synergy between us, four people who have never met, in three different parts of the US, who collect and work with beach plastic and whose dialog and message has evolved in an eerily similar way without ever speaking to each other.

We also had beach plastic envy as we drooled over pieces in each other’s collection.

The premiere was at the Helen Mills theatre in Chelsea, with a live feed to our own Facebook app where over 5000 people had signed up to watch the film and subsequent Q and A online.

Sitting in the director’s chairs, below ground in NYC, taking questions that Tyler, our MC, received on his Ipad from Facebookers all over, had a surreal sense of opportunity, the feeling that when we  all connect we can make a difference.

Below is  the One Beach film, which we hope will help raise awareness of beach plastic pollution. Numbers just released estimate that six million tons of what becomes “marine debris” (non organic material that does not break down) enters the oceans every year. One Beach has a positive message, it is upbeat about creativity and possibility, but none of us have the illusion that just  selling up-cycled beach plastic into ownership can significantly reduce what washes up on our beaches every day with every tide and every wave. We want to connect to people through beauty, and our message is to for everyone to reduce our plastic foot print (300 pounds per person every year) NOW by saying no to single-use plastics.

Tip: Start with refusing bottled water and plastic shopping bags, relatively easy steps, then pick an alternative material every time there is a choice…

Here are Sean’s pictures of the making of One Beach in Eleuthera:  link

Sunset from the pool at Squires