Greenhouse, The Onion Garden,


Seaforth Place is one of London’s hidden alleys.  Tucked away in Westminster, it once ran through fields and is now a passageway between flats and offices.

But it has been reconnecting with nature since the advent of The Onion Garden.  Officially opened in June, this urban garden has trees, plants, a coffee stall and greenhouse that for a few days this month was the venue for ReClaim – a thought-provoking display of jewellery-cum-art that leaves us with a renewed awareness that recycling cannot reverse the harm we cause.  Plastic is fundamentally bad and even transforming it into plastic art should make us as uneasy as ivory piano keys do.  The medium is the message, which the exhibitors plan to take to other venues next year.

After more than thirty years of using precious metal to make jewellery, Elizabeth Bone for this exhibition has transformed scores of oat milk ring pulls into the striking “!Exclamation!”  and “Ziggurat”.

Ziggurat (2022-2023) Oat milk ring pulls 80 cm
!Exclamation! (2023) Oat milk ring pulls 107 x 38 cm

They have the force of ceremonial dress, and the culture they represent is destructive and throwaway.  They are nevertheless fun.  If you had the figure for it or the courage, you could wear “Ziggurat” and be a party sensation.

Katrin Spranger also works at the intersection of sculpture and jewellery and her message is directly harrowing, however seductive at first sight.

Using crude oil, polymers, metallic pigments, skulls and other bones, she articulates the peril of plastic pollution for seabirds, with the underlying warning: if it is deadly to birds, what are the 580,000 plastic particles in every square kilometre of ocean, to quote research, doing to us?

Caroline Palmer, student jeweller and seasoned journalist, eager for new ways to communicate, lightens the mood with her Waste Not dress made after rooting through the rubbish.

Waste Not dress (2023) TBC
100 x 85 cm

She pairs her bubble wrap and bows with a necklace of balled-up wet wipes.

Necklace (2023) TBC
28 x 85 cm

Aimée Mackay takes us back to stricken birds with art assembled from what she collects from the tideline.

Choked (2023) TBC
40.6 x 89 cm

“Choked” is the title of a skeleton of a bird, with its beak in a tangle of plastic and of a swirling nest of fishermen’s plastic rope.  The works are graceful and poignant.

Choked (2023) TBC
40.6 x 89 cm

For anyone for whom the message is too troublingly direct, Jo Aylmer takes packaging from electronics and foods and turns it into slightly otherworldly vessels.

Dimensions (2023) Recycled electronic and food packaging Small 19 x 7 cm, medium 23 x 8 cm, large 26 x 10.5 cm £TBC
TBC (2023)
Recycled electronic and food packaging
19 x 9 cm

Were they ever to be used, the user should be clad in Palmer’s bubble wrap dress, or perhaps the colourful couture of Karen Burt.

Karen Burt skirt and bodice

Burt has diverted wrapping destined for the landfill to make a skirt and bodice inspired by Frida Kahlo’s combining of indigenous garments from various regions.  Any wearer could never be comfortable: its sharp edges recall the disruption plastic causes.

If we carry on producing this much of it, the future is bleak, as encapsulated by Czech-born, London-based jeweller and artist Michaela Barochová.

Future Fossils (2023)
Food packaging, plastic bags, plastic boxes from food, plastic toys, silver, pearls
Big 4. x 5.2 x 5.8 cm, small 2.5 x 2.6 cm

Her “Future fossils”, made of food packaging, plastic bags, plastic boxes from food, plastic toys, silver and pearls to resemble meteorites, or lumps of ore, sum up our legacy.

A dog with opal eyes (2023) Plastic, silver, opals
3.5 x 2.5 cm + chains length 18.5 cm

Also encapsulating the unnaturalness of our times is her “A dog with opal eyes”, made of plastic, silver and opals.  With its cold, blue stare, it subverts the idea of a cuddly pet.

Barbara Lewis © 2023.