10 years ago, I lost my mom to cancer. The next year I was diagnosed with cancer. I have lost numerous other family members, friends, and acquaintances to cancer. After I recovered from surgery, I began to consider whether there was a link between cancer and plastic. I believed eating foods wrapped, stored and cooked in plastic may be the cause of many cancers. Every day there is more and more evidence that shows there is a link.
For the past few years I have been reading and researching how plastic is made and the effects of plastic. It congests our landfills and our lives. So many items we use every day contain small amounts of plastic that end up in the garbage. I concluded that it is not good for us or the environment, so I began thinking about what I could do to cut down on my use of plastic. One way was in my art.
For the past 15 years my art has been inspired by nature and the environment, but I used a lot of art materials that were getting washed down the drain. Acrylic paints, glues, etc. all are made from plastic. I was contributing to the problem that I was trying to solve, and it caused me to rethink my whole art practice. I first switched to oil paint, but soon discovered that many manufactured oil paints are made with pigments from petroleum products. In the end, I decided to try my hand at making my own paint. After much experimentation I came up with a paint that is made of plant and mineral pigments combined with various food grade oils.
There is now no plastic used in my new art. The artwork is created on wood; first painted with my hand-made paint and then the design is wood-burned onto the piece. This art style is partly inspired by First Nations Art and Artists, but further relates to the idea that all things, animals and people on the planet are connected. Recently I was part of an art exhibit in London, England with two of these new anti-plastic pieces. My work was referred to as reinventing wood-burning. While in London I got the opportunity to speak about my art with the Mayor of Chelsea, who agreed that we need to stop using plastic, particularly single use plastic.
Pyrography is the art of wood-burning. These environmental pieces inspired by the work of David Attenborough and Desmond Morris are created on wood with hand-made paint made from oils and mineral and plant pigments.
After noticing more and more posts on the internet about not using plastic, I discovered Plastic Oceans. I came across a display for Plastic Oceans UK in a busy square near Chelsea. I was very impressed by the two young girls I spoke with, and their dedication to spreading the message of Plastic Oceans in an interactive way. I had been following Plastic Oceans on twitter, so after returning to Vancouver Island I decided to learn more about their organization. Inspired by their goals I purchased five travel kits using some of the funds I received from a piece I sold in London.
While on plasticoceans.ca I was very excited to see that their views and fact-based approach aligned with my own perspective. They are passionate about stopping plastic pollution and supporting activism efforts. Their film A Plastic Ocean is amazing, sometimes heart wrenching, and everyone needs to see it. Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada and their worldwide counterparts are doing vital work to spread the message of just how bad plastic is for our oceans and ourselves.
There is much more work to be done. I am proud to work with Plastic Oceans and I am dedicated to helping their mission by donating a portion of the sales from my artwork. I support this charity so that they can continue working towards ridding the oceans of plastic.
We managed quite well before plastic, so why can’t we do it again?
Christine A. Allan