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Beachcombing: A refined art

Beachcombing: A refined art

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is the mantra of sustainable waste management, which is becoming one of the greatest challenges for our planet. As with so many environmental issues, waste management has particular significance for islands like Norfolk Island. Small, isolated islands have limited space and resources, but with the electronic revolution and the pervasive use of single-use plastics, they have increasing waste disposal issues. Due to their location in the middle of the world’s oceans, their shores can receive waste not of their making, some of which has come from hundreds of kilometres away.

For Norfolk Island, ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is a way of life. For generations, Islanders have found ingenious ways of making the best use of the resources they have and fixing, adapting and recycling. Islanders pick up rubbish when they go walking and take pride in maintaining their pristine beaches and forests. The Norfolk Island Regional Council is taking steps to address waste issues, with recent announcements of three major recycling projects to take effect this year, as well as a process for phasing out single-use plastic bags. The Norfolk Island Waste Management Centre will be equipped with a multi-purpose baler for packaging cans and plastics for recycling. An improved bottle glass crusher will provide a more continuous supply of crushed glass for paths and driveways and a composting system is to be introduced for green waste, food scraps and paper. This passion for recycling is also vividly evident in the work of some of Norfolk’s creative artists.

At Gallery Guava, artists Sue Draper and Tracey Yager, both enthusiastic beachcombers, have produced a diverse range of artworks over the years, using plastic, fishbones, glass, ropes, feathers, and other materials collected from the beaches and bays of Norfolk. Their work is on display at the gallery and can also be seen in private homes across the island and restaurants like Dino’s at Bumboras. Here, Sue’s brilliantly coloured installation made of scraps of plastic salvaged from local beaches is a dramatic example of how unsightly waste can be recycled and transformed into something of much greater beauty than its original use.

Recently Sue and Tracey were invited to exhibit their work on New Zealand’s Waiheke Island. Their exhibition was titled ‘Retrieval’, and was inspired by the abundance of recycled materials available on the island. Waiheke Islanders are keenly pursuing sustainable recycling practices to reduce the high cost of shipping their waste back to the mainland. Sue and Tracey both enjoy working with old weathered objects patinated with age. Sue retrieved old furniture from the recycling centre and Tracey found bottles, rope and other jetsam from the shoreline. Sue painted iconic island images and scenes on the surfaces of the furniture and bottles while Tracey incorporated rope segments into her painted works. The artwork transformed discarded items into admired art pieces, perfect for decorating an island home.

On Norfolk, they have also been busy creating new works using recycled materials. Sue has been painting on driftwood and Tracey has been using timber pieces from parts of shipwrecked boats that have washed up on Norfolk’s shores; and has incorporated ropes, nails and other flotsam. The contrast between the weathered, sometimes strangely shaped timber backgrounds and the delicately painted birds, shells, feathers, leaves or boats in the foreground, is stunning. By retrieving these items and recycling and repurposing them, Sue and Tracey are making their contribution to reducing the harmful debris that clutters and pollutes our oceans and threatens our sea-life.

There are several other local Norfolk artists who are creative recyclers. Two who exhibit their work at Gallery Guava are Margarita Sampson and Juliette Grant. Margarita uses glass and old china shards she has found on the beaches to make finely crafted earrings, necklaces and rings. Some of her ‘finds’ are thought to date back to convict times so there is a haunting quality to the little pieces of Willow patterned porcelain that she skilfully frames and sets with sterling silver.

The small black shells, (called ‘hi-his’ in the Norf’k Language), that can be seen clinging to the rocks around the Norfolk shoreline are local delicacies and the hundreds of discarded shells have traditionally been used for garden paths and driveways or strung on elastic to make bracelets and necklaces. However, Juliette has found another clever use for these distinctive black and white molluscs. She makes them into very practical, yet chic trivets, and they not only look fabulous in a modern kitchen, but save surfaces from the perils of heat and cold.

Artworks made from recycled items have a complex potency. The imaginative reuse of the waste item; the skill employed to work this irregular canvas; and the inspired connection between the item and the images or redesign of their purpose, create a powerful resonance with the viewer. Combined with their positive impact on the environment, the enjoyment they give is manifold.

To view artworks and fine objects made from recycled materials, make sure you visit Gallery Guava on Queen Elizabeth Avenue.The gallery also exhibits paintings, jewellery, porcelain, carvings, photography and glassware from a variety of local and visiting artists.



Image Credit: Collage by Sue Draper

For more information on Gallery Guava and Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama please visit:


Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 02 Issue 02, 2018. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.



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