Renewal…A discussion with jeweller Sue Gregor about environmental impact.
The new year often inspires changes, but jeweller Sue Gregor has been working on a significant change to her practice for some months now. Sue is based in Bristol and she’s been making contemporary jewellery using acrylic, silver and real plants since 2005. This year is a kind of renewal. Her process of embossing remains the same, as does her exciting use of colour, but her focus lately has been on materials and her own impact on the environment.
These cuffs are clearly recognisable as Sue’s work, but something’s different. We caught up with Sue last week to find out more…
You’ve been making jewellery from glass quality acrylic for many years now. Can you tell us about the significant changes you’ve been working on over the last few months?
After becoming more and more concerned about plastic waste I have spent some time researching alternatives, and now all the acrylic I use is made from 100% recycled materials. It’s also free from volatile organic compounds and hydrofluorocarbon, making it more environmentally friendly as well. It is important to me that I am not contributing to the increase of plastic waste, but am doing something to re-purpose some of it.
What was it that impelled you to change your materials?
I felt that up-cycling some of the plastic waste would mean that I was not contributing to more plastic in the world and, in a very small way, could stop some plastic being dumped. I say small as my work is handmade and not mass produced, so my total production for the year could fit on a table top. However, I feel that by raising the issues and letting people know recycled acrylic exists means I might inspire larger companies who use acrylic to do the same.
Was it hard to find the materials?
To find the materials I did some searches on Google and had some samples sent from various companies. I wanted to look closely into which ones had the most recycled material content. I was delighted when I found Green Cast acrylic, which is made from 100% recycled materials.
What’s the recycled acrylic like to work with? Are you pleased with the results?
The first samples I tried did not give me the same results, but I did a number of test strips, altering my heat timing and pressure, and I’m now very happy with the results I can achieve.What else are you doing to lessen your environmental impact?
I have a number of bins in my studio which I use for sorting out different types of materials for recycling. I have spent some time researching biodegradable packaging. I have green jiffy envelopes (padded with paper not bubble wrap) and brown paper tape (rather than plastic tape), cardboard boxes to pack my items in, both individually and for sending to galleries, and ribbon made with wood pulp! This means my packaging will biodegrade quickly and could even be put on a compost heap! Some gardeners recommend adding these materials if a compost heap is too moist, so I am happy about that.
I work from home and walk everywhere in Bristol, so do not have to run a car.
What other plans do you have for the year ahead?
As well as supplying my existing stockists, I am taking on some new galleries such as the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle and Torquay Museum. I will be exhibiting at Made By Hand in Cheltenham, Made London at Canary Wharf and the SIT Trail in Stroud. Alongside these I have some exciting exhibitions and show offers this year:
In January I am showing my work at the Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool in an exhibition called ‘Journeys In Mind’. It is about raising awareness about mental health. This is another subject close to my heart and one that I feel passionately about. I have decided to be open about my family’s experiences in a hope that it will give others strength to know that things can change. I feel it is time that mental health was not something we hide and are ashamed of, but something we discuss openly and support each other through.
I am also in talks with Garsington Opera about an exciting project with them. They want me to make a special range of jewellery using leaves from their grounds. I have done this before for weddings so am exited to see what I can create for them. I love making more personal site specific pieces – they seem to have a real meaning for their wearers.
Many thanks to Sue for the interview. We really appreciate the efforts that she’s gone to and admire how she’s proven it’s possible to maintain high quality, whilst lessening environmental impact. Head this way to view Sue’s online collection with us. You can also use our commissioning form on Sue’s page to contact her and order a bespoke piece of jewellery….