We are all aware of how much waste we produce more than ever, and the damage it does to the world we live in.
And we all play our part in recycling, cutting back on plastic use and just generally living more sustainably.
But only a select few of us can take an ugly piece of rubbish and turn it into a beautiful work of art.
And that is exactly what one Northern Ireland jewellery designer has done.
Leanne McCormack graduated as a mature student from Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art with a BA (Hons) in Jewellery and Silversmithing in 2019.
Her university journey was cut short last March due to the pandemic so she decided to use her time wisely and after being accepted on to the Yes You Can Women In Business NI Enterprise Programme online, she was able to set up her own small business in December.
One of the beautiful works of art
(Image: Leanne McCormack)
Leanne’s passion for nature and the environment shone through from the beginning as while studying, she was commissioned to make the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park Rose Award Trophy for Rose Week.
And it was during lockdown, when so many of us were rediscovering the great outdoors with our daily walks, that we inspired her to launch her new nature-inspired sustainable collection in which she turns rusty rubbish into the most beautiful works of art.
Leanne said: “As quite a lot of us turned to our gardens, walks and nature during this past year and a half, I have been thinking about the environment and the earth’s dwindling insect population.
“To create this series of unique, handmade butterflies and beetles, I have found a new use for rusted tins, which would sometimes be discarded, tarnishing our beautiful Northern Irish landscape.
“In repurposing what are normally throw-away items, I have given them a new lease of life. Each piece of work is unique, as I use the patterns and textures on the metal that nature and the elements create over time.
“I collect these tins, rather than sending them to be recycled, so I recycle them myself in my own way. I also try, when I can, to use lead free enamels as they are a safer alternative.
“I hope my work will engage the viewer and draw their attention to the beauty of nature and the amazing colours and forms that can be found in the insect world.
“The decline of their population is real and has been measured only in a few areas of the world. Indeed, the less studied areas hold the biggest diversity of insects, so the problem is bigger than we can imagine.”
And all of Leanne’s beautiful bugs can be viewed at, and purchased from, On The Square Emporium at Sydenham Business park on Heron Road, Belfast. Owner Jill Lowry has recently relaunched Refound – a sub-section of the vintage and antiques store which stocks small and select products based on their ethical credentials and sustainability – be that vintage, upcycled or newly made.
Leanne jumped at the chance to display her work in an environment which shares her values.
She said: “ReFound @ On the Square has recently launched their sustainable and ethical products range. And as they sell and promote the art of local makers, I noticed them advertising on social media seeking new, local artists with sustainable products. I applied, as I felt my work fitted their passion for local, eco-conscious art.
(Image: Leanne McCormack)
“I was so excited to be chosen as their first exhibiting artist. It is great that they support the local art and craft community, especially after this difficult time for both business and the arts.
“I had created a lot of my butterflies, when Jill, from ReFound asked if I had ever made other insects. So, after some research, I discovered that beetles symbolise transformation and renewal and I thought that they would fit perfectly with the Refound ethos of reusing, renewal and repurposing. That is why I have called the collection Renewed.
“Art can be an important tool to encourage people to maybe become more conscious of the state of our planet. And if some artists can create a smaller environmental footprint by using natural resources for their work, well that is a positive move.
“My exhibition is a body of work, which will hopefully engage the viewer and with the materials that I have used being mostly recycled, I hope people will think about the environment and how with a little imagination, we can reuse and recycle everyday items, to make something beautiful rather than just throwing them away. Each piece is unique and framed and they are all on display and available to purchase.
“I am finding customers are even asking about the packaging of my jewellery and whether it is sustainable. I think people now are thinking more about where the product materials are sourced or processed. And also, more than ever now, we should be supporting our local artists and jewellers as like a lot of other local businesspeople, it has been a difficult time for us.
“After all, it would be a very uninteresting country and world without the arts.”
Renewed at ReFound @ On The Square runs until September 1st.