Bonnie Steward collects plastic waste on beach cleans and uses the materials to create intricate collages that depict the location in her picture. Her artwork resembles a complex tapestry of layered plastic waste, including crisp packets, plastic wrappers, toothbrushes, fishing nets and tennis balls. The 25-year-old works on large scales, with many of her pictures measuring more than a metre.
She collects the rubbish, cleans it, then arranges and layers it on wood in a time-consuming process which can take up to a year to complete. Bonnie, otherwise known as BISH Art, takes inspiration from the beautiful coastlines of West Cornwall and her work includes Cornish landmarks such as St Michael’s Mount and Wheal Prosper Tin Mine, as well as wildlife such as seals, starfish and birds.
She said: “My work is all about trying to create something that people want to look at, based on something we too often look away from.”
For Bonnie, recreating the beautiful landscapes that surround her out of the plastic waste responsible for destroying them, is all part of her creative process and message. She added: “I aim to capture the beauty of wildlife, the sea and landscapes, whilst addressing our shared responsibility to protect, restore and sustain them.”
Bonnie’s process involves patience, meticulousness and passion and she describes it as “a bit like a puzzle that will gradually come together.” She said: “You never know exactly what will have washed up on the beach, but that’s all part of the challenge.”
Bonnie’s finished artwork could be mistaken for a painting from a distance and it is only when people take a closer look that they are able to see the hundreds of different elements that make up the single piece.
She added: “People are often really surprised to discover the picture has been created entirely from rubbish. Often I will leave in words or logos because people love spotting wrappers that they recognise. It’s ironic that I’m creating a time capsule, whilst highlighting the terrifying truth that these plastics remain in our oceans for thousands of years.”
Bonnie, who lives near Porthleven, said she has beach cleaned for as long as she can remember. She added: “My parents used to own a pub, and growing up, I would use discarded waste materials to create collages and sculptures. I used to create collages from bottle tops and mosaics from damaged tiles and bits of glass.”
Bonnie was just 16 when she created her first BISH art piece of Porthleven Clocktower and all of her school and college books are dedicated to her beach cleans. After completing her studies, Bonnie went onto work with young people and community groups, organising workshops and beach cleans. She still offers workshops, alongside creating her art, and recently worked at a festival in collaboration with Fat Face, teaching youngsters how to make octopus and jellyfish keyrings out of old fishing rope.
Bonnie’s limited-edition artwork can be ordered from her website www.bishart.co.uk.
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