Turning plastic into treasure

Elizabeth Joseph is Maker Library resident this month up-cycling melted milk bottles and acrylic laser cut scraps into jewellery

Can you tell us a bit about your background as a maker, and your practice and areas of interest?

I’ve been making one-off jewellery for over 5 years. I use vintage jewellery, broken Victorian brooches and faux pearls in my items. Since discovering Machines Room I’ve been able to learn how to laser cut and this has added a new dimension to my work.

I used to sell my handmade items to independent boutiques in London. Boutiques where the owner would be in the shop and buy directly from me. Alot of these boutiques have closed down and I’ve discovered that people want to learn how to make their own items in a workshop. Now I organise creative fashion accessories workshops using laser cut acrylic and vintage jewellery pieces. I’ve done workshops clubs such as art deco earings at Soho House, anda party for a 12 year old at her home with her friends all making a name necklace each.

I have been chosen by the knitwear designer Katie Jones who is organising a project called Save Our Skills. Around 25 people were chosen and we will be getting groups of teens together and learning how to crochet squares. The finished squares will be joined together to make an installation by Katie Jones and put on display.

I am working on a ‘Jewellery Workshop in a Box’ idea which contains tools and items so that people can make their own simple items at home by themselves.

You’ve are based at Machines Room for a month, can you tell us a bit about what you are working on?

I have several projects on the go. Firstly I want to continue organising jewellery workshops where I provide laser cut charms, chain and gift box to each person who attends. Each person makes a unique item. choosing what they want on their necklace or bracelet. I use offcuts and recycled materials for these workshops. I’m also working on a clutch bag design where someone can have their name and items of their unworn jewellery embellished on the surface of their bag. I’m also starting a Community Interest Company (Social Enterprise) and have started meeting with young women who have left the care home system and making jewellery and other crafts with them.
I’m putting together a portfolio Lookbook of different textures and effect, and embellishments that I’ve learned during the Residency.

How will having access to the machines, expertise and community at Machines Room influence your work and practice?

Having access to the machines is making a big impact on my projects. I’ve had a lesson on the mini CNC machine, and want to learn how to use the large laser cutter and embroidery machine.

“I’m making brooches from recycled milk cartons which I’m addicted to making!”

My projects have progressed much faster during this month, as well and seeing and meeting other makers, makes me feel part of the maker community. Having unlimited access to the machines means I can experiment with designs easier; Machines Room has had a huge impact on what I make and do.

What are you going to do that is different to your normal practice?

I’m making brooches from recycled milk cartons which I’m addicted to making! I’d love if people came into Machines Room with their own recyclable plastic and beads and go away with a brooch made from them. I also plan to use the CNC machine which I haven’t used before. I would like to organise a regular ‘Jewellery Workshop from Recycled Materials’ on a regular basis at Machines Room (or any free or low cost space in Tower Hamlets or Hackney).

What is next for your project? Are you planning to continue this stream of work or start a new project?

All my projects will continue… As mentioned above, I would like to start up a regular Creative Club, (a Social Enterprise) twice a month to start with, where I show young women aged 16 – 25, how to crochet, make jewellery, up-cycle our old clothes and I will show the young women how to set up an Etsy account and sell their handmade items online. This will increase their self esteem and they will learn creative skills that a are no longer taught in schools such as crochet, knitting, sewing and jewellery making.

After the Residency I will still come to Machines Room to do research (and make items) as it focuses my mind to be out of the house! I’ve applied for a Grant for the young people’s Workshop Social Enterprise to cover a regular space to use and materials.