9th October 2020

Craft / Freya Hollingbery

Shifting Rubbish Perspectives by Freya Hollingbery

13 4 mins 2

FFreya Hollingbery is a visual artist based in London and Somerset, who uses recycled bottle tops to create artworks that represent stories and paths of our lives. She explains her process of creating art from waste and what it means to be a sustainable artist.

Being labelled a ‘sustainable artist’ nowadays is a somewhat ambiguous term. As much as I strive to be as ‘responsible’ as I can, when creating my pieces, I do wonder – what defines us? Am I doing enough to help our incredibly precious planet? The answer is complicated, but I do know that if I can manage to shift a single person’s perspective on rubbish, then I hope I am on the right track.

Creating art from waste is satisfying, rewarding and inspiring. I like to consider the past lives of the bottle tops and aim to trigger an emotion or experience for the viewer.

The fact that people remember to save bottle tops and send them to me, rather than discarding these (in my eyes) jewels means so much. I receive bottle tops from family and friends to followers I haven’t met. Altering the opinions of others on what they may have previously presumed as “rubbish” is a very special shift.

Am I doing enough? For many, ‘environmentalism’ is easier said than done, and so many people do not have the privilege of choice to make these decisions. My inevitable resolve is that I can always do more, and this will never change. Doing what you can to be less wasteful contributes small changes to the great mass of our world’s landfills. To shift perspectives on one tiny piece of ‘rubbish’ can have several positive influences on the scale of waste. 

My process is meditative and relaxing, while also being time-consuming and gruelling. Each mass of shiny and sticky bottle tops are poured into a soapy sink, then drained. I lay out every bottle top one by one face-up, and let them dry. The tops must dry well to avoid rusting (so as not to lose colour). Once dry, the sorting begins. I categorise every bottle top by colour, brewery and brand into their own boxes, excluding very rare tops that are placed in dishes together. This part of the process is necessary to ensure ease and efficiency later down the creative line, even though it can often be repetitive.

My pieces explore the circularity of life through interconnected patterns and colour, all stemming from the previous origins and history of the bottle tops as I mentioned earlier. As my collection increases (I would guestimate at around 300,000 bottle tops to date) I will be looking to use specific bottle tops to represent moments in time and use the bottle tops more literally to tell a narrative.

I always add a bottle top to trick the eye with its orientation flipped compared to its relative circular or linear group. This aspect of each piece is important to my work as regardless of how perfect life may seem, imperfections always exist.

The unknown stories of the bottle tops themselves, sorting the materials and the satisfying process of arranging them are all crucial aspects of this ‘rubbish art.’ It’s a process that I have found incredibly rewarding. 

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Freya Hollingbery is a sustainable artist, working with waste materials. Her art explores the circularity of life by constructing interconnected patterns of bottle tops.

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