Words by Della Vreeland
They say in the midst of chaos, there is always opportunity. And this was most certainly the case for Jessica Yorston. Her jewellery-making story started last year as she was dealing with the chaos of managing an ailing tribe.
“I was home with sick children, looking at all the single-use plastics, and I thought ‘what can I make with this? Let’s make something useful, and potentially nice to look at.”
After some quick scouring online, Jessica came across videos of people melting plastics using sandwich presses. And so started the Single Use Multiverse (SUM) journey.
Having studied Fashion Design at RMIT and with years of practical experience, including the creation of her own ethical fashion label, Jessica already had an eye for good design and a passion for sustainable practices. It was just a matter of harnessing these into another medium.
Disheartened by the copious amount of waste produced by the fashion industry, Jessica decided to use her creative prowess to make a difference.
I’d arrived at the realisation that I couldn’t bear to make anything from new materials and to be honest, I was completely over the fashion industry – so wasteful and vacuous.
“I was about to begin studying something completely not-fashion, when the maker in me began playing around with creating colourful sheets by melting waste plastic.”
“It’s been deeply exciting to continue creating products by turning trash into treasure for our ears. The awful feeling that my creating was contributing new matter to the huge expanse of it wrecking the earth, was gone.”
“It’s so satisfying.”
Jessica’s statement earrings are bright, bold and edgy – certain to make an impression.
Her items are made from 100 % recycled single-use plastics such as milk cartons, straws, plastic lids, shampoo bottles, pot plants, formula lids and more. Using a portable oven, Jessica melts the plastics into colourful sheets before cutting the eclectic shapes that form her earrings.
A Blackwood resident, she says her lush and serene home provides the perfect backdrop for the forging of eco-friendly products.
According to Jessica, she’s become the “crazy plastic-collecting lady”, with her fellow Blackwood comrades encouraging her and supporting her along every step of this creative journey.
“We were living in Melbourne, but finding ourselves chasing trees on nearly every day off. So we thought, let’s just live where we want to be on our days off,” she says.
“Besides the very beautiful forest setting, and the dreaminess of being able to wake up to it every morning, the creative community here is epic! Lots of talented and friendly characters experimenting in their fields – it’s inspiring.”
“I also love the amazing encouragement I receive, in the form of words and plastic donations. All the local townsfolk leave bags of their single-use plastics at the top of my driveway, or in their letterboxes for me to collect. It’s brilliant! I’ve also got some amazing neighbours who help me process the plastics for melting by washing and chopping it. Carbon emissions are low!”
While Jessica’s business is primarily based online, with the exception of a few stockists around the state and the odd market appearance, she says the onset of COVID didn’t have too drastic an impact on her – even though she started just as the pandemic hit.
“Perhaps I was at an advantage as people were online more,” she says.
“It was really nice being able to connect with people, through social media platforms, regarding what I was making. Lots of lovely Instagram chats with people excited about my materials and process, which helped ease the bizarreness of that first lockdown.”
What did have an impact on Jessica’s creative process, however, was the fierce storms that hit the community of Blackwood and its surroundings earlier this month.
Jessica says the whole landscape changed as a result, and her business faced a temporary halt.
“I couldn’t melt plastic with no power!” she says.
“I’ve been so blessed to have so many earring orders, both wholesale and online, that I had absolutely no backup stock before the storms.”
“Every pair has been made to order the last few months, so no power meant my lovely customers had to wait longer for their orders.”
“But I’ve been so blown away by everyone’s understanding and patience.”
WHAT: Single Use Multiverse
FIND OUT MORE: OHO Markets