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Talented Tara turns trash into treasure

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Even marine pollution has a bright side. Well, it does if you are Tara Cassidy.

She has a line of jewellery made from plastic beach debris cast in resin.

“Many people are in disbelief that it isn't a stone,” she said. “Some people have been irritated that something so beautiful could be made from something so ugly.”

She has found that buyers get a kick out of wearing something that looks nice and helps the environment.

It helps her that there is no shortage of material. Tonnes of plastic washes up on Bermuda's beaches each year. Her store is littered with bags of plastic debris collected by friends. She patiently goes through it in search of interesting shapes or rarer colours, such as purple or red.

The jewellery started out as an experiment long before the 29-year-old opened her Penno's Wharf store, La Garza, in December.

“I try a lot of things,” she said. “Some things work and some things don't. When something works I take that knowledge and move forward with it.”

Ms Cassidy has a line of hat fascinators made from lionfish fins, but numbers are limited as it is difficult to source the fins.

Sand, crab claws, coral and bits of cedar are all part of her work.

She said: “I have two coral collections, the Surculus Collection, made from white coral branches sorted from the sand using tweezers, and the Georgian Lace Collection, made from purple sea fan collected from the beach after storms.

“The dead coral does not contribute to the ecosystem on any significant level after it has broken off.

“Microorganisms, flies, and probably your dog, will eat the soft outer layer and leave the skeleton branch beneath. By the time I reached these particular corals, it had been three days, they smelled quite terrible.”

Items cost from $30 to $170 a piece. The price is driven by the resin, which is expensive to import.

“It also costs in the time it takes to collect the plastic,” she said. “Sometimes the plastic is hard to come by after a huge beach clean-up, but that's great. Right now I have more beach plastics than I know what to do with.”

She plans to donate some of the funds raised from her sales to an environmental charity, although she has not yet settled on which one.

“I don't believe in art for art's sake,” she said. “Art should say something.”

Her dream is that the jewellery will be a conversation starter.

“At the moment, no one's standing around at parties talking about beach plastics,” she said. “With this, maybe they will.”

This year she won an awareness award from the Bermuda National Trust for her work.

“I was very pleased,” she said. “It makes me feel like I'm making a difference.”

Her concern over plastics in the ocean is more than an aesthetic one.

“The problem is that plastic is actually finding the way back into the food web,” she said. “Anyone who eats anything from the ocean is eating plastic. We have to figure out a way to stop it from entering the ocean.

“Drive down Kindley Field Road on any given day and you will see trash lining the roads that people have thrown from their cars. That trash is coming from us.”

Ms Cassidy studied environmental design at Toronto's Ontario College of Art and Design.

There were not many jobs in her field when she returned home in 2010, so she set up La Garza. The St George's store was named for Spanish navigator Juan de Bermudez's ship, The Heron.

She hopes to expand into Bermuda-inspired fabrics, upcycled decor and T-shirts.

“The same thought process I used for environmental design goes into everything I do,” she said. “I take any chance I can to draw awareness to an issue such as ocean plastics and marine litter.”

• Find La Garza Bermuda on Facebook.

A pendant by Bermudian designer Tara Cassidy. Her jewellery is made from plastic debris (Photograph supplied)
Seastar studs by Tara Cassidy (Photograph supplied)
A turtle pendant by Tara Cassidy (Photograph supplied)
A crab claw pendant by Tara Cassidy (Photograph supplied)
A sea fan bracelet by Tara Cassidy (Photograph supplied)
A hair fascinator by Tara Cassidy (Photograph supplied)
Some of the plastic marine debris Tara Cassidy uses to make her jewellery (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 14, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 13, 2015 at 6:50 pm)

Talented Tara turns trash into treasure

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