Ecological grief is a growing response to experienced and anticipated loss caused by environmental destruction or climate change. Yet, there is comfort and hope to be found in solutions. Solace Containers are handmade, single-fired recycled clay vessels lined with recycled glass collected from local restaurants and glazed using up-cycled eggshells as the source of calcium rather than the mined alternatives. The lids are made of 100% recycled clay bags collected from local ceramics studios. The printed labels on the bags are what colours the plastic which is kneaded, twisted and stretched like pulled candy before being pressed into sheets.
Solace Containers are the outcome of exploring what is possible when we give more attention to the overlooked and discarded materials in our own workplaces. They are a culmination of Claire Ellis’ research and development into creating circular ceramics with restaurant and studio waste that began during her former career as a chef-ceramicist. Any clay, glaze and plastic by-products created during production are collected and recycled back into a closed loop system. Repair and recycling services are encouraged for containers at the end of their life. The recycled plastic lids can be polished or recycled into new lids. Broken ceramic components can be repaired using Japanese kintsugi methods, and ceramic pieces beyond repair can be crushed into grog used in Ellis’ clocks.
Australia consumes about 1.36 million tonnes of glass packaging per year. EPA regulations prohibit stockpiling large amounts of glass, but recycling plants say there is nowhere else for it to go. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass are accumulating in recycling companies around Australia. Global egg production for the year 2018 was 78 million metric tons, contributing approximately 8.58 million metric tons of eggshells which are being discarded mostly as waste. Each bag of clay sold to ceramicists and pottery schools all over the world is packaged in a thick single use plastic bag. Solace Containers minimise the amount of these materials going to landfill, increase recycling and elevate undervalued materials.
The clay for the containers is reclaimed from Ellis’ practice. She collects clay bags from her local ceramics community and wine bottles and eggshells from restaurants. Glass bottles have a similar chemistry to ceramic glazes and eggshells are 95% calcium carbonate which is the same chemical compound as one of the common (mined) raw materials in glazes called whiting. The other glaze materials used for the Solace Containers are talc, kaolin, and nepheline syenite which are all powdered derivatives of rocks.
Ellis became interested in using waste during her time in kitchens. She saw bins overflowing with the best produce in the country in some places, but in other places, she saw how awareness and creativity could solve these problems and change the way people look at off-cuts or by-products and was inspired to do the same.
To recycle the clay it is dried, re-hydrated and mixed before throwing. The eggshells are dried, fired to 1000 Celsius, ground in a pestle and mortar and passed through a fine sieve before mixing with the remaining glaze materials. The eggshell glaze is brushed on the raw vessels. The glass is smashed with a hammer after the labels have been removed and the shards are placed in the base of the raw-glazed containers before firing to 1270 Celsius. To make the lids, the clay bags are washed and dried and any tape is removed. The labels are then cut off and separated by colour. Bundles of the plastic bags are melted in an oven at 160 Celsius, kneaded, stretched, and twisted with heatproof gloves before being pressed into sheets in a t-shirt press. The lids and handles are laser-cut, polished and welded together.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Recycled stoneware clay, recycled glass, recycled LDPE plastic clay bags, recycled wine bottles, nepheline syenite, talc, kaolin, eggshells