Sustainable Me: Image shows Ann Marie's work in Closing the Loop's exhibition on in the Barn, Banchory in Scotland: a lit-up lampshade of connected waste plastic spice pots, and 3D printed samples pinned on the wall in her corner exhibition space.

This first post, ‘Sustainable Me’, complements Ann Marie Shillito’s work which is currently on display in Closing the Loop’s ‘MATTER: Earth, Material + Making’ exhibition at the Barn in Banchory in Scotland, and on until 12th November 2022. The exhibition has the work of twelve Applied Arts Scotland members, exploring environmental wellbeing through making: drawing on craft practices that value & respect natural resources, waste materials, biodiversity & production systems.

Image shows just two of Ann Marie’s projects: her personal recycling project – a lampshade using small designed 3D printed units which join waste plastic spice pots to make a lamp shade. Plus her ‘Lockdown’ Project – 3D printing on fabric and other stuff. Exploratory test pieces are pinned on the wall, plus samples of 3D printing filament.

Ann Marie’s intention with these posts is to provide information on the process behind all the work she made for the exhibition: the two projects displayed, three further projects that were not included in the exhibition, and finished project pieces now on sale in the Barn’s store, Fold. More information here.

Bit of background and two home ‘Sustainable Me’ projects

Ann Marie is a jeweller and maker with many years’ experience using non precious materials, digital design using Anarkik3DDesign 3D modelling programme, and 3D printing, to produce work sold online and in exhibitions and galleries internationally. She is an active Applied Arts Scotland member, participating in ‘Closing the Loop’, where the group focus is on investigating and exploring gaps in current materials knowledge and application of sustainability tools and practices in the studio, in partnership with Creative Informatics.

A mind-set around ‘making the most of what you have available’, from her Zambian childhood, permeates her practice and her personal life. This attitude and approach is even more important now and with the support and commitment of her Closing the Loop gang she aims to get as close as possible now to ‘net zero waste’ in all her activities. She intends to only repurpose the waste that she creates with her 3D printer and that comes from daily living, such as milk bottle tops, carton tops and pull tops, fruit bags and labels. She received a VACMA Edinburgh Award to support taking the personal project of the last 24 months into a research and development stage, towards working more sustainably by considering and actively experimenting and exploring how her materials or processes could be sourced more locally, and designing to recycled materials, utilise and minimise the waste stream her product produces.

Sustainable Me: Image shows a jacket made by Ann Marie Shillito, crocheted in waste carpet wool, woven with strips of waste fabric in reds, oranges, pinks and purples.

An example of this attitude and approach is epitimised by this jacket which was made in 1980 and is a tangible and well loved garment because the different strips of fabric each hold precious and personal memories. These strips are from clothes that Ann Marie had made from material that she had chosen & purchased.

The Jacket was crocheted first as a holey garment, using waste carpet wool. Strips of fabric, cut from clothes that were torn or worn out, were sewn into tubes, turned rightside out and woven through the crocheted holes.

Sustainable Me: Image shows eco bricks made by Ann Marie Shillito by compacting plastic drinks bottles with those plastics that are not yet recycled. These bottles were used in her garden as a retaining wall.

Concerned about single-use soft plastics going into landfill, or burned, Ann Marie had come across projects using eco-bricks which are made by compacting into plastic bottles the soft plastics that are either not currently recycled or recyclable. With a garden project in mind she started collecting both sets of waste and in ‘lockdown’ completed her project to repair and build up the edge of a section of a bed to flatten the ground to stop water running off.

The eco-bricks were laid in a shallow trench, tops down, between garden edging. The row was finally covered over with soil to both strengthen the border and stop light degrading the plastic bottles. She has a secondary concern: what happens to this plastic when someone else takes over her garden? Will there then be better facilities to properly recycle this plastic? She has to hope so.

Sustainable Me: Image shows details of Ann Marie's lit-up lampshade in Closing the Loop's exhibition in the Barn, Banchory in Scotland: Waste plastic spice pots are connected with 3D printed widgets, designed using Anarkik3DDesign to specifically join the pots in a hexagonal matrix.
Lampshade Project: 3D printing & plastic waste

Another of Ann Marie’s personal recycling ‘Sustainable Me’ projects is the lampshade on display in the MATTER Exhibition. This lampshade utilises specially designed units, 3D printed in *PLA filament, to join waste plastic spice pots to make a cylindrical lampshade which can either be used as a pendant shade or as a table light. The top fittings for hanging the shade are bits left over from other lights.

Here is a link to a video showing the process: and there are further images below.

Ann Marie’s approach is to use 3D printing to add value to waste products that would otherwise end up in landfill by making work that is a joy to have and own. The filament she uses for 3D printing is *PLA, polylactic acid, or polylactide, which is obtained from renewable and natural raw materials such as corn. The starch (glucose) is extracted from the plants and converted into dextrose by the addition of enzymes. This is fermented by microorganisms into lactic acid, which in turn is converted into polylactide. Polymerisation produces long-linked molecular chains whose properties resemble those of petroleum-based polymers.

The misconception** regarding the compostability of PLA is explained further down this post.

Sustainable Me: Image shows a screen capture of the widgets, designed using Anarkik3DDesign, to specifically join the waste plastic spice in a hexagonal matrix as can be seen in the previous image - details of Ann Marie's lit-up lampshade in Closing the Loop's exhibition in the Barn, Banchory in Scotland:  These connectors are 3D printed in PLA, a polymer filament.

Image on right shows the digital designs for the 3D printed units. The programme used is Anarkik3DDesign, a haptic 3D modelling programme created by Ann Marie’s company, Anarkik3D Ltd, specifically for applied artists & designer makers to fit in with their making practice.

Image below: the red triangular units, 3D printed in PLA filament, each have three pegs to fix them onto three Simplycook throw-away spice pots and connect them all into a hexagonal matrix. The sheet of units is finally formed into a cylinder to make the lampshade.

Sustainable Me: Image shows the waste plastic SimplyCook spice pots that Ann Marie used to make her lampshade in Closing the Loop's exhibition in the Barn, Banchory in Scotland: Waste plastic spice pots are connected in a hexagonal matrix with the red 3D printed widgets, designed using Anarkik3DDesign to specifically join the pots together.

Ethical question: is it justifiable to produce plastic from food ( given that the world population is continuing to grow and more and more food is needed?

There is much debate about the total carbon, fossil fuel and water usage in manufacturing bioplastics from natural materials and whether they are a negative impact to human food supply. To make 1 kg of PLA, the most common commercially available compostable plastic, 2.65 kg of corn is required. Since 270 million tonnes of plastic are made every year, replacing conventional plastic with corn-derived PLA would remove 715.5 million tonnes from the world’s food supply, at a time when global warming is reducing tropical farm productivity.” In other words, if we switch to bioplastics, the fields for food will have to compete with those for plastics. 

**“All composting is always biodegradation, but not all biodegradation is composting”. “PLA can only be biologically degraded under industrial composting conditions.“Increased environmental impacts from micro-plastics can occur if more plastics are disposed of in the environment due to this communicated biodegradability.

In the wild, it takes at least 80 years for PLA to decompose (compared to 1000 for ABS), which means that in the sea and on land it contributes not only to conventional petroleum-based plastics but also to environmental pollution from plastics and above all microplastics. For this reason, PLA should not be thrown into nature, into home composters or into organic waste, just like other plastics. This leads us to the question of what happens to the PLA as soon as we throw it away.

PLA itself can be recycled. However, Florent Port notes, “There is currently no official collection of PLA waste from 3D printing. In fact, the current plastic waste channels make it difficult to distinguish PLA from other polymers such as PET (water bottles), and the contamination of these materials with PLA affects recycling. Technically, PLA is therefore recyclable provided that the collection consists exclusively of PLA, without contamination by other plastics.”

The next post is about her ‘Lockdown’ Project – 3D printing on fabric and other stuff. Some of her exploratory test pieces can be seen in the MATTER exhibition and her 3D printed jewellery seen here.