One of the star exhibitors at Ocean Talks 2023 was acclaimed furniture designer Brodie Neill, who has made his name repurposing microplastic found in beach cleanups to create stunning, one-off pieces.
A highlight of his collection includes his ‘Gyro Table’ which was showcased at the 2016 London Design Biennale. Using millions of fragments of ocean plastic, he created a kaleidoscopic mosaic pattern depicting the atlas of the world and calling attention to the problem of ocean plastic on a global scale.
Ahead of the event, we talked to Brodie about his inspiration and how his idea first came about.
What is your company’s role in helping protect our oceans and marine life?
Since 2015, we’ve been diverting microplastics from harming marine life and redirecting it back into circularity in the form of our signature material Ocean Terrazzo. By fusing the discarded fragments with a bio-resin, we’re able to amalgamate a wide range of non-recyclable plastics within a mesmerising, Milky Way-like composition.
Each piece brings the viewer face to face with the magnitude of the global issue. Some of our works appear in museum collections on public view, where they continue to inform, inspire and educate.
How did the idea come about?
I remember the moment clearly. I was walking along a stretch of beach on Bruny Island in south-eastern Tasmania, a remote coastline many miles from the closest city. It was September 2015 and I was well aware of the global issue of marine debris, but I didn’t for once think it would penetrate such remote areas and the pristine beaches of my childhood.
It was that moment that inspired me to find a creative solution. There before me was a scattering of synthetic fragments splayed along the shoreline, each piece a robust material derived from fossil fuels and built to last, even if only used once and discarded. Something had to be done to return this material to a new purpose and to free it from the environment.
From that day on, I have endeavoured to find innovative ways to use ocean microplastics, not just to repurpose these millions of synthetic fragments into long-lasting design pieces, but also to turn them into provocative designs that help raise awareness. Each multicoloured fragment becomes a pixel of the bigger picture.
What is your favourite coastline and why?
The rugged east coast of my native Tasmania still holds a special place in my heart and has long been a source of inspiration. The beaches are made up of broad white sands fringed with granite formations that have been shaped by wave after wave. The crisp salty air is piercing but pure. It’s a very raw form of nature that makes you realise your humble place within.
What is your favourite marine species?
Tough choice, but I’d have to go with the octopus! It’s such an abstract creature, yet so intelligent, highly adaptable and efficient, even with all those legs.