Navigating the current culture of consumption within art and design consciously and responsibly is challenging. With a lack of transparency being some brands biggest assets - other brands can use visibility and transparency to their advantage.
My intentions for my brand Rascal Mueller are to create jewellery that embodied and elevated the rawness of the minerals and materials I am using. While doing this, it would not be responsible to exploit this natural beauty by turning a blind eye to other layers of unethical creation. I have to work in a way that was holistically responsible - all facets of sustainability are considered.
“Sustainable” has become much of a buzz word in the design world over previous years - with the use of such terminology must come transparency. Our moral choices are informed by transparency when making decisions within these spaces.
Sustainability in Materials
Raw brass was chosen as the main metal element within my work due to its holistic impact on the Earth. Although the raw brass used is not reworked, it is one of few metals that can be infinitely recycled. Each time brass is recycled it doesn’t lose any of its composition or strength and the recycling process of brass itself is also a less energy-intensive process to other typically recycled metals.
The pearls, stones and shells within my pieces are 100% recycled. Sourced, collected, reworked, recycled and reimagined into the pieces you see. By working via this process, I am completely cutting the origin markets of these products out of my brand's lineage and therefore not influencing or supporting typically destructive markets.
An often exploitive market where large numbers of oysters and clams are farmed through a process called ‘cultivating’ - where pearl farmers exploit oysters faster and cheaper for economic growth. Aquaculture has contributed to the destruction of natural pearl oyster beds due to pollution and over-harvesting. Almost half of cultivated oysters die and become discarded through the culturing process - joining the large quantities of marine litter that pearl farmers often contribute to.
There are examples of sustainable pearl cultivators across the globe - pearls are a result of a natural process, therefore environmental conditions are closely intertwined with pearl cultivation. Maintaining a thriving environment for farms ultimately results in a greater quality product - in a way raising attention and care towards maintaining the ocean’s biodiversity. Kamoka Pearls is a greatly transparent and consciously acting pearl cultivator, see their sustainable processes within this field.
With a general lack of transparency of the origins of majority of Australia’s imported pearls; I believe through my process, the most sustainable act is reworking existing pearls.
An energy intensive industry that extracts finite minerals from the earth. Gemstone mining is typically an evasive and elusive industry in terms of regulation and mitigation of sustainable processes. Extensive amounts of equipment and engineering is required to mine and mining sites are often left abandoned after the mineral has been exhausted. Gemstones are typically dictated by their surrounding geology, for example, majority of the world's lapis lazuli is mined in Afghanistan. Here, an external impact is formed through moving this product around the world, often via shipping - another destructive facet.
The mass harvesting of mollusks is a poignant issue for ocean biodiversity. Shell harvesting facilities can process and disperse up to 100 tonnes of seashells around the world within one month. When harvested, the shells are commonly occupied by its hosted mollusk. Once harvested, these shells are taken from the water and dried in the sun, followed by a cleaning process of oil and acid. These mollusks play a vital role in regulating ecosystems, wether it be filtering toxins from the water or providing the loggerhead sea turtle with its food; neither can occur when these shells are removed from their natural habitats.
PETA. 2018. Is there any reason I shouldn’t buy a pearl necklace? | PETA.
Ali, S. and Cartier, L., 2012. Conservation Gemstones: Beyond Fair Trade?. National Geographic.
Cartier, L., & Ali, S. (2016). Pearl Farming as a Sustainable Development Path - The Solutions Journal.
Deines, T., 2018. Seashell Souvenirs Are Killing Protected Marine Life. National Geographic.