Caroline Bonds AKA - Kittiekipper
Caroline Bonds AKA - Kittiekipper
Caroline, better known by her instagram account as Kittiekipper, has been at the forefront of raising
awareness on plastic pollution through the medium of art. She hails form the south coast of England, is entrenched in the sea, so we thought it was time to have a chat about her path when it comes to ocean conservation.
Can you first give us your back story, your connection with the sea and where you live?
I’m a Sussex girl, born and bred. My home town of Seaford is situated on a shingle bay in East Sussex, between the port of Newhaven and the iconic white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. I was fortunate to grow up in the countryside by the water, and access to the ferry across to Dieppe meant family holidays were spent in the van after driving down to Biscarrosse in France. It meant that I learnt to swim in the Atlantic waves in the 80’s when beaches were covered in jellyfish and shells, a different picture to what we are seeing decades later.
At home, on our bay, there’s a real knack to walking barefoot on the shingle without hurting your feet. I guess all places have their give aways about who and how much, people spend time there. I’ll never take for granted the knowledge I’ve gained from being by this body of water in Seaford, and from the water men and women I’ve met throughout my life here.
How did creating the artwork from ghost nets and then marine litter in general begin?
Being situated by a working port on a shingle beach means the type of pollution we get washing up here, further down the English Channel, is quite specific to what goes on out there between here and France.
The masses of fishing nets I’ve gathered over the years are a true testament to an industry that is
crippling the water environment as well as what it must be costing that industry in “lost” gear.
My background in art and book binding led to my love of weaving, inspired by the creations from Sierra Leone made from littered plastic bags. I applied this circle weaving principle to the nets and ropes I was finding, and found quickly that art was a great device for carrying an important message. The fact that it’s a craft-based practice means it’s an easy process to teach, so I try to share the method with as many people as I can, in hopes they’ll see the ghost nets and ropes on their beach cleans as a free and versatile art material.
How often are you on your local beach clean?
I live right on the beach and clean my area whenever I am outside, and have done so for years. The discovery of Martin Dory’s 2 minute beach clean made this solo practice feel that suddenly I was part of a community.
Here on the South Downs, by the water, we have a lot of tourism and a lot of visitors, so there’s always something to clear up whether it’s in the forest, up on the hill tops or down on the beaches. Under the cliffs we get a lot of plastic building up due to the frequency of rock falls from the eroding chalk cliffs. It’s not advisable to be getting under there to retrieve the plastic waste that floats in on the waves. That coupled with the fact that a lot of areas are not reachable by walking, our town is separated to the east by cliffs all the way to Eastbourne with only a couple of places to get down to beaches along the way. People do clean up what they can, but often aren’t able to carry back the amount of gear they’ve collected, leaving it in piles on the cliff tops. This then only leads to it getting blown back down onto the rocks when the wind picks up, so a lesson there is to only gather what you can take back with you, unless you can contact the local council to pick up what you’ve amassed or at the very least, to leave it where they have an access point to collect it from.
You are one of the most visually engaging marine activists, do you feel your art is a really effective way of starting the marine litter conversation with people?
Making weavings from ghost nets has been a great way of engaging people to the issue of marine
pollution. When people realise the danger that these nets pose to our marine wildlife, the problems that come with plastic waste polluting our waters, and the connecting up of the dots of our own consumption of plastic in our everyday lives, you realise that this type of art can have a very beneficial impact on the environment. When you can create something beautiful from something destructive it passes on a message, and gives a voice and narrative to an issue that in recent years remained silent. An issue whose urgent and very necessary attention has really gained in momentum.
Art should have a message.
Visually engaging work starts conversations and these are conversations that we really need to be
engaging with. It’s not only those of us who are lucky enough to live by the sea that are directly affected by marine pollution. When the world wakes up and realises the true cost that will come to the destruction of our global oceans, it will almost certainly be too late.
Would you say there is more rubbish now, or do you thing the efforts of beach cleaners
are starting to have an effect?
The water is throwing back what has been put inside it. So much so it can’t be ignored and the rise in
Beach Clean Ups across the globe is really drawing the world’s focus. This beach cleaning movement has been instrumental in educating us all on the scale of the damage that population growth and industrial growth, have done to meet consumer needs. Convenience cannot keep coming at the cost of nature.
The water is pulling back the curtain and it’s time to face up to and act on what the evidence is showing us. We can all learn from what we are finding on our beaches; from the bottles, the packaging, the everyday items that have become so un-valued by the fast paced, consumer-driven, greedy global society of today. I look back at my local history, to the handmade bone combs and the handmade pots and vessels that the ancestry of this area crafted and treasured, and I see how destructive this throwaway society has become. It’s like we ran ahead without taking into consideration what this relatively new way of consumption would mean to our landscapes and mean for our future, for nature, for the soils and the waterways, and for the insects, plants and air. The Industrial Revolution was one thing, but the chemical revolution was something else. We need to look back to move forward. I wonder if that’s even possible now. So I do what I can from where I stand without judgment of others.
The creation of art with a message is one way of keeping the conversation on the table, but personal
actions in everyday life must also be taken into consideration. Cleaning my local patch, cutting out single-use plastics and opting for reusable items that I own, working with my community, sharing what I’m learning by using the platform I have to share that knowledge, and doing what I can, from where I stand, is my way of giving back to the water. There will always be more that we can do, collectively and individually; every second anyone can dedicate to this cause is imperative. There is no point to amassing knowledge if we are not going to share it, and time is, quite literally, of the essence.
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You should really follow Caroline @kittiekipper over on Instagram, her work and endeavours are truly inspiring.