z Shy O Jewelry And Art
Green Stand w. Jewelry

Why plastic?

My story

Where it all started: Alberta Last Thursday Art Walk, July 2011
Whenever I put my items on display for an art show, prospective customers invariably ask this question:

"Is it glass?"

"No," I reply, "it's recycled plastic."

From here, responses vary. Usually, folks are intrigued and excited, which initiates an informative discussion and often results in a sale. But sometimes, their faces betray disdain as they walk away. I wonder what they must be thinking. Maybe something like this: Seriously, pLastic? Cheap, common, declassé, artificial, petroleum-based, corporato-cratic plastic?? Wilkes Holiday

Wilkes Holiday Bazaar, December 2011
Loath though I am to admit it, such is the taint of my chosen "raw" material, which is perceived by many as a "lesser" substance than glass. That beautiful medium--so elemental and natural, forged for millennia, the stuff of breathtaking cathedral windows and mosaics, and Chihuly's enchanting muse--casts its spell as it captures and refracts light and color, commanding our visual field and and floodng our souls with beauty. As it turns out, I can sympathize with those customers who walk away: I too am enamored of glass and its artistic possibilities--and it is this fascination that has, ironically, lead me to explore plastic as a viable alternative medium. This journey of exploration cannot be understood outside of the context of my own story. Not unlike many people I know, my life has been impacted by recent economic upheavals: I was laid off from my public-sector job, not once but two times in the past few years. Fortunately, I landed on my feet both times--but not without each experience lighting the proverbial fire, motivating me to transform what was once just a hobby into a means of generating extra income as a hedge against economic uncertainty. Still, with limited finances, what was I to do? Even if I could afford classes and the requisite raw material, the most basic backyard glass-forging studio, with a kiln, ventilation and safety equipment, would put me back more than my finite monetary resources could possibly sustain. At that point, I looked in the trash can, and found my answer. 42nd St. Fair
42 Avenue Street Fair, August 2012
Polystyrene, or #6, plastic is commonly used to fabricate clear, food-safe containers --the well-known "clamshell" packaging used for take-out food, pastries and other comestibles. It provides grocers and restaurateurs an affordable and sanitary means by which to store, transport and display edible items. Unfortunately, once used, these containers end up in the trash--and eventually, in landfills, on beaches and in the infamous ocean garbage-gyres--since they cannot be recyced through most municipal waste-management programs, including the relatively-sophisticated ones of the Portland metro area.
One drawback of polystyrene is its sensitivity to heat, a factor that doubtless contributes to the difficulty of processing it on a large scale. But for my purposes, this sensitivity is key to its usefulness as a craft material. Not unlike that fun craft item familiar to many of us in our youth, polystyrene shrinks when heated at very low temperatures, resulting in a thick, clear- to-opaque and durable item that can be variously tinted and shaped to make decorative items. Beyond this first step, polystyrene can be subjected to higher temperature and layered, shaped and molded in intriguing ways, resulting in items that very much resemble glass, but less costly to produce and much lighter in weight--a property that allows me to add multiple layers and "dangly" elements to earrings without exerting uncomfortable downward pressure on the earlobes. The items presented here result from months of experimentation, each a captured moment of my ongoing process of pushing the medium to see what it can do. Though my artistic projects have resulted from the desire for accessible materials and the need for thrift, a year into this endeavor, it has become so much more. As someone who lives a car-free, low-consuming lifestyle, taking an otherwise useless (and potentially polluting) material and giving it new life as decorative or wearble art is a deeply meningful way of further reducing my carbon footprint. At is heart, the shyO enterprise seeks to inspire my customers to contemplate even more new means of creative reuse, while simultaneously promoting a vision of a greener and more sustainable future. Welcome to my site. Its main purpose is to present my work (as seen in the slide show above) and inform customers of local (Portland Metro and environs) art fairs where I will be offering my items for sale. Though I hope to one day expand my online sales capacity, at present I am maintaining my enterprise at a relatively slow (and more manageable) rate of growth. For this reason, I will for the time being continue to only conduct sales locally and in person. If you are interested in my work, look for my booth at one of the upcoming sales listed below, or contact me at shylaosborn@gmail.com to set up an in-person transaction. Thanks for looking, and for those of you who have already made a purchase, I hope you enjoy your shyO items!
Hump Day Street Fair

Shyla Osborn
shyO Jewelry and Art

Upcoming Sales:

~Leach Botanical Gardens Holiday Bazaar, December 7-8, 2012

Past Sales:
~Alberta Street Last Thursday Art Walk, July and August 2011
~Wilkes Elementary School Holiday Bazaar, December 2011
~Cracked Pots Art Show at McMenamins Edgefield, July 2012
~42nd Avenue Business Association Street Fair,August 2012
~Hump Day Street Fair, September 2012