I’m becoming increasingly aware that so few people know where their everyday things come from. I was talking a lady the otherday and realised she didn’t know that plastic’s derive from oil. It just wasn’t something she had ever thought about. When people talk about what will happen when oil runs out, they talk about petrol mostly. But they don’t seem to think about plastic. the components in their car, the circuit boards in their computer, the silicone chip that runs them, the chairs we sit on.
I work part time in a pub. Across the road is a vintage clothes store, on sundays Fur protesters religiously boycott the place. It’s become a deep frustration for the residents living there, for our pub, not to mention for the shop itself. The police have been called in and every sunday two police officers have to stand around and ensure that nothing kicks off. I was told that someone in the flat above the store threw a bucket of water on the protesters. And I don’t blame them. They stand around with their loud speakers, being very unpleasant to the community.
Anyway, the reason I mention it, is that it got me thinking about what artificial furs and leathers were made from. I suspected that they might get their core materials from oil and I’m pretty sure I’m right. Any fabric deemed synthetic, is a product of oil. I wonder if any of those protester’s thought about that? I think there will come a day, in not the very distant future where we will have to go back to fur and leather.
Almost all the materials I use in fabrication derive from non-renewable fossil fuel. I’m 90% certain of it. Plastazote, uphostery foam, styrofoam, mold making silicone, plasterlene, chavant, resin. I feel tremendously guilty when I throw away a bag of shavings from carving foam or plastazote, carving is extremely wasteful, at least when you carve wood, the shavings can be burned, and you know that (hopefully) the tree it came from was cut down wisely, and another tree was planted in it’s place.
I’ve always been drawn to an old way of life. I can’t deny that I love my computer, my ipod, my car, even my plastic cassette tapes. But I’ve always loved the ideals of good old fashioned living. Having a log fire and finding your own wood for it, if I had an open fire I’d have no problem finding the fuel for it. Prop shops and set builders have an abundance of timber off cuts. One particular place I’ve worked, produces enough waste that they have a machine that turns their offcuts into fuel for heating the workshop, and even then they have skips of waste wood left over.
Now, you may laugh, but when I was younger they used to play repeats of The Waltons on TV on sunday mornings, and I’ve recently taken to watching them again. For anyone that doesn’t know, it’s set during the great depression, before the war…..and before the invention of synthetic plastics. There was Bakelite, but fabric, tools, appliances, utensils, toys, most everything was made from natural materials. If you got a hole in your dress, you mended it. When the dress got too old, or you grew out of it, you cut it up to make a patchwork quilt. Pa worked off the land, cutting trees off his mountain and working them in the saw mill to make mine props, fence posts, and what ever was needed. EVERY tool in his mill was made from metal and wood. When I look in my tool box, I see an upsetting amount of plastic. Sure it’s more comfortable on my palm, but I’d gladly swap my plastic handled pliers for wooden ones. I don’t know how I’d replace the plastic in my drill though? And John Walton’s saw was powered by a petrol motor.
Are there people in the industry thinking about how to replace the loss of Oil in materials? when I buy my bandsaw so I can work on making wooden puppets instead of foam ones, will i choose a larger machine that’s made of metal, or a smaller one that costs less? What will my possessions be made from in a world without oil, so much of what I own relies on it, from the waterproof material my festival tent is made from, to the housing of my powerdrill and jigsaw. And almost everything in the industries I work in uses materials that wouldn’t exist without oil. I hope someone is thinking about this. I don’t care what my car will run on so much as what my industry will run on.
(OH, and in other news, my blog is now up and running at last, a replacement for my neglected website www.blog.billieachilleos.co.uk )