We talked with ‘artivist’ Ethan Carney who is bringing his Ocean Plastic Fish-Making Workshop to the Human Aquarium Exhibition this February 2019. Human Aquarium director Lucy Meredith met Ethan through East Street Arts . Here’s what he had to say…
Do you consider yourself to be environmental activist/ artivist?
I wouldn’t brand my work as ‘artivism’, because I’ve very rarely explored environmental themes in my work before, but I am very conscious as a person about the environment so as I make more work, the environmental message might get stronger.
What do you see as being ‘your cause?
I have so many different causes I support, ranging from LGBT causes, to sustainable food, recycling, poverty and the environment too, I couldn’t pick a main one, but my current focus is on exploring sustainability and the impact of our waste habits on the environment.
Why is this important to you?
I think it’s so important to realise that waste has to go somewhere and recognise the amount of energy required to create new materials and dispose/recycle them. This planet doesn’t have unlimited natural resources or space for waste, so we really need to step up our game to ensure that the next generations aren’t living on a glorified landfill site.
How long have you been doing this?
The workshop I’m delivering is a new incarnation of a recycled idea (true to form), which I started back in 2015. I used to make stuffed whale-shaped cushions as gifts from an old shirt I had, which progressed to the larger whales I sell today made of old (washed) bedsheets. I realised accidentally I had an environmental message about the wastefulness of the textiles industry and could also be linked to the effect on sea life that our waste habits have. I re-worked these into a workshop which better educates people about ocean plastic and uses more recycled materials than I use normally, which is exciting!
What is the most interesting thing you have done recently?
The most interesting thing recently has been doing my first ever craft fair at the same time as writing my first every workshop proposal- I started feeling like a ‘proper’ artist and really gave me a confidence boost!
What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever done?
The most memorable thing I’ve done and probably my biggest personal achievement was doing my Erasmus placement for 5 months in Maastricht (Netherlands), it was such an eye-opening experience, which pushed me far out of my comfort zone and was really life changing, as cheesy as it sounds. I gained a lot from that experience and I’ll never forget it (and the fact I can constantly brag about it from now on!).
What else would you love people to know about you?
I’d love them to know that even though it looks like I know what I’m doing, I really don’t! I’m just muddling through as best I can, so shoutout to all artists- you don’t have to live up to the fake expectations of places like Instagram- just give everything a go and you’ll have a great time.
How did you hear about and get involved in the Human Aquarium Uk?
I was looking for volunteering as part of my final year of uni and East Street Arts kindly put me in touch with one of the directors, which led to this!
Next up the most exciting event of the year- my workshop! And 2019 will be full of exciting workshops hopefully, since it’s such an adaptable concept, I’ll be doing different incarnations of it throughout the year at different venues. I already have a second venue in the works, for a similar sewing-based workshop, but that’s all to be confirmed in the New Year!
More about Ethan’s Whale-Making Workshops here!
You can get in touch with Ethan here