With a little bit of Grimm magic, the miller's daughter in Rumpelstiltskin was able to weave straw into gold. Here in the real world, designer Florie Salnot is practicing a different kind of alchemy by converting recycled plastic bottles into stunning—I repeat, stunning—pieces of jewelry. Don't believe me? Check out the images in this article.
Salnot collaborates with Saharawari refugees in the Sahara desert in Algeria in the design and production of the jewelry, called Plastic Gold.
The technique uses the very limited resources available in the Saharawi refugee camps, explains Salnot on her website:
"The plastic bottle is first painted and then cut into thin strips with a cutting tool. Then, any type of drawing can be made by positioning some nails into the holes of a nail board. The plastic strip is placed around the nails and the whole [piece] is submerged into hot sand, where the plastic reacts to the heat by shrinking all along the nail drawing [while retaining] its shape. The piece of jewelry then requires a few last steps to become finalized."
As you may have gathered, this project is about more than making a fashion statement. Through this endeavor, Salnot hopes to provide the Saharawari with a sustainable way of generating income.
Nomads who used to live in the western Sahara, the Saharawari have been in exile since 1975, when Morocco annexed their territory. There are virtually no resources in the camp, and the approximately 150,000 Saharawari who live there rely almost entirely on humanitarian aid to survive.
Salnot's Plastic Gold jewelry was shortlisted for the prestigious Jameel Prize, an international award honoring contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition.