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Ripple by Jess – jewellery made with ocean plastics

Jessika Pritchard is the creator of Ripple by Jess, handcrafted jewellery made from recycled ocean plastics she collects from Australian beaches. She is passionate about ocean conservation and her beautiful pieces help to raise awareness about the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.

1) Describe Ripple by Jess in a sentence
One piece of plastic can kill or injure 1000 animals in its lifetime because it never breaks down, by removing as much plastic from beaches as I can, it has a ripple effect that has the potential to become waves of change and make a difference. 

2) How did it come about?
It’s an extremely long story, but it started with learning to surf. I became obsessed with the beauty and wonder of the ocean. The balance needed not only for surfing but in the delicate ecosystems beneath the surface. I started to notice plastic on the beach and in the water which led me to spend most of my days off cleaning as much as I could. I became obsessed with the feeling that I was making a difference slowly and coastal protection communities started noticing. I knew I was going to travel WA in a van for two months alone and Take3forthesea asked me to make content for them while I was away. 

So I decided to clean one beach a day for 60 days. I noticed over that time that the worn and weathered pieces of plastic were actually really beautiful and so I kept the best ones and took them home. Only then after having a simple conversation with a stranger on a beach a month later, did it spark the idea of turning them into jewellery and the stranger happened to know the only metalsmith in the Southern Highlands experienced enough to help me learn how. 
six months later and after I accidentally broke my friends feet in a tractor at my farm (she’s fine now haha and there are no hard feelings) the business launched. Her name is Justine and she was only visiting my farm for a day, but ended up having to stay for a few months. She also happened to be a professional website and graphic designer who helped me with literally everything in exchange for looking after her while she couldn’t walk. We are still very good friends and couldn’t have done it without her and a lot of help from my very talented teacher Tracy Hopkirk. 

3) Describe your jewellery and your process
My favourite part of making the pieces is filing back the weathered plastic to reveal the patterns underneath. The process of making jewellery is fairly simple but I make bezels to match the shape of the plastic stones. Once the rings/earrings/necklaces are made up and polished, I set the plastic into them. The plastic must be 3mm thick and that’s not always the case when working with raw materials so I glue spare plastic to the back to make it the right height. I even use the nylon rope as seen in the pictures above to make tasseled earrings. Every bit of plastic is recycled and used. The smaller blue and white pieces are used in the crescent head collection and then set in resin. Nothing is wasted. 

4) How do you collect the plastic for your pieces and what are the most common plastic pieces you find? 
When I do a beach clean I collect everything that’s  there, including old clothes, cigarettes and paper. Finding useable plastic is rare but that’s the best thing about the business, it’s not for profit, it’s purely a way for me to do what I love and share it with the world. The most common items are bottle caps by far. 

5) What are your top plastic free swaps? The most obvious ones are jars. All of my food items are stored in jars instead of plastic containers. When I buy groceries I spend that little extra time looking for items that are packaged without plastic. My favourite tip is using mushroom bags from Coles or Woolworths to put my fresh/loose produce in because I often forget my reusable food separators. Lastly switching to shampoo and conditioner bars stored in tins has been my favourite. They are travel sized, never leak and are way better for my hair. Lush is expensive but worth it I think. 

6) Do you have any more van trips planned? What’s the story with @the_bust_up?
I don’t have any travel plans at the moment but the Bust up is also a VERY long story. I’ve been converting vans for over a year, my own and my friends as a sort of hobby and when I met my partner, three months later we decided to buy a bus and travel Australia in it when it was done. It’s taken a lot longer than we ever expected to get it going because of the set backs with rust etc. Building it day in and day out drove us insane so we decided to take a step back and do it in our spare time whilst working instead. We still really want to be able to have a foot in both doors with the van life community and working full time. I’ve lived in a van for seven months and the people I met and the experience was so worthwhile, and I hope to be able to finish this project and use it as a weekender because that part of my life is certainly not finished as the plan is to the put my jewellery workshop in the bus and create beautiful pieces on the weekend at the beach. 

7) What’s coming up for Ripple by Jess?
I’m actually moving to Brisbane soon! I haven’t got my workshop set up at the moment but I definitely have plans for many more collections in the future including a black and white collection for The Hidden Sea Wine, a wine company that removes plastic from the ocean and a Mermaid collection in collaboration with Kate Nelson – Plastic free mermaid. 

8) Where can we keep up with your adventures? 
At the moment my Instagram is the best place to stay up to date, but if you sign up to the newsletter on the website I’ll be releasing stories there in the near future when my life is back on track haha. 


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