Robson Real World Fund integrates creativity

DNA group Robson Real World

Guardians of the sea exhibition

A project aimed at raising awareness of the environmental concern of plastic waste in Sunderland has received funding from the Development & Alumni Office. The funding has been awarded from the Robson Real World Experience Fund. The Robson Real World Experience Fund has been donated to the University to support students studying Art and Design. This fund allows University staff to support current students to undertake a live project or opportunity complementing current studies.

The concept of the project to raise awareness of plastic waste in Sunderland, involved the creation of a sculpture that would be displayed in The Bridges shopping centre. The sculpture borrowed the shape of a glass ship in a bottle, which was one of the successful products made in Sunderland in the 1980’s and 90’s in a post-Pyrex Sunderland. The recipient of funding from the Robson Real World Experience Fund, Dr Ayako Tani told us about the project and how the funding supported the completion of the project.

“Through this installation, I communicated the message that people always had power to make changes for the better future, just as the glassblowers who lost their factory-based jobs started the innovative and successful business of glass ships in bottles. The installation was hosted by the Bridges Shopping Centre for three weeks, coupled with Zarron Barnes’ photography exhibition, which also concerns about the plastic issues. This project also had an endorsement from Robson Real World Experience Fund, which employed five students from the University of Sunderland to assist with the creation of the sculpture. The installation was created using waste plastic bottles collected in Sunderland. The sculpture (3.5m long x 1m diameter) was then exhibited at the Central Park area inside The Bridges Shopping Centre from 29th May to 19th June. 500 bottles for the installation were sourced from the recycling bins at the University of Sunderland, St Mary’s School and Enon Baptist Church. After the installation was dismantled, all bottles were returned to the recycling bin at the University of Sunderland, which is operated by Suez Waste.”

The students that were involved in the project were responsible for creating the ‘water’ sculpture (flowing out from the bottle to the floor), this aspect of the installation was designed and fabricated by the students. The five students and Dr Tani worked at Mackie’s Workshop to clean the bottles and build the Message in a Bottle sculpture. The team also used the studio at Fablab Sunderland to fabricate the frame and developed valuable woodwork skills during the process. The framework of the sculpture has been donated to a project at Fablab Sunderland. Rest of the parts and all the plastic bottles were returned to the recycling bin at the University.

One of the students summed up their experience of working on the project. “I intend on using my design degree and experience from this project to continue to develop works for other artists, and would look forward to working with Ayako Tani, the FabLab and the Bridges shopping centre again. I also appreciate the opportunity to have worked with Sunderland Culture, and be funded by the Robson Real World Experience Fund.

The project also enabled Dr Tani to engage a local primary school, with help from the children at St Mary’s School who helped with the collection of plastic for the sculpture and received a talk from Dr Tani.

Dr Ayako Tani concluded: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Robson Real World Experience Fund. It really did make an enormous difference to the work we produced and enabled plastic waste to be highlighted to the people of the City of Sunderland.”



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