Dr. Linda Thomas

Story Number:Story-015
Themes: Art Action, Environment, Female body

So um with the ocean waste dresses, it kind of [laughs] a bit evolved by accident. So I was, um, uh, already um making upcycled clothing. Um, and then I just happened to see this photo to — showing uh several hundred cheap polystyrene bodyboards all stacked up on a Cornish beach. I thought it was, it was shocking and uh, to realise the size of the issue — so I think in that article I did read that it was fourteen-and-a-half thousand of these cheap polystyrene bodyboards end up dumped in the South West alone every year. So, it’s a big number and every part of it is not recyclable. So you’ve got contaminated sea salt, polystyrene – can’t do anything with it, that’s a really toxic form of plastic, you’ve got the nylon outer, you’ve got the leash, you know — everything ends up at best at landfill, at worst, broken down in the ocean, um, and causing immense damage to wildlife. And so I just thought, how can I — can I make something, that through my visual of creating kind of art fashion, that could be so striking that people had to look at it? And I guess I just thought, what is more often on the front cover of a magazine, or the front cover of a newspaper — and it’s usually a woman in a dress. And whatever that story is about, and whatever that woman was actually up to, they still like the image of the woman in the dress. And so I just thought: right, can I make a dress from this? [laughs]. And that’s how it started.

So in terms of the images on these particular bodyboards, you know lots and lots of them are wildlife images, so the very thing that these boards are damaging. And then you get other ones that are targeted particularly at little boys or at little girls. And so for instance some of the images of little girls, so girl surf time — um, the the width of the eye is actually bigger than the width of the waist. And that’s just subtly there. So the image of a girl surfer is this highly distorted body form. A s, as if you could possibly ride a wave if you were like that, you would snap in two [laughs].

My, um, love and activism around the ocean was then also joining in with my very strong feelings about um, body um image and, uh, positivity around the messages that we give people about their incredible bodies and all the different wonderful shapes and sizes they come in. I then ended up collecting a hundred of these bodyboards [laughs] which, um — as you can see I’m in a Georgian house so it’s, there’s four storeys to it, and in the end my son was up at the top of the house with the top of the dress and I was down the bottom coming out the back door with the end of it, so it ended up twenty-two meters long [laughs]. But um, it, it then made this incredible powerful image which did kind of go a bit viral in the end. And, and so it did what I wanted it to do, it started really good conversations and, and stories.