Oonagh Herbert — founder of Secret Life of Plastic

What’s your background?

After I finished school, I travelled quite a bit. When I was in my thirties, I went back to study community development.

My original idea was to set up a social enterprise, where people would have the space to explore materials which are being thrown away, to see if there were new business possibilities in upcycling.

I always had an interest in art and design, and I had a couple of exhibitions of things made from plastic.

People started asking me to make things to sell, and, as a way to funda social enterprise idea,

I set up Secret Life of Plastic. It’s only in the last year that I have sat down and built a website, and started putting things out there and making a sale.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

Turning plastic fantastic

I am involved with different projects outside of the Secret Life of Plastic, such as the Ennis Street Arts Festival which was on in July — my work would be split between projects like that and Secret Life of Plastic.

My workshop is at home. Through friends and word-of-mouth, I am getting strange things dropped around to me, but it’s great that people locally in Ennis are starting to think of me when they are throwing things away.

My poor family are driven mad though — we only have a small house and every corner of it at this stage is stuffed with plastic!

Tell us about a recent or a favourite design or project that you have worked on?

I was recently invited by the Western Development Commission to participate in SeaFest, the national maritime festival, which was wonderful.

That ran in early July. It was a great opportunity for me to get my work out there to a wider audience.

They ran a Look West Tent at the festival, to get people talking about what they love about living in the west of Ireland.

They invited different businesses which they felt had gained some inspiration from the sea or living by the coast.

It was great to be contacted to give a talk on my business, and show some of my work.

What’s your design style?

Turning plastic fantastic

I was recently described as ‘avant garde’ but I think I would go with ‘avant garde meets Stig of the Dump’!

That was a book in the 60s and a cartoon when I was a child. It was the story of somebody with a creature down the back of their garden.

They made a wonderful house for him out of what was in the rubbish dump down the road. I think it’s the only way my design style can be described!

What/who inspires your work?

The environment and the need to change our creative thinking about our rubbish.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment?

In Sweden, they have places like shopping centres but where there are loads of businesses who recycle and upcycle.

I really like this idea.

What’s your most treasured possession?

I treasure my brain power — it’s the only thing I can really say is my own, the ability to question things and think of things. May it stay active for as long as is possible.

Who would be your favourite designer or style inspiration?

Turning plastic fantastic

There is a company in Sweden called the reCreate Design Company and I go regularly onto their website to see what they’re doing.

They’re very much about upcycling anything. I find something very inspiring about them.

Everything they create is so upbeat and big and happy.

What would be a dream project/design for you to work on?

I do hope to develop the social enterprise idea at some stage down the line.

I currently work from the box room in my house, but I would hope to have a bigger space next year and then things can grow from there, into workshops, collecting more interesting stuff and collaborating with people.

Have you any design tips for us?

Be a bit more creative. Try and look at things in a new light, especially things that you are throwing out.

Website: secretlifeofplastic.com

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