WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws

32 bars enhanced their facades with recycled plastic straws waste art designed and created by me.

The single-use drinking straws came with beverages at bars and later ended up in the trash. I’ll admit: this project tops my list as the biggest creative challenge so far. The art piece required approximately 10,000 plastic straws and months of intense work. To the best of my knowledge, no one has implemented a similar idea before.

WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws bar entrance with flower pots
Bar entrance with flower pots
32 bars in Vilnius enhanced their facades with plastic straw waste art.

Thanks to “Pernod Ricard Lithuania” for their enormous contribution towards making my vision become a reality. Together, we hit a number of bars and spent a huge amount of hours collecting giant piles of used straws. We aimed to provoke a long overdue discussion: is a plastic straw really an essential attribute to your beverage?

Making of

The plastic straw installation was a lot harder than I expected – thanks to my habit of thinking, planning, and acting independently. This time it was different: I found myself facing many situations that were not determined or fully controlled by me. Picking up used straws from the bars was only the first step. The complexity of questions was overwhelming: who will cut, melt and pour the plastic into a mold? What’s the best way to attach plastic straw sculptures to the flower pots made of concrete? Which materials work the best? I experimented a fair bit with clay, gypsum, silicone, and epoxy – but at the end of the day decided to stick to the primary plan to use cocktail straws alone, with no additional substances.

People keep asking: “Why didn’t you use plastic straws in their original shape and form?” The answer is simple: aesthetics. Whether I use pre-owned items for my art or start completely fresh, I always strive for aesthetic excellence. The basic craft projects with reused disposable straws are plentiful, though most of the time they fail to move me. So we chose a different path: transported giant bags of collected drinking straws, chopped them up, then melted and poured the hot plastic into molds to create the desired shape. Each sculpture looks like a woman’s face – when I shared pictures on social media, some noticed a resemblance to dark ceramics.

The plastic straw installation embraces femininity, which is the underlying theme in all of my art. This creative journey shed new light on my craft: I started seeing building ornaments and decorations from a completely different angle. Countless hours were spent wandering the streets of Vilnius Old Town, and I doubt there are any sculptures or walls I left unexplored.

I always had a sweet spot for reliefs, carved and engraved materials in decorative arts. This project allowed me to present my decor interpretation and to see how it plays out. Fun fact: each female face was created using a single mold. Due to the inconsistent pressure, they turned out to be unique – just as we all are in real life.

WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - 3D model
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws
Testing different types of materials and shapes for 3D printed form. Form will be used for gypsum molds.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws 3D model
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws
Printed 3D model on a flower pot. Looking for right proportions.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - shredding used straws
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws
Using shredding machine in local technical community hub 'Technarium'.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - shredded used straws
Shredded plastic straws
12 big garbage bags of used drinking straws fit into one bag of same size.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - first attempt to form nose
First attempt
Experimenting with melting plastic. in home kitchen melted some straws in pot and tried to form a nose.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - gypsum molds
Gypsum molds
Prepared gypsum molds for pouring melted plastic.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - pouring melted plastic
Pouring
Pouring melted plastic into gypsum molds. During the process you have to be sure not to overheat plastic.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - taking sculptures out of gypsum molds
Taking out
After melted plastic solidifies, they are taken out of gypsum molds.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - sculptures are cooling down
Cooling down
Sculptures are cooling down after taking them out of gypsum molds.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - final touches
Final touches
Each sculpture individually polished, excess of plastic and gypsum dust removed.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - final touches
Bring out details
Each sculpture is covered with black paint to bring out all the details.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - gluing to flower pot
Gluing to flower pot
Attaching plastic straw sculpture to concrete flower pot.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - ready for exhibition
Ready
All flower pots with sculptures glued are ready.
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws - with plants
Plants
WASTE ART: women’s faces from plastic straws
32 bars
Enhanced their facades with plastic straw waste art designed and created by me.

Nowadays, it has become clear that the ever-growing mountains of plastic waste require immediate action. Consumption patterns are alarming: some estimates suggest that just the U.S. alone uses around 500 million disposable plastic straws per day – enough to wrap around the globe 2.5 times. A fraction of these plastic straws are recycled – but large quantities end up in landfills and pollute the oceans (where they stay up to 200 years until full decomposition). Raising awareness is crucial, though not enough. Countries are ready to address the world’s plastic issue by taking more drastic measures, such as the banning of single-use plastics.
The EU will phase out single-use plastic items by 2021. But why wait? Each of us can make a conscious decision to say “no, thanks”, and ditch the plastic straws right now!

About Agne Kisonaite

Agnė Kišonaitė is known for multiple art installations and her relentless passion for turning discarded items into art pieces. Her art has been recognized by the Lithuanian National Design Prize Award (2015), also she is a Guinness World Record holder (2015) for art installation ‘Lipstick Tower”. One of her biggest projects to date is called “Diabetes”, which has been exhibited in Abu Dhabi. It was created with used insulin syringes of people with diabetes – including the artist herself. Marking “World Diabetes Day” in 2018, Agnė Kišonaitė went on to create a painting called “Family” using blood glucose test strips and donated this piece of art to Kaunas Clinics. Her other work includes installations with used lipsticks, empty nail polish bottles, disposed of coffee capsules, and various forms of packaging which has already served its primary purpose.