There is a certain beauty in the mundane things that pass through our lives. Consider the plastic bag: a humble container designed to transport items from point A to point B and then be discarded, given the same regard as a paper wrapper on a straw or a coffee cup sleeve — useful but fleeting by design. It's an ephemeral object in the sense that it only comes into our lives for a brief time. but the cruel fact of the matter is that the plastic bag you see stuck between the branches of tree outside your window will likely outlast all of us.
It is this tension between mundane beauty and environmentally toxicity that artist Sho Shibuya has sought to reconcile. In his new book, Plastic Paper, the artist celebrates the everyday design of disposable bags, cataloging the myriad of smiley faces, 'Thank You's, and 'I <3 NY's that appear across the front of a plastic bag in just as many combinations of fonts and layouts as there are bodegas in New York. Enlisting the help of photographers Henry Hargreaves and Vanessa Granda along with Cole Kennedy, Anna Roberts, and Chih Hsuan Hou, Plastic Paper aims to serve as a definitive document of the various forms of expression that are achieved by the single-use bag with all proceeds from the book going to benefit The Parley which works to reverse the damage done to the ecosystem done by harmful plastics.
"It is no secret that single-use plastic bags are choking our cities and our planet," says Shibuya. "This book is not an exercise to advocate for wasteful plastics; it is quite the opposite. It is an act of preservation of everyday design and a call to give greater care to the objects we use every day, to reuse them and waste less,and to find happiness and inspiration in the little acts of art and creativity we'd otherwise miss."
Extending the project's mission to celebrate everyday design while actively working to undo the damage that it has wrought on the world, the team behind Plastic Paper has partnered up with global collective, PANGAIA, to create a brand new limited edition shirt woven out of seaweed fibers.
"At first glance, clean. At second glance, thoughtful. We were amazed by how PANGAIA's products considered our planet with every single detail. Like us, they believe the next generation of creative minds needs to consider environmental thinking with every action," says Shibuya about the collaboration. "It's about creating a community around creative responses to plastic pollution. We're excited to find future ways to take that intent forward and collaborate with PANGAIA again."
Minimalist in design and on the cutting edge of sustainability, PANGAIA puts philosophy at the forefront of their product to create a t-shirt that is environmentally conscious not only in its construction but will carry on throughout its lifetime thanks to a peppermint oil treatment that reduces water waste by 3000 liters. "We loved the irony of Plastic Paper's idea of immortalizing a humble, seemingly indestructible yet toxic everyday object as a design statement," PANGAIA says in a press statement. "We also dream of the day when we can rid the planet of the titanic amount of plastic, and wanted to co-create a product to support the cause."
Plastic Paper launches Thursday, March 14th at Court Street Grocers, 540 LaGuardia Place, NY from 6 - 9 p.m.