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Visual Arts Students Tote The Tote For The Thanks Campaign

Thank You Tote Bags with images of animals on side
Thank you totes produced by illustration students

Prahran campus is housing a very clever and compassionate group of Visual Arts Illustration students. This group of creatives were tasked with developing a series of illustrations for a campaign that had community-based interests with positive environmental outcomes.

After brainstorming a number of ideas, the students settled on creating original illustrations of Australian marine life and birds affected by plastic – specifically, plastic waste.

Teacher, Con Emmanuelle suggested that the project should be a response to the much-publicised policy by Coles and Woolworths to ban single-use plastic bags. It was decided that the students would print their illustrations on environmentally friendly tote bags as an eco-responsive alternative.

How the enviro-tote came to life

The students approached The Linen Press to print their completed images onto organic cotton tote bags. The company specifically sources products that meet environmentally sustainable standards, matching up to class project requirements perfectly.

The bags have proved to be very popular with all those visiting the Preston campus library and if you’re quick you can still catch the displayed totes on the ground floor in the Preston library (Building C). The totes have sparked a lot of interest, so much so that Student Life at MelbPoly, headed up by Shane Lawtey, has agreed to sponsor a similar tote-bag project in 2019. Future totes will be branded with the Melbourne Polytechnic logo, so no matter the expense we’re getting some fancy, sustainable, environmentally friendly advertising and helping save the planet from the dreaded plastic deluge!

The inspiration

Kate Bouman and Shae Foreman-Sim are two Illustration students working on this project, and say ‘the approaching plastic bag ban [at Coles and Woolies] offered an opportunity to fill a need while reminding people why the ban was necessary. Each student chose a bird or marine animal that had been documented as being affected by plastic waste. We each went on to research and create artwork and information tags for our animal of choice. The project is titled The Thanks Campaign because we are saying thanks to consumers for reducing plastic consumption on behalf of those who it impacts most.’

Con says, that ‘as a VET teacher and practicing artist, I have always believed that art needs to be shared and viewed by others. That is why I try to develop projects for my Visual Arts students that have purpose, meaning and some type of narrative.’ The war on waste, particularly around plastic, was Con’s first proposal and the students really took it to another level. ‘I try to practice what I preach and my sermon about the environmental damage and hazard caused by plastic resonated with my Prahran cohort.’

Kate went on to say ‘while I’ve always been aware of the effects of waste on the environment, I… confess I’ve been pretty lazy when it comes to conservation. Personally, the initial proposal for this idea came more from a need to complete a brief than wanting to save birds. However, once we began our research for the project, it was hard not to feel more aware and accountable of the current environmental situation and I now make a conscious effort to use sustainable products, recycle appropriately, and of course, carry my reusable bags.’ 

Thinking is Great, Acting is Better 

‘Animal and environment welfare is a cause that is really close to my heart’ says Shae, ‘to be honest, it makes me really depressed to think about all the harm humans have done/are doing to our earth. It’s frustrating that a lot of people still turn a blind eye, or flat-out deny climate change and other important environmental issues.’Students like Kate and Shae inspire and encourage others to take climate change seriously, not just in thought, but in actions and other practical ways.

Shae says ‘I do think that my generation and those younger than me are starting to care and take action which is so cool to see so I still have hope!’ Hope for the future has always been a thing – ‘you are not merely here to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement….’.

While the 2018 bags have not (yet!) been taken up for commercial use, Kate makes a great point, ‘if the project does not continue beyond this point, we’ve still created 26 bags. If those bags are used just once a week for the next five years, that’s over 7,000 plastic bags replaced. And we are very happy about that.’ Something in my eye – a great outcome for only 26 bags, think of the impact if everyone made the effort to use sustainable, re-usable shopping bags.

Create your own sustainable tote

Kate waxes lyrical about her course, the Diploma of Visual Arts – Illustration, and would ‘absolutely’ recommend the course to others. She said ‘it has helped me extend my skills, investigate career paths I would not have otherwise considered and allowed me to explore new styles and mediums. I have enjoyed my time here very much and feel more confident in my identity as an artist.’

If you are looking at helping SLAM develop The Thanks Campaign tote bags for 2019, you can enrol or book for the next Information and Enrolment session in Visual Arts, today. Find out more on the Certificate IV in Visual Arts or the Diploma of Visual Arts – Illustration, through the Melbourne Polytechnic website.

Something to take home

It seems fitting to leave you with another quote from Con – ‘It has always confirmed my own belief to create art that sings and affects people. Create art with a purpose and application'. Certainly the Visual Arts cohort at Prahran has created a visually appealing, but practical tote with a message and purpose. If you can’t convince our students to sell you a bag, do ensure you get your own re-usable tote and do the right thing.