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  • Dr. Jen Marchbank


Susan Webster is an artist and jewellery maker based in Nairn in the Highlands of Scotland. After thirty years of teaching art and design she retired due to a health crisis. Then with more time on her hands she had the opportunity to pursue some projects that had been brewing (pun intended) for a few years.

Growing up I always knew my big cousin was an artistic talent to be reckoned with, now I know her to be an artistic eco-warrior and creator of magnificent jewellery. She takes these used aluminium coffee capsules and transforms them into handmade, up-cycled jewellery such as pendants, brooches and bangles, thus saving the coffee pods from the landfill where they can take 100-500 years to biodegrade. As she says ‘If they are going to be with us they might as well be decorative!’

In answer to my question of how she came to upcycle the pods she replied ‘Well, our classrooms never really had enough money for supplies so I was always looking for items to recycle, eventually writing in to my pupils’ (students) design briefs the need to use recycled materials. We used shiny sweetie wrappers, sparkly pieces of toothpaste boxes and even reclaimed electrical wire from broken toasters etc. One year a couple of my pupils displayed their work at the Scottish-wide school competition ‘Junk Couture’, so I suppose I’ve been upcycling forever!’

Her inspiration comes from a variety of sources

including nature, culture and fashion. Saddened by the fire that destroyed the beautiful Glasgow School of Art this piece is a homage to the great Scottish designer and architect of the GSA, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Others are created from her surroundings. As she explains ‘This magnificent view from Nairn beach inspired this painting I did a while back and … I enjoyed translating the same scene into my jewellery- it even has real sand and little pieces of ‘treasure’ gathered from the beach itself.’

How does she make these beauties? Well, first the pods need to be emptied of the residual coffee, then washed and dried and sorted. She then crushes them flat and fills in the back with a polymer clay for stability. She keeps them round ‘Lots of people are using these pods to create art and crafts, some of them are twisting and reshaping them but I enjoy the constraint of making each one different and unique within the same round shape’. She collects ‘pre loved’ jewellery from thrift stores, searches Nairn beach for tiny pebbles, shells, sea glass and sand. Some she also paints, some have little bits of chain to give them movement. She has researched and experimented with different items, including non toxic glues.

In addition to representing flowers, landscapes and Scottish culture, she also portrays themes like music, nautical and steam punk, as well as bespoke pieces. ‘People will send me photos of a dress they have and ask me to make a complimentary piece to wear with the dress, I do the same for my own clothes, so I have a personal collection! Well, I have to be my own advert don’t I?’ And that advert works – as she says “they tend to attract quite a lot of attention s they look so different and make a good conversation starter – and I’m always up for a chat about recycling!.

She supplies a few local stores and tours craft shows in Scotland. Eventually she aims to have an Etsy store but for now she is kept busy with her existing outlets. If you would like to see more of her work please follow this ink.

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