From the outside, Lili Giacobino’s terrace house, along a quiet residential street in Kingston-upon-Thames, looks just like any other house. However, once you step inside, it is clear that you have entered the house of an artist and designer. Her studio is in the front room but her creativity is not limited to this space. Her entire home is full of quirky, nature-inspired features such as a fairy house, a bird’s nest (for her cats), a hobbit house in the garden and a basement jungle spa. Walking around her sun-lit workshop, Giacobino is full of excitement as she speaks about how nature and sustainability are at the heart of everything that she creates, from building furniture out of cardboard to creating her own bioplastic to make jewellery from. The room is littered with plastic tubs, pots, trays and bottle caps, all of which she experiments with to try to find ways to transform them into something beautiful.
Her career has taken her in many different directions and her latest ambition is to move into costume and prop design for film while still keeping sustainability at the centre of her work. Giacobino is calling for major production companies to ditch plastic for materials found in the recycling bin and to follow the example she set in her most recent project. She created a stunning ‘gothic queen’ outfit made out of 195 CDs, 16 food containers, 11 newspapers and two old magazines in order to demonstrate how to transform discarded items into something eye-catching. ‘This change of direction would only feel right if sustainability was at the heart of it. There was something at the back of my mind saying that there is something just not right about it. The film industry is quite wasteful. Materials are quickly used and just as quickly discarded. I wanted to move in that direction while still being me. Everything I create is a bit quirky and everything is inspired by nature, so for me it was just logical that I bring a little bit of who I am to this project. I want to stand out for something that I believe in.’
Giacobino emphasises that she is not trying to change the industry overnight but hopes that her approach and ideas can help to move the industry in a more sustainable direction. ‘I want to bring a few ideas that might innovate, that might surprise people and could actually look really nice. I want to open a new dialogue and I want to add value to it. I like the surprises of turning plastic into something else. I try to come up with new ideas and concepts to hopefully catch people’s attention. I don’t think the industry is going to change tomorrow but slowly and surely things can adapt and progress.’
The aim of this creation was to surprise the viewer and to demonstrate that something created out of rubbish can be beautiful. ‘You don’t think at first that this is made of CDs or newspaper so that is the surprise that comes with it. I love exploring materials long enough to transform them into something else. Quite often if you have sustainable materials or recycled material used in a fashion sense, you can see what it is made of,’ she says. ‘You can see that it is made from CDs or newspapers. I wanted to create something beautiful that happened to be made out of trash, not the other way around. You can create something not only beautiful but also made with sustainable materials.’
On Giacobino’s YouTube channel, there is step-by-step footage showing the whole process behind the creation of the gothic queen ensemble (as well as other movie-quality props) which the artist hopes will inspire others to use discarded materials and objects creatively. ‘I’ve just put a video out there and I think if it inspires people, even just to craft with more materials that are recycled, for me that is enough because you change mentalities slowly. You suddenly realise there is so much potential in what you can create. You open the door to create so much more.’
Giacobino’s studio is bursting with energy, just like the artist. As she discusses her impressive creations, she speaks fondly of growing up in Switzerland and its influence on her work: ‘I think it inspired me because I was surrounded by trees and lakes and mountains all the time. This was my definition of normal.’ From a young age, she always knew that her future would take her down a creative path and that her work would be inspired by nature and sustainability. ‘I live and breathe design. It has always been the case. I loved puzzles as a child and I remember learning about components and how they fit together. I have always loved creating with whatever I had available. Creating is what I do and where I belong.’
She hopes that her work can inspire a change of mindset in individuals, as well as the film industry, by challenging perceptions about waste and its potential to be turned into something completely different and unexpected. ‘More and more I am gaining confidence in something that I believe in. I play around and create new characters while hopefully inspiring people and changing the perception of what they perceive is trash and what they can do with it. You will not look at plastic the same way again once you realise what you can do with it. If my work can start to grow something and create different mindsets then for me, even if it is on a small scale, I am happy with it.’
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