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Footprints -

Footprints (2015)

The Footprints series was the result of two years of research and experimentation to develop a casein-based bioplastic. Casein is a protein present in milk and its use dates back millennia. The Egyptians used  it as a fixative for their pigments in wall paintings, but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that casein was first used to make plastic – hardened with formaldehyde and produced in a variety of colours. However, with the advent of WWII came high demand for basic supplies like milk, and the new oil-based plastics were quicker to manufacture and so casein’s production in large scale ground to a halt.

2015 – Sculpture. Studio-made Casein bioplastic & electroformed copper.

Inspired by her fascination for fractals and the unseen structures and patterns that are part of our world– both created by nature and humankind, Paula cast her pieces from moulds of the delicate spindles of a vegetable loofah skeleton. The process of creating each sculpture took over two months and there was a certain degree of unpredictability; the material shrank and moved whilst drying, determining the piece’s uniqueness.

Paula’s unique formula didn’t use formaldehyde and she also devised a way of electroforming and plating on top of her pieces without affecting the material. The result was a mesh between a fantastical fossil and a microscopic organism; sparkling metal and gleaming white casein. The ephemerality of these pieces mean that eventually the plastic will biodegrade leaving behind a metal carcass to be enjoyed, or to be melted and reused elsewhere.

2015 – Sculpture. Studio-made Casein bioplastic & electroformed copper.

Paula’s work asks both philosophical and environmental questions. Her Footprints series explores the ideas behind the lifespan of a work of art. It also raises the issue of the finite amount of oil, and therefore plastics, and points to casein as a metaphorical alternative for a solution. Her work is an urgent and beautiful reminder that time is running out to tackle the continually ignored causes of climate change.

How connected are these themes with humans’ obsession of leaving a mark, a footprint that will transcend us?

Must the objects we create for their aesthetic merit outlive their owner to be of ‘value’?

With today’s environmental emergency, if artworks had an ‘enjoy-by date’, would it necessarily depreciate the value or would it perhaps allow us to enjoy and value it more?

Could her pieces eventually leave no physical trace?