Imagine turning your old slippers that were trash into art. Have you ever thought that something you have discarded can be changed into something beautiful? Well, a team of sculptors from Ocean Sole Nairobi has turned this most common footwear into world model sculptors such as hippos, elephant among others. Ocean sole Nairobi has so far cleaned around 10 million slippers from our water bodies.
Many of the 90 employees were used to traditional wood carvings, which at times has proved to be destructive to the environment as it led to deforestation
Sally, a volunteer said, ‘Trash does come in from as far as the Philippines and it is shocking’
When asked what made, Ocean Sole exist and what the motivation was, Joe head of sales said, “Sandals are cheap, the problem is they break so easily, creating a menace all over.
Plastic became cheaper late in the 20th century, making over a billion yearly with which most do not last more than 2 months and get thrown out, which mostly find their way into our waters, but this team of artisans turns them into beautiful pieces of art.
‘‘We have a network of collectors that collect flip flops weekly from our beach in the Coast, Kenya, and we pay them up to Kenya Shillings 40.00 per kilo,’’ Joe from Ocean Sole says.
So how are they turned into pieces of art? You would ask.
Well, first, the sandals are washed using water and detergent, then for smaller sculptures, workers cut the sandals to desired sizes, then use a nontoxic glue to bind them together. It is worth noting that they use tiny pieces as they build them up before curving them into finished products. Making a single piece would at times take approximately 2hours for the small to medium sizes and up to a day for the larger sizes as they resort to old insulation for shipping containers to cover the base of the sandals.
‘‘Bigger sculptures have a contoured look while smaller ones have a stripy look,’’ Joe would say.
“The best sellers are elephants and giraffes, “he would add.
Worth noting also is that the sandal shavings do get repurposed and used to make mattresses which are then donated to refugees in Northern Kenya. Quality control is also checked, and if found to be below standard, they are taken back to be redone and fixed. The final stage is rewashing them afresh before shipping them off.
Julie Church, the founder of Ocean Sole was inspired during a visit to the Kenyan coastline in late 1997 and now his team has collected and curved more than 700,000 sandals a year and of which one was presented to the Pope, an elephant carving when he visited Kenya in 2015.
Due to COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, a lot of challenges are being experienced, especially shipping issues also shipping cost has gone up almost 4 times and items are taking longer to reach their destination.
Until they run out of raw materials, Ocean Sole will keep turning trash into treasure.