New Bern artist makes jewelry from Hawaii’s finest treasures
NEW BERN, NC (WNCT) – Jewelry maker Leone Sutton is taking action to make a change in the environment, one recyclable at a time.
Leone is the owner of OceanKindHi, a line where she makes handmade jewelry from plastic she finds on the beach in Hawaii. Originally from New Bern, she turns everyday trash into treasure and with every piece she sells on Etsy the proceeds from her earrings go to cleaning up Hawaii’s shores.
In one conversation, Leone shares all about her passions and her goal of exploring the beach’s most treasured treasures. She even talks about some of the craziest things she’s found so far on her own fantasy island.
What type of recycled material do you make your jewelry with?
âI clean the beaches on the coast of the island of Hawaii and incorporate the microplastic into a bio-based resin. “
You have been making jewelry from recycled objects since 2010. Why did you start and for what purpose do you use recycled materials?
âFrom 2005 to 2007 I went to design school and focused on sustainability during that time. I then worked for a âgreenâ building materials company and learned from speakers who came to our company to talk about green business practices. I have stayed in this state of mind ever since. Everything we use in the products we create affects every aspect of our environment, whether it is air quality, water quality, etc.
You are originally from New Bern, what prompted you to move to Hawaii?
âMy husband works for the National Park Service. He started at Moore’s Creek National Battlefield outside of Wilmington, but was offered a job on the island of Molokai in Hawaii and decided to take it. After being there for four years a position opened on Big Island in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and my husband decided to apply. He got the job, so we decided to try our luck on a new adventure on another island!
Where do you find most of your recycled items?
“All the parts I use are microplastics that I have cleaned in various places on the beach.”
You said you have to wear hiking shoes when doing bigger beach cleanups. Is the beach sand in Hawaii deeper than the mainland?
âIt’s a hike on fine sand. In fact, it’s a mix of terrain. I walk in dirt and lava rock most of the time and then hit the sand in various places.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve found so far?
âA toilet baseâ¦ then two weeks later I found a toilet seat at another cleaning location. I also found plastic toilet brushes! More frequently I find toothbrushes, hairbrushes, bottles of all sizes, bottle caps and small plastic toys.
Is Hawaii Really Heaven on Earth?
“It does, and if the people who come here to visit or live here do so with an educated respect for Hawaiian culture and the land, it will stay that way.”
Has your work been affected by the pandemic?
“Definitely. I have two young boys, so with distance education I was placed in a teaching position as well as a mom / business owner. So we did a lot of beach cleaning, but not as much creation as I would have liked. Last year the boys got involved in creating our annual Christmas decorations, which were ocean waves filled with microplastics. They received quite a bit of environmental education. , which suits me perfectly.
Your jewelry doesn’t look like it was made from recycled materials at all, so how long does it take to create this piece of art?
âFrom cleaning the beach until the play is complete I would estimate about 5-7 days. Some pieces take longer if they need to be sanded and glazed, such as rings and bangles.
Click here to watch the jewelry making process:
Leone proves that we can all be the change our earth needs from pollution.