My initial idea for ‘Oil and Water’ was inspired by the black wave-like sandal ‘cutouts’ which I found underneath some drift logs on an island near Tofino. The black “waves” immediately reminded me of an oil spill. Comprised of closed cell foam, a crude oil product, these cutouts are the manufacturing leftovers from flip flops produced in Southeast Asia. They are absurdly common (I have personally found over 100) and come in a variety of colours. They stay intact and afloat for decades. I’m not sure how they get into the ocean, but once they do, they drift throughout the Pacific.
This raven was created by my friend and frequent collaborator, Tofino artist Dan Law. Fittingly Dan carved it from a flip flop. But this was not just any old flip flop – it’s from a lightning bolt sandal! These sandals have a distinctive lightning bolt pattern embedded into the sole which makes them easy to identify from all the other flip flops that regularly wash ashore. For me these sandals exemplify ocean plastic pollution. They were spilled into the ocean from a shipping container that was washed off a container ship somewhere in the Pacific during the mid 90’s. Over the years they have drifted far and wide. I found my first one in 1999 and collected more over the next 2 decades from Hawaii, Alaska, BC and even Japan. I still find them occasionally today. Despite washing around for over 25 years, these sandals remain remarkably unchanged. They speak to the longevity of plastic, and it’s presence throughout the world’s oceans. They also remind me that the old adage still holds - oil and water just don’t mix.