• Sustainability
  • Waste and recycling

St Kilda artist Carolyn Cardinet turns trash into treasure with her latest work, ‘Plastic Rain’

Published 27 March 2024
Through the use of found objects in her art, Carolyn Cardinet asks us to reflect on our consumer lifestyles. We spoke to her about her latest work ‘Plastic Rain’ and her plans for the future.   

Tell us a little about yourself  

Originally from France, I spent most of my life in Paris before moving to Australia 37 years ago, instantly falling in love with this beautiful country. I've lived in Townsville, Adelaide and Sydney, eventually settling in Melbourne due to a job opportunity. Back in Paris, I used to drive for hours just to glimpse the ocean. So, living between Albert Park Lake and Port Phillip Bay is a dream come true for someone who has always been drawn to water. This environment resonates deeply within me.

Where did your interest in the environment come from?

My interest in environmental issues started unexpectedly about 14 years ago when I began collecting wood and shells on the beach. Gradually, I started noticing glass and then plastic litter, which was a new phenomenon for me. The vibrant colours and their fading over time fascinated me. This led to a daily routine of collecting and sorting rubbish during my walks from Albert Park to St Kilda. My journey as an environmental activist, or as some call it, an "artivist," began accidentally and grew organically as I contemplated my family and children’s possible future.

What did you get out of the Environmental Leaders program?

Participating in the Port Phillip Environmental Leaders program was a transformative experience for me. It not only deepened my understanding of environmental issues but also connected me with like-minded individuals in my community. Together, we embarked on projects like greening Kerferd Road and creating a thriving raingarden on my front nature strip.

Tell us about your art. What kind of art do you create? 

My artistic expression revolves around repurposing materials, particularly single-use plastics, into thought-provoking pieces. I enjoy experimenting with different materials and techniques that each material allows for – whether it's melting down glass lenses to create earrings or weaving sculptural forms from farmer's twine used for hay bales or assembling punctured bicycle inner-tubes. As an educator, I collaborate with schools to create murals and conduct art and sustainability workshops. I educate students on how to re-use plastic materials and objects.

When living in Paris, I worked in the Haute Couture, working with renowned brands like Givenchy, Dior and Pierre Cardin. The dress, 'Plastic Reine' or 'Plastic Rain' which I've been working on for nearly two years, is a combination of my love for the fashion industry and my concern regarding plastic waste.

I have reused discarded fruit tree netting and plastic items collected from beaches to create a rainbow-coloured pattern that serves as a symbol of environmental awareness. It's a culmination of my efforts to draw attention to the issue of plastic pollution through art and performance.

This costume is currently presented with a video and displayed in the exhibition, 'Plastic Problems', alongside a diverse range of works all crafted or inspired by found plastics. The exhibition, held at Bayley Arts Space, is a collaboration with artists with intellectual disability. This exhibition is designed to spark conversations and encourages every viewer to reflect on their consumption habits. Because to SEE is to CHANGE.

For the next few weekends, I'm excited to be showcasing 'Spirits of a Dying Land', my new coiled weave installation from baling twine at the Acheron Sculpture Prize 2024.  And in late May, my hanging sculpture, 'ELL-Optical', will be at the Shakespeare Grove Studios in St Kilda, during Melbourne Design Week.

What do you hope your art achieves more broadly in the community?  

My aim and passion for my practice is to continue growing my reach in raising awareness about environmental issues through my art, community engagement and collaboration initiatives with other artists and festivals.


  • Plastic Problems: 1 Avoca St Highett open Monday-Friday 10am to 4 pm. Exhibition open until Wednesday 24 April. 
  • Sculpture Acheron: 132 Breakaway Road Acheron running from now until Sunday 28 April Friday to Sunday from 10 am to 4.30 pm.
  • Melbourne Design Week: The Veg Out studios will be open during Melbourne Design Week on Friday 24 May and Saturday 25 May, 2024 from 10 am to 4 pm.

View Carolyn's work

You can see all of Carolyn's amazing artwork on her website and on her Instagram @carolyncardinet_art 

Carolyn in her studio with two artworks including a hanging sculpture titled 'ELL-Optical' made from discarded glasses lenses and one from old bike tubes.