Colour and Creation: Behind the Scenes at YagoEco

By Lily Fonzo

YagoEco was established by Jagoda Jay Sudak Keshani in 2017. Based in Isle of Dogs, London, YagoEco creates handmade one-of-a-kind pieces of jewellery from recycled material. Central to Jay’s ethos is a passion for creating something from nothing. Each YagoEco earring is a gentle reminder that there is hope in regards to our plastic problem. Jay’s main goal is to promote this message through her creations. Therefore, all her work is easily accessible and affordable. In 2022 she was awarded the Prestige Award for Sustainable Jewellery Specialist and Artist Recognition at Luxembourg Art Prize.

GroundJewels is proud to stock a selection of YagoEco’s Irene collection in store and online. To see the full collection and shop click here.

A selection of YagoEco jewellery on sale at GroundJewels
A selection of YagoEco jewellery on sale at GroundJewels

In June 2023 Lily Fonzo from GroundJewels sat down with Jay to discuss how jewellery is created at YagoEco. They also discussed techniques and the importance of defining words.

Read on to peak behind the scenes!

Lily Fonzo (LF): “Good morning, Jay. It is so wonderful to speak with you today. I cannot wait to learn more about the process and practices of YagoEco.”

Jagoda Jay Sudak Keshani (JK): “Hello Lily, I am also excited to share some insights that I have learnt whilst developing YagoEco. I love having the opportunity to talk about Eco jewellery!”

LF: “I am so glad you have said Eco jewellery as that is my first question. With an increased awareness, interest and mainstreaming of environmental issues we have seen an influx in the use of eco-vocabulary. Words such as ethical, environmentally friendly, sustainable and certified. However, with this influx has come increased ambiguity and confusion in regard to what these terms exactly mean. What do terms such as ethical and environmentally sustainable mean to you?”

JK: “This is such an important conversation to be having. Many of the words you have said have expansive definitions. Definitions influenced by culture, discipline and the personal. It is a hard question to answer. But to me ethical has come to represent a process. A process which considers all from inception to end point. Are the people making the products earning a living wage? Are the environmentally friendly products created using toxic chemicals? Is the creation process transparent? On the other hand, I interpret sustainable to mean an analysis of my actions. An example being that when people wish to stop using a pair of YagoEco earrings they can return them back. They can then either be fully recycled or turned into a new piece of jewellery. The process of creation is contained, reusing minimal resources. I like to continue the relationship between the product, creator and consumer.”

LF: “I agree that there is perhaps not a fix or finite definition of some of these words. But as you say, they come to represent processes or an ethos instead. It remains vital therefore that when we do use words such as ethical that we then state what we mean. Clarity is paramount.”

JK: “Indeed.”

Behind the scenes at the YagoEco workshop
Behind the scenes at the YagoEco workshop

LF: “All YagoEco jewellery is made from recycled plastic. In particular plastic bottle tops. Where do you source these from?”

JK: “In 2017 when YagoEco began, all the jewellery was made from plastic bags which people in the local community would pass onto me. I have moved away from this material now. As the use of plastic bags in our community has decreased, they became harder to source. Although I am not sad. It was brilliant to be faced with this problem! I switched to plastic bottle tops as these are still prevalent and the colours are more vibrant. I gather bottle tops from the local community around Isle of Dogs. I am proud to say that since 2017 YagoEco has transformed 2689 plastic bottle tops and carrier bags into vibrant earrings!”

LF: “I am curious to know how many bottle tops it takes to create a pair of YagoEco earrings”

JK: “For the small earrings it takes 1-2 bottle tops, and for the larger earrings it takes 3. As you can see, I am using a small amount of recycled plastic. This works well as everything at YagoEco is designed and crafted by me. I have a small production line. I am really thrilled to share my creations, as each earring I create is a reminder that we can do better. My ultimate goal is to raise awareness in people and encourage them to repurpose the waste they produce. I want people to stop in the middle of their busy lives and redirect their attention to the environmental foot print we leave behind.”

“Since 2017 YagoEco has transformed 2689 plastic bottle tops and carrier bags into vibrant earrings”

Jagoda Jay Sudak Keshani

LF: “What happens to leftover material or offcuts in your design process?”

JK: “This is often the biggest problem when creating new products. How do you ensure that your impact is minimal and that you do not add to the proliferation of waste material. At YagoEco all plastic off cuts are collected and repurposed. In 2022 all my plastic workshop leftovers were melted down to create 480 miniature squares. These then became a wall mosaic titled ‘Reborn’. I like to think of creative ways to further the life of all the material that enters my workshop. As I mentioned earlier this is a part of my ethical ethos- a zero waste policy in my work.”

LF: “Congratulations is due, as this is the art piece that went on to win the Luxembourg Academy of Art Award in 2022.”

JK: “Yes, thank you. I was so happy for the work to be recognised. It was wonderful to reach a larger platform, raising awareness of the consequences of rubbish created from the human desire for a convenient life. It is the same with my earrings. Each earring brings awareness back to nature. Examining the tension between humans and the environment through the lens of artistic creation.”

YagoEco Submission to Luxembourg Academy of Art Awards 2022
‘Reborn’, 2022. YagoEco Submission to Luxembourg Academy of Art Awards 2022

LF: “Indeed. It seems as if inspiration is never an issue for you. What is currently inspiring your designs?”

JK: “I find so much inspiration from my immediate surrounding; the colours, the shapes, the stories of people I talk to. I am always drawn to simplicity, geometry and balance. I think this stems from my background as an engineer. It is important that my earrings are stylish and light weight as to enable everyday wear. Their bold geometric shapes allow the vibrant colours to be the main focus. I am always delighted and surprised by how each earring turns out. There is no knowing until the final earring is set, as the marbling effect is uncontrollable. This means that I can guarantee that every YagoEco earring is one of a kind!”

LF: “In a time when it feels as if everything is mass produced, to be able to wear something that is completely unique is incredibly special.”

JK: “Yes. That is so important to me. I wish for the wearer of a pair of YagoEco earrings to have something as unique as they are. In a world where lots is batch made, I hope my jewellery can help people tap into their own uniqueness, realise their own potential and not be afraid to be themselves.”

LF: “Jay, thank you so much for your time and for letting us peak inside the world of YagoEco. It has been so insightful. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you. We are proud to stock your Irene Collection in store at GroundJewels.”

JK: “Thank you Lily. It is a treat to be able to speak in depth about ethical and environmentally friendly jewellery. Building awareness remains my central drive. I create with the intention that all YagoEco jewellery is a tool for conversations. There is no time like the present to make changes- no matter how small. The future of YagoEco is looking very exciting. My next commission has come from a Bishop! I am creating a plastic waste crucifix, that will be used when he is ordained.”

LF: “Oh my how special. Dare I say the first crucifix made from recycled plastic bottle tops?”

JK: “Perhaps!”

For more information on YagoEco please click here.

To shop YagoEco click here.

Lily Fonzo