“We are so lucky to have such beautiful beaches that are available to everyone, and we need to do our part in maintaining them, it is such an important part of our lives as Oregonians.”
“The ocean was my first love,” replied Pooka Rice when she was asked why she cares about protecting the Pacific Ocean from plastic pollution. “And this issue is really personal to me because I have lived on every coast and have been able to see all the changes the ocean is undergoing today.” Pooka Rice is the Outreach Coordinator for the Haystack Awareness Program in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Their mission is to promote environmental stewardship and protect the area of the Oregon coast surrounding Haystack Rock through education, public events, art, and marine life data collection.
Pooka Rice began making jewelry 20 years ago, but changed paths after feeling like she wanted to do something a bit more meaningful with her life. She returned to it after she began volunteering with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, and discovered a way to tie together environmental awareness and art through using recovered beach debris to make jewelry. “I have always liked working with reclaimed material and have a fascination with things that have been abandoned, so my progression to jewelry making with beach debris materials was very natural.” Pooka Rice’s art project entitled “Trash Talk” includes different types of handmade jewelry, from seahorse earrings to sea star necklaces and goldfish charms, all made out of marine debris that was picked up off of the beach surrounding Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast. Through this project, already 240 pounds of debris have been turned into beautiful pieces of jewelry! The purpose of “Trash Talk” is to get people talking about the issue of ocean pollution and to inspire them to do something about it. Rice says, even for those who are close-minded about ocean pollution and the urgency of beach cleanup, her jewelry can be a really effective way to get the message across.
Sea slugs are Pooka Rice’s favorite marine animal. “To me, sea slugs are the most inspirational creatures, they are so delicate and cool.” Pooka talked about how shocking it is to see the impact humans are having on the biodiversity of the ocean, and how obvious and visible it is when the tide goes out and reveals all of the incredible life that resides protected under the shallow coastal waters just off of the beach. She believes that a genuine connection to the ocean or to the Oregon Coast is critical for people to care about the negative effects of plastic pollution on this marine environment. Part of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program’s mission is to cultivate these kinds of connections and Pooka’s jewelry is an large part of this, giving the public something really beautiful and meaningful to get them thinking about just how valuable the Oregon beaches and the Pacific Ocean really are. “Oregon is the only state where all of the beaches are free and open to the public. We are so lucky to have such beautiful beaches that are available to everyone, and we need to do our part in maintaining them, it is such an important part of our lives as Oregonians.” Pooka Rice reminds us that if we don’t work to protect our coastline and ocean beyond, we will lose the privilege of getting to experience them.