The Making of Mandi

It all started way back in January 2020, when as a household, we decided to collect all of the plastic wrappers that couldn’t be recycled locally in the household waste collections, with the aim that we would then transform them into a costume as a comment on the waste we had produced.

Further on down the line in July 2020, we were approached by Thurrock Festival and T100 to create a large-scale costume to welcome the T100 walkers into the Thurrock Festival and Grays Mandala activities.

The inspiration for Mandi came from documentaries about plastic pollution in the oceans and waterways, including the BBC’s ‘War on Plastic’ and Channel 5’s ‘The Secret World of Your Rubbish’. We were shocked by the heart-breaking images of plastics in the ocean, the sea life entrapped and entangled within it, as well as mistaking the plastics for food.

Mandi was created as a comment on the plastic pollution in the ocean, which is still continuing to grow due to the increased use of single-use products because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic such as disposable facemasks and gloves.

The Mandi Design & Concept

Mandi is a spirit sitting in the clouds, freeing the sea life from their cage of plastic in the ocean.

Mandi is the spirit of change and freedom, formed from the humans’ desire to reduce plastic pollution and reverse climate change.

Mandi’s mission is to free sea life from plastic pollution in the waterways.

The concept was to use recycled materials (mainly plastics) or repurpose other items to create the costume and puppet as much as possible.

So, what does Mandi mean?

The name Mandi initially started off as a nickname for the costume due to the elements of the mandala within it.

‘Man’ is not indicative of a gender but purely symbolises that Mandi was created by the humans’ desire to reverse climate change.

The ‘di’ suffix stands for Divine Intervention. Mandi is a spirit whose mission is to intervene with the status quo and change the world for the better.

The Mandi Costume:

The costume half of Mandi, which is worn from the shoulder down, is also referred to as the Ocean.

It features an underwater scene of sea life created from recycled plastic wrappers, which we then ironed together between clear plastic carrier bags to form a fabric. This section of the Ocean was the most time-consuming part of the Making of Mandi, as it features hundreds of individually hand cut elements.

We set up underwater scenes in individual carrier bags, making sure the sea life would flow seamlessly from one bag to the next. Each bag was then ironed at a low heat between two sheets of greaseproof paper to fuse the sea life in place before the next stage. Four carrier bags were then lined up within a large clear grocery tray liner, which measures almost a metre in length by 50 centimetres wide, and ironed again to create a long panel, taking care to ensure that all the edges were completely sealed.

The front and back of the costume are both made up of two vertical panels with one horizontal panel at the chest. To shape the horizontal top panel, and create the effect of darts, we cut the sides, and folded a triangle inwards, whilst retaining the original seal along the top edge.

Each of the panels of the Ocean were sealed together with heat, we found that this method produced a very strong seam and did not require the overstitching we had tested prior to making the costume.

To make the costume wearable, but also keep its flat shape so it can be later used as a wall hanging, we attached tie straps to the shoulder and at the waist, to give the puppeteer full range of movement. Each strap is made from strips of plastic cut from the tray liners, folded in half and ironed together for strength.

On top of this we created a crinoline of plastic bottles and rope to form a cage shape which also bears resemblance to a fishing net. This cage of plastic represents the sea life being trapped and restrained by the plastic pollution in the oceans and waterways. The plastic bottles also sit in circles around the costume to represent the rings of a mandala.

To create the Cage, we drilled holes in the bottom of each bottle so that we could thread the rope through them. The shape was then formed by the down-struts of rope, which are knotted to each ring of bottles. We chose to remove the labels from the bottles so that the Ocean wouldn’t be hidden.

The Mandi Puppet:

The Mandi puppet was created by Cece Luna in collaboration with Matt Lloyd, of Kinetika and Smoking Apples Theatre.

The puppet element of the costume is representative of the Mandi character, and may just be referred to as Mandi.

The Mandi puppet sits on top of the puppeteer’s head and interacts with the ocean below.

The idea is that Mandi has emerged from the ocean as a spirit formed from the plastic pollution and waste.

The puppet is created from a mix of plastic bottles, bubble wrap and other repurposed materials from the scrap box in Matt’s studio.

Thurrock Festival Digital

We are really grateful to have had the opportunity to film Mandi with the puppeteer on the day of the Thurrock Festival at a secret location, as it had to be cancelled from the live event due to the increased Covid-19 restrictions in the UK.

Check out our video!

We are very excited to announce the launch of our YouTube Channel and share our first video with you! We filmed short clips throughout the process of making Mandi, which we have culminated into a behind-the-scenes video. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for exclusive behind-the-scenes content and more coming soon.

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