‘One person can make a difference’

Saturday 1 August 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Weekend


‘One person can make a difference’
Young designer and artist Rebecca Te Au Jim models her Akaora feather earrings made out of used and discarded plastics. TOKERAU JIM IMAGES 20073137/ 20073138/20073141/20073142

Earrings from used plastics; packaging from used toilet rolls. Rebecca Jim tells Rashneel Kumar how she is selling a clean dream to customers overseas.

Rebecca Te Au Jim has grown up in the shadow of her celebrated father Tokerau Jim. Now the 20-year-old wants to make a name for herself.

Tokerau Jim is a well-known local artist and one of the few pearl carvers in the world.

After first following in her father’s footsteps, Rebecca has decided to branch out on her own – with some help from her parents of course – with her latest creation Akaora feather earrings.

“I have always been known as Tokerau Jim’s daughter, not just as Rebecca Jim. So that’s my own goal, have my own name, my own story, my own message,” says Rebecca.

“It’s a struggle and I actually never thought that I would branch out on my own, I would just always be the daughter but seeing that I can actually do it now I’m definitely keen.

“I don’t really like to compare myself to him, we are two different people but I’m proud to be his daughter because I get my creativity from him. I prefer people not to be like ‘who is your dad, ok so that’s who you are’. I want to be my own person.”

But Rebecca still needed some help.“Everything we have done so far with Akaora has been between me and my parents (Tokerau and Nicky). We have come up with everything, just three of us.

“Dad came up with the name because he is really good at things like that. Mum is more like a manager, she looks after the online part of it, talk to the customers, marketing and things like that.

“It’s quite a team, and the best thing is I don’t have to pay them, just love and obedience,” Rebecca says with a laugh.

Akaora which means restore, revive and renew is much more than just a jewelry brand. It about taking care of our environment.

The feather earrings under this label are purely made out of used plastics.

Rebecca’s call this process upcycling, which is also known as creative reuse.

It is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value.

“Well it all started from work, so I work at KiteSUP and we do recycle plastics. The packages of the product they get comes in plastic and my boss didn’t want to burn them.

“It started piling up and it really started annoying me that there was so much plastic and I was like ‘can I just take this home and do something with it’.”

Just over a month ago, Rebecca started using her creative ideas on these plastics and came up with the feather earrings.

She liked the concept but didn’t think much of it until dad Tokerau saw the earrings and suggested venturing into a business.

Rebecca started collecting used plastics of different colours from home, beach and everywhere else, and started turning these wastes into treasure.

She has made 40 pairs and sold a few at $20 per pair. Most of her customers are New Zealand-based.

Rebecca says the concept that the earrings are made out of used plastics and the purpose behind the creation is to reduce plastic waste has been the main selling point.

She also uses toilet paper rolls for packing and the lid of used ice cream containers to hold the earrings together.

“The fact that it is made out of plastics, the earrings they are wearing were once holding their cereal really attracts the customers.”

Rebecca says it takes about 30-40 minutes to complete a piece, adding the creative side took most of her time.

“I have decided to make every pair different from the other so you won’t find one that’s the same as someone else’s. I want people to look at it and say those are my earrings and they are unique.

“I have also done a few customised ones, some people prefer long, short or small earrings and that makes my job easier.”

Rebecca plans to create some men’s products such as bracelets, anklets and necklaces in the near future.

Rebecca says the best thing about Akaora is the story behind the creation – it is made up of used plastics with the intention to reduce plastic waste in the country.

“I love nature and wanted to make a difference so doing something like this is a perfect opportunity for me to do something for the nature. One has to just keep in mind that even though you are just one person, that makes a lot of difference and can lead to something bigger.

“It’s so easy to say ‘well Alanna Smith is doing something, let her do it or Te Ipukarea Society is working on this’ but what if every single person made a difference, what a change it can bring to this world.

“Akaora means renew, repurpose, revive and we want people to remember that and think about those things when they hear the name.”

Environmentalist and former beauty queen Alanna Smith, who led the plastic-free July campaign, has hailed Rebecca for her creation.

“What better way to try and reduce waste by making it trendy!

“The creativeness of it all also makes people think twice about how plastics can be repurposed and created into something more practical. Great initiative and message behind the brand.”

Rebecca hopes Akaora will help inspire others, especially the youngsters, to follow their dreams and make a difference in their communities.

“Stop looking so hard and being stressed about things you can’t control. It just really brings yourself down thinking you have nothing; you are not studying or what not. Focus on things that are important to you, things that you care about, things that define you as a person and really reflects your future.

“I love nature and always wanted to make a difference and now I feel like I can do so much more in my life, I have so much potential. Do things that makes you happy.”