How 5,000 plastic flip-flops from the beach transformed into a sustainable lesson

This May, Potato Head, Bali sheds light on the ecological harm caused by the world’s most ubiquitous form of footwear: the flip-flop. Millions of pairs of synthetic shoe wash ashore around the globe each year, and as a brand surrounded by paradisal beaches, Potato Head is determined to draw attention to the serious issue of ocean plastics through a colourful installation of salvaged sandals. In its ongoing mission to do good in the world, they have teamed up with award-winning German art activist Liina Klauss to demonstrate the reality of marine pollution. The artist has created a large-scale installation constructed from over 5,000 plastic flip-flops, all picked up along the shores of Bali’s west coast. Klauss and a small team of helpers amassed the large volume of shoes in just six two-hour-long beach cleanups, while the artwork itself took weeks to build.

“I want to show people a different perspective on what we consider ‘rubbish’.  Everything we throw away comes back to us (via the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil we grow crops and raise animals on). Flip-flops are just one example; there is potential within all these materials we waste and consider worthless. We need to realise their value as a medium for creativity,” says Klauss. 

To realise this project—a rainbow-hued structure that takes the shape of an ocean wave—Klauss collaborated with a Bali-based firm IBUKU to design and build the frame from sustainably harvested bamboo. The work was installed at the entrance to Potato Head Beach Club on 19 May 2018 which is now being reimagined in order to grab the attention of the consumers towards sustainability. Liina Klauss talks about her passionate journey and her inclination towards the sustainable environment.

What inspired you to start collecting trash?

It’s interesting! I’ve always been looking at the ground. Since my mother was a fashion designer, there was an abundance of discarded cloth cuttings scattered on the ground which I would pick up and make pictures from. Later on, I went to Berlin and studied fashion design and my final art project was inspired by the cracks in the road, which is nature taking over the urban environment. I was always looking at what’s on the ground apparently.

You have green leaves, it’s useful for the tree, but then it falls down and is absorbed back into the cycle. That’s something that inspires me a lot and I see also that the materials, the man made materials are coming back to us, they are not gone, there is no other way.  When I find them on the beach, I make something out of it, not actually to repurpose them, but to make people aware of their presence.


In your artistic approach, is it important to show things by colour, and mostly it’s physically large so is it significant?

I think it’s both but personally it’s mainly colour. Colours make anyting visually appealing,so if we only use colours without any definite shape it would still be beautiful. There is no one who would look at a rainbow and think it isn’t beautiful

So, if you strip away the form, you strip away all the judgement and all that’s left is colour, and that naturally draws your attention as a human being because we are just attracted to visuals.

We are all in the same boat right now, and we all have our part in causing this ecological disaster but we are all part of the solution too. The colours just bring us all together.

Have you seen any positive changes in Bali since you moved here?

I live very close to Pererenan which is a pilot village for waste management. I have witnessed new barrels being put up with organic and inorganic waste. However, the situation hasn’t changed on the beaches, even with the plastic and straw ban I can still see the same amount of plastic there, maybe it’s still a little bit too early to be talking about that, because it’s only been half a year. It’s a very long process to really make social changes, and to be honest the pollution that is caused by the local Balinese people here looks very bad, but as compared to what Western counterparts, it is just a fraction. However, I’m very positive that it will change in the next five or ten years and also confident that this problem won’t exist anymore.

A tip you’d give someone that would help build a better tomorrow?

Go out into nature and enjoy, which is so easy, nothing required, just yourself and your presence.


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