Lonely Planet Writer

Australian artist is upcycling Nepal’s earthquake rubble into jewellery

The earthquakes that struck Nepal in April and May 2015 left tonnes of rubble strewn across the Kathmandu Valley, as houses and temples crumbled like stacks of cards under the force of the tremors. Now, some of the thousands of bricks that lie scattered across central Nepal are finding a new life as jewellery, thanks to Australian artist Katie Johnston.

Katie Johnston in Nepal
Katie Johnston in Nepal Image by Facebook

Trained in fashion and design, Johnston now dedicates her time to creating new opportunities for disadvantaged communities by upcycling discarded items from landfill sites and waste dumps to make contemporary jewellery and accessories, which are sold to fund environmental and community projects under the Eco-Bling label.

Previous projects backed by the organisation have provided new revenue streams for indigenous Australian artisans in Queensland and abandoned child brides in Bangladesh. It is hoped that the production of jewellery and accessories from beads created from pieces of earthquake rubble in Nepal will provide similar opportunities for people still suffering the economic fallout from the 2015 disaster.

Many items feature beads made from the hand-moulded red-clay bricks that are a distinctive feature of traditional Nepali architecture. While many carved timbers have been salvaged from collapsed buildings for reconstruction, piles of broken bricks still litter the streets, and converting this discarded material into jewellery may provide struggling families with money to rebuild ruined homes and businesses.