29 April 2019

A ship in a bottle will carry an environmental message to Sunderland shoppers when it goes on display in the city next month (May).

The sculpture, which is the work of renowned glass artist Ayako Tani, will be unveiled at the Bridges shopping centre on Wednesday 29 May.

And, not only is it a tribute to the city’s glass making and ship building heritage, but it also reflects current environmental concerns - as it is made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.

Dr Tani, who studied at Sunderland University and is now based at the National Glass Centre, said she hopes her sculpture “will remind us about the power of our creativity, always finding a solution to tackle problems and living for the better future.

“The culture of glass ships in bottles is one successful example which emerged from the difficult changing time after the closure of big factories and shipyards. We can learn from their resilience.”

Her sculpture, at the centre’s Central Square, will be accompanied by the work of current Sunderland University photography student, Zarron Barnes, from Hartlepool.

Zarron’s pictures of litter and plastic pollution on the Seaburn and Roker coastline ––- titled Litterally - were recently on display at the Bridges and centre director Andy Bradley believes they opened shoppers’ eyes to the issue.

“The images helped people see the environment from a new perspective,” he said “which is exactly what Dr Tani’s sculpture will do.

“She has taken Sunderland’s heritage of glass making and shipbuilding to create a superbly engineered ship in a bottle.                                                                

“But she has created it entirely out of recycled plastic bottles and the result is not only beautiful but also has a very strong and positive message about our responsibility to the environment.”                                                                                                                

Dr Tani has worked closely with Sunderland Culture to develop the installation and it also has the backing of Sunderland BID, whose head of business operations, Sharon Appleby, said: “It is in all our interests to protect and preserve our environment – and the best place to start is on our own doorstep.

“This stunning sculpture not only conveys that message but it also highlights what amazing skill and artistry we have here in Sunderland and I hope as many people as possible will come and see it.”

The ship in a bottle sculpture will be at Central Square, within the Bridges, for three weeks from 29 May.

And, on 7 June, which is World Environment and Oceans Day, the centre will be running a programme of environmentally-themed arts and crafts activities for all ages.

For more information on the Bridges, visit