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Local artist turns trash into jewelry and goes viral

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WEST PEORIA (WEEK) -- What you see as trash, Jessica McGhee sees as an opportunity.

This is brightly colored trash," McGhee said. "There has to be some way that I can use this as art and as education."

When she first started making art years ago, Jessica focused on murals and sculptures. She studied Biology in college and is fascinated by the environment.

After a trip to Costa Rica, she realized the harm plastic could do to an ecosystem.

"You really like to work with these animals up close and see the devastation plastic causes marine life," McGhee said. "It profoundly impacted me."

That trip was a few years ago. Ever since, she has been finding creative ways to turn plastic into jewelry.

But McGhee's business, "Love Hey Lola Art Co." really took off after a clever video response on TikTok.


Reply to @user698939402 #greenscreenvideo I agree - Littering is super gross 😘 (These gross earrings are on my website❤️) #littering #trashtok

♬ original sound - Loveheylola

"TikTok lets you respond to comments with a video," McGhee said. "So I responded to it and I was like 'You're right. Littering is gross so this is what I do about it'… And that blew up."

That TikTok now has millions of views and over 340,000 likes. Since then, she's received hundreds of orders from all over the country and is currently trying to keep up with demand.

Part of the proceeds from her jewelry go toward ocean conservation.

"It's about sustainability from beginning to end," McGhee said. "I have to have a day scheduled to make boxes, to make tags, to punch out plastics, to do a cleanup."

McGhee says her most popular item is earrings made with plastic dots cut out from any soft plastic she can find. Sometimes that's plastic straws. Other times, it's a fast food drink cup.

Earrings made by Jessica McGhee

"Social media's a game changer," McGhee said. "That's it."

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Alex Gaul

Alex Gaul joined WEEK 25 News and Heart of Illinois ABC in January 2021 as a Multimedia Journalist. He formerly worked for KPNX-TV and KAET-TV, both in Phoenix, Arizona. The Illinois-native is an alum of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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