We continue our series of posts interviewing “recycled art” crafters & artists. This week, we interviewed Nirit Levav, a designer and a multidisciplinary artist, who deals with the affinity between art and recycling. If you think you deserve to be featured in the next interview, please, drop us an email.
Tell us a little more about you? Who you are? Where are you from?
My Name is Nirit, I am 52 years old, from Israel, married and a mother of 4 sons.
How did you become an Upcycled Artist?
I believe my family and the home I grew up in had a major influence on me becoming an Upcycled Artist. Both my parents, each in its own way, contributed this path.
My father was a set designer and worked for the theatre and cinema in Israel. His workshop, where I loved spending time and help out, was the ultimate heaven for experimenting with different materials, and for ideas for how to create the most refine objects out of anything.
My mother, who was an art and crafts teacher, grew up with many siblings, in a home where nothing was thrown away. She recycles everything. If no one eats the chocolate cake, she would add milk or water and make chocolate balls out of it, or a quiche out of pasta’s leftover in the refrigerator. She had sewed our dresses and from the fabric’s leftovers she made quilt blankets. So this approach of recycling is deeply ingrained in how I grew up and who I am. I got used to think it was a shame to throw
Since when are you working with junk materials and in upcycling in general?
A significant part of my adult life was dedicated for my career as a fashion designer, specialized in bridal gowns, until I realized that the creative part of me is less and less present in my work. I decided I need a change and went with my dream to become an artist. When I started working on my art, I realized my passion is to experiment with different materials, especially with the non conventional ones, and with a lot of them :)
I began looking for stuff people don’t need, stuff that was garbage to them. I guess I am an upcycling artist from the beginning of my artistic path.
Your works are mainly done with recycled bike parts, like your series « Unchained ». Could you tell us from where come this choice of materials?
When I started to practice art I was working with many different materials and subjects. I created a duck out of light bulbs, a squirrel out of acorns, a butterfly out of motorcycles plugs, women figures out of gravel, sand, matches, and much more.
One of the works was a dog I created out of bike chains. It was a big Rottweiler, but its expression came out so sweet and tender, it immediately aroused sympathy and made people smile. It was the first piece of this series. In this work I used the entire chains, and immersed them into a material similar to concrete.
While working on this first dog, I was looking at the way the chains tend to drop and it inspired me to create the next piece of that series: an Afghan hound. I was visualizing the chains representing its long hair, and that is why I continued collecting these bicycle chains.
After a while, I have decided to focus on dogs made out of recycled chains, and to create a whole series I later called “Unchained”. It felt like the natural thing to do. Chains are rather versatile; it is a material which can be very soft and flexible or very stiff, long or short. As for the dogs- there are so many species and breeds, and each one of them looks so different and allows numerous possibilities for creation.
Where did you find your raw materials for your sculptures, are you searching for them or are there coming to you as you are now well known in the recycled art world?
Occasionally I do buy a material I desire to work with. Not always I create from actual junk, but throughout the years people and friends knew about me being a collector of materials and they kept stuff for me- like old keys, glasses, broken watches, jewelry, and more.
The harsh materials and metals I collect from bike repair shops, garages (of bicycles and motorbikes) ext.
Your pieces of art are very complexes, how long does it take to create one?
Each work takes its own different time. Sometimes it takes two or three days, sometimes a few weeks. It is mainly depends on the size of the work and its complexity.
You sell your pieces of art through ETSY, are you able to live with your recycling art?
It is actually not always easy to make a living out of art.
My Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/il-en/shop/niritlevavart is new.
I also sell through galleries and by word of mouth and thank god doing quite well.
How is your workspace, how do you make it inspiring? What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?
My studio is located in a space that used to be a garage and is surrounded by more garages. It is loaded with my huge collections and works.
But my inspiration comes almost from anything. From life itself, from everyday life, from my dreams at night, from contemplating, walking in the street, going to the beach, seeing a movie or a play, visiting an exhibition, and off course from within. When I have quiet alone time in my studio my creativity bursts.
We live in such a mass-produced, buy-it-now society. Why should people continue to make things by hand, even if not artistic?
I believe that in this time in particular it is extremely important to go back to hand making, to understand manners of creation and to enjoy the path and not only the outcome.
I think people would appreciate the products more if they get to experiment with materials and touch them.
What is your favorite thing to do (other than art)?
I really love cooking and enjoy dancing, reading books, watching movies.
What are your tips for people who’d like to start recycling art?
I would suggest staring with collecting different stuff and to think twice before throwing away, because maybe you could use it for something else. First comes the inspiration and idea, and then the execution of the art work.
To finish, what is your favorite animal?
Surprisingly – dogs :)
Thanks a lot Nirit for this inspiring interview! :)
To find more about Nirit: