We continue our series of posts interviewing “recycled art” crafters & artists. This week, we interviewed Sayaka Ganz, a multidisciplinary artist who creates impressive animal sculptures using salvaged plastic housewares, breathing life into the objects by discovering how they all fit together with a sense of movement and self-awareness. Sayaka Ganz uses plastics because of the variety of curvilinear forms and colors available and she manipulates and assembles them together as brush strokes to create an effect similar to a Van Gogh painting in three dimensions. 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?
I am a Japanese artist specializing in the use of reclaimed household objects as art materials. I’m from Japan originally, I grew up living in Brazil and Hong Kong as well as Japan, and now I live in the United States. I still think of myself as Japanese.
How did you become an Upcycled Artist?
I don’t really like the word “upcycled”. I thin it implies that the primary focus is in increasing monetary value using items that lack value. I question the monetary value we attach to things. I think it’s important for all of us to question monetary value. Monetary value is different from intrinsic value, aesthetic value, emotional value, environmental value, etc. Yet we find it so difficult to detach ourselves from the immediate monetary situations that we are often blind to other values.
Since when are you working with junk materials and in upcycling in general?
I have been working with scrap metal since 1998, and with plastic items since 2007. When I was a child my favorite thing to do was to use scrap materials from my mother’s hobby and make art or toys from them.
Your works are mainly done with recycled plastic. Could you tell us from where come this choice of materials?
I spent my early childhood in Japan, and in Japan Shinto (animist) belief is a big part of our culture. We are told at a very young age that everything in the world has a spirit, and things that are wasted, or thrown away before their time, will cry in the trash bin at night. This idea that even an inanimate object can have a spirit and feelings led me feel very sad for things that are cast away.
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?
The materials are bought from thrift shops, collected from dumpsters, junk yards and donated from friends and family. Most of the items come from thrift shops. I now have a very large collection of over 50 bins of plastics sorted by color.
Your pieces of art are very complexes, how long does it take to create one?
A small piece can be completed in about one week, the largest piece I have made so far took about 9 months.
There is a lot of harmony in your pieces, do you have a special way to process the raw materials to give these beautiful shapes?
I try to keep the shapes and forms of my raw materials as intact as possible, leaving most of them as I found them. In about 10% of the materials I do some alterations such as heat bending the handle to add a gentle curve or cut on the band saw. But most of what I do to create harmony is through alignment and arrangement of the spatial relationships between these items.
Do you sell your pieces, are you able to live with your recycling art?
Currently about half of my work is commissioned, which means I start a project after I have a committed customer. I keep a few of my works at home and in my studio but most of my unsold works stay in a rented storage unit until I find a place to show them. I do love my finished work, I usually keep working on a piece until I do. However, I don’t really have a strong desire to live with my completed works. They become a bit like how I imagine grown up children are to some parents – I’d love to go visit and see them often and I want to make sure that they are well loved and taken care of, but I don’t want them to stay in my house forever.
What are your can’t-live-without essentials?
Sunscreen, because I’m allergic to UV light and get a rash from being exposed to sun light.
How would you describe your style? Are there any crafters/artists/designers that you particularly look up to?
How is your workspace, how do you make it inspiring?
I have a nice big space in the basement of the house that my husband and I live in. He is an artist too, but he does drawing and he works mostly at night whereas I work mostly during the day so we are rarely working in the basement simultaneously. I try to keep the space organized with lots of places where I can hang in-progress work and flat table surfaces where I can spread my materials. As long as I have room to spread into, I tend to be inspired by the materials and the world around me.
What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?
To me, anything I find to be beautiful is also inspiring. It can be an idea, spiritual symbol, a piece of equipment, a stain on an old wall, just about anything that I see that is beautiful. I think it's fascinating because sometimes, I see something beautiful in the distance, but when I see it up close I don't find the details to be all that attractive. So then I try to figure out how that impression of beauty was created, and I try to apply it in my own art.
When do you feel the most creative?
I tend to push myself really hard when I have a deadline. When I have many deadlines that coincide in a very short period of time or I have a big project, after the completion of the projects the exhaustion makes me not want to go into the studio for a while. When this happens, it means I have to fill out the other areas of my life that have been left behind and neglected during the period of intense focus on my work. So when I am well rested and have the rest of my life in reasonable order is when the desire to make returns. I think this is when I'm most creative, when I genuinely want to create and can be spontaneous and not afraid of taking risks.
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 think that for people that love to create by hand, the drive to create has nothing to do with the actual end product that they or someone else need. People that need to create do it because that's how they connect with the world around them, by transforming materials into something else. When there is a need for a specific thing, people who love to create will probably go and make those things and enjoy doing so.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Well my guilty pleasure just became much fewer recently because I found out that I have a sensitivity to milk and milk products. I have a sweet tooth and I love ice cream, chocolate, and candy but now I need to be much more selective with what I eat.
What is your favorite thing to do (other than art)?
I like to sing karaoke, in a private room just with friends (Japanese style).
What are your tips for people who'd like to start recycling art?
I think it's helpful to remind yourself to create out of love rather than from guilt. Many of us, especially people who are environmentally motivated, feel a lot of guilt around waste. It's easy to let that dictate our actions, but I think art is more effective and personally sustainable when you can create with love.
Anything else you would like to tell to the « recycling community »?
No, I can't think of anything to add. Thank you for all the wonderful challenging questions!
To finish, what is your favorite animal :)?
My dog, Finnegan is my favorite animal.
Thanks a lot Sayaka for this nice interview! :)
To find more about Sayaka Ganz: