"CREATING ENERGY AND HARMONY FROM DISCARDED PLASTIC OBJECTS, TRANSMITTING A MESSAGE OF HOPE”
“I believe it is very difficult to think far into the future in terms of our ecological foot print. So often our predictions are wrong, and there are not guarantees for anyone’s future. I do not want to condemn the use of plastic or our desire for a more convenient, easier life. However, we must be aware that convenience has hidden costs. I believe the best way for artists to help reduce waste is to show how beautiful these materials can be, and what can be done with these mundane objects and materials. When we think of these things as beautiful, we value them. If we value our resources we will waste less”
“Driven by a combination of my passion for fitting odd shapes together and a sympathy toward discarded objects, I create animals from post consumer plastics.
I spent my early childhood in Japan but I grew up in several different countries. Japanese Shinto philosophy teaches that all objects and organisms have spirits, and I was taught in kindergarten that objects that are discarded before their time weep at night inside the trash bin. This became a vivid image in my mind. The constant need to adjust to a new environment also gave me a strong desire to fit in and to create harmony around me.
I only select objects that have been used and discarded. My goal is for each object to transcend its origin by being integrated into an animal/ organic forms that are alive and in motion. This process of reclamation and regeneration is liberating to me as an artist. Building these sculptures helps me understand the situations that surround me. It reminds me that even if there is a conflict right now, there is also a solution in which all the pieces can coexist peacefully. Though there are wide gaps in some areas and small holes in others, when seen from the distance there is great beauty and harmony in our community. Through my sculptures I transmit a message of hope”
Sayaka Ganz is a Japanese sculptor born in Yokohama, Japan. She grew up between Japan, Brazil and Hong Kong. Ganz has explored various medias from ceramics to printmaking before settling on sculpture and welding as her expressive vehicles of choice that identifies elements of Japanese influence in her work.
Using reclaimed plastic household objects as her materials, Ganz’ recent sculptures depict animals in motion. Sayaka Ganz collects most of her working material from dustbins and charity shops, and friends and family donate the rest. She uses various forms of thrown away plastic, from cutlery to sunglasses and baskets, and sorts them into many different colour groups. Her work is collected and exhibited in London, Tokyo, Takaoka, Isle of Man, New York, San Francisco, Monterey, Toledo and Fort Wayne.
VMM reaches out to the extraordinary and highly gifted and talented sculptor to discuss her work further.
VMM: What inspired you to go into sculpting?
I have always loved to build things with my hands and move shapes around in space, even as a child. It felt quite natural for me to explore 3D art, and once I started welding in a one-day workshop during college, something just clicked in my mind.
VMM: How hard was it to get established in the industry?
It’s difficult for me to gauge that. I guess it was not as hard or mean spirited or mysterious as I had imagined as a student. Once I started making sculpture, and had done it for a while, I naturally started to get to know other people in the field and they got to know me too. It definitely took time and effort, but not any more than what was healthy for me to be doing anyway for my own development. In addition to my skills in sculpture, I made a great effort to improve my communication and time management skills.
VMM: How did people first react to your work? Were they positive and how has that spurred you to carry on?
I was fortunate and got mostly very positive reactions from the start. They gave me a lot of encouragement and motivation to keep making more. It’s hard to say what would have changed if the reactions had been negative, or non-existent. I probably would have kept making something no matter what, but perhaps not in the same style. It’s impossible not to be influenced by people’s reactions at all.
VMM: What are some of the challenges you have faced since starting your career?
I’m a full time artist now, and most of my income is from commission work. Scheduling the right amount of work is always a challenge. Knowing my own capacity, inclinations and weaknesses is very important. I tend to have a hard time turning people or opportunities down, so when I’m put in a position where I have to choose between two jobs that can be difficult, and I’m also often in between jobs not knowing when I’ll get my next commission or pay check. Staying positive and motivated to work even with that kind of uncertainty is also a challenge.
VMM: How have you dealt with them and managed to keep going strong all this time? (The reason for asking is to let our readers understand that every business or career has issues and problems that will be faced. But it is important for them to know that nothing is easy and its all about working through your challenges to move forward)
My mother gave me a great gift, which is a positive outlook about life. I tend to not worry too much about the future and I find it relatively easy to trust the right people. I think that’s what got me through my struggles.
When I have to make a decision about something that I know will impact my future, I will find out everything about each option that I can but there are always some factors that are unknown or unknowable. Some of the most exciting projects I have worked on so far have happened because I decided to trust the person or the organisation and move forward with the project with people I have never met face to face, or at a place I have never been to before.
On saying “no” to opportunities, I literally just kept saying yes until one day I reached a point where I physically could not take any more jobs without driving myself crazy or not meeting any of the deadlines. Once it became a necessity I found it quite easy to say “no”, and I felt no hesitation what so ever. Now I look at each opportunity carefully and only say yes to the ones I am truly happy to do, regardless of who is asking me. When I decline I try to describe as accurately as possible the reason this opportunity is not right for me at this time, and I have not had any problems with people getting offended.
VMM: Can you describe your sculptors and what you use to make them?
When you see my work from the distance you only perceive the overall form, which is relatively naturalistic depiction of animals in motion. When you see them up close you start to notice the individual plastic items that all align and converge to create this overall impression. The individuals are some times bent, scratched, stained, or otherwise marked from use. I only collect items from thrift stores or from dumpsters or donations. I never buy any plastic items new. They are tied together with electrical wire and become three dimensional impressionist brush strokes.
VMM: Are you a big supporter of the environment and eco friendly campaigner? Is that why your sculpting are made out of recycled pieces? How important is this to you?
My philosophy aligns well with the environmental movement but my main motivation is slightly different than that. My belief is that there’s great potential in these waste materials. The Shinto animist philosophy teaches that even plastic kitchen items may have spirits or souls and be alive in ways undetectable by humans and therefore should be treated with kindness and respect.
VMM: What is your vision for your work? What should we be on the look out for?
I’m always looking to expand the variety of reclaimed materials to use. I plan to continue to use plastic items and keep making animal forms, but for background elements there may be rubber bicycle tires, or wood objects, or vinyl. I would like to explore different ways of filling the exhibition space.
VMM: How long does it take you to make one sculptor? Roughly how much would it cost you to make one sculptor (If you do not mind our asking)?
It depends on the scale and complexity of the piece. It can take anywhere from 3 days to 10 months. The cost similarly varies depending on size, complexity and type of labour it requires. It costs anywhere from $500 to $50,000.
VMM: Where do you get your inspiration from for your ideas?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can be a place I happened to visit, or a conversation with my mother, or something I happened to see on TV.
VMM: What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in following your footsteps?
Always present the best quality in your work, be punctual and dependable, and help others whenever possible.
VMM: Do you make orders for people all over the world? How does that work, as I am sure these are very heavy and having to transport and deliver them all over must be a huge task?
Yes I do take orders from all over the world. Shipping can be quite a challenge, and this is another thing I have learned to do over the years. There are laws and regulations you need to learn, about import duty, insurance and special documents just to name a few. The sculptures have to be crated or boxed in a certain way, and now I have a company that I use that can build boxes and crates for me but I still make the smaller boxes myself. The boxes have to be carefully measured and built around the sculpture to fit each strategic curve and pressure points to support the piece properly. Weight is usually not a problem with the plastic sculptures, but they do get quite large.
Interview by T.S Legend
All images by Sayaka Ganz.
Interview by T.S Legend