We have all strolled down a beach, watched the waves, and most of us start to pick up shells, stones, maybe some wood and glass, polished by the sea. But unless it’s part of an organized ocean clean-up, very few of us will pick up the trash that litters our beaches more and more. Elza started out collecting shells, too – now she is one of the few who collects the small pieces of plastic among the sand. However, she does not to recycle them in the traditional sense. You might have seen sculptures and installations made of ocean trash before, but Elza’s collages beach trash are bring a new twist to the world of recycled art.
Four years ago in Spain, at a particularly trashy beach, Elza started arranging plastic pieces into shapes and as easy as that a new hobby was born. Elza notes that she didn’t really notice how much trash there was on most beaches until she started collecting it – in the Netherlands, Spain, and Greece. It was really astounding and, of course, sad. Especially bottles and lids seemed to work on trying to outnumbering the sand corns. Next to arranging beach trash into all kinds of motives, she works on her PhD on domestic and sexual violence – a sharp counterpoint to her hobby. Before she went into research she was a physician and maybe her art has something unique about it because she doesn’t come from an artistic background.
Recently Elza has started spending increasingly more time on her art, called TrashWorks on her websites, as it is receives more attention. Her artistic process for creating these pictures varies, according to herself. Usually she has at least a vague vision in mind when she starts arranging the tiny, colorful pieces of plastic. “Sometimes I start out doing a rabbit and it ends up being a, I don’t know, flower shop!” Her collages have adorned the covers of PhD theses, wedding invitations, placates and other commissioned and non-commissioned work. Nothing is permanent though – the finished artwork is photographed and then the plastic pieces go back into their shoe-box (roughly 12 of them at this point) until they are used for the next project.
But plastic isn’t the only component in her art, another recycled ingredient has wormed its way in. One has to wonder: how did the cut-outs from vintage magazines and books find their way into the collages? “Coincidentally, really. I’ve always loved vintage books and magazines, so I already had them. I could not make proper facial expressions using only the plastic – so I started to fuse the pictures I had with the beach trash.” The result is a mix of old and new, vintage and modern, and two ways of recycling. Has she noticed any changes in her style since she started four years ago? “Yes – I don’t know how to exactly put it into words. I think lately I’ve been thinking more in themes, I’m making series of vintage women and tribal inspired pieces. I find it a bit more interesting to work with a goal in mind, it was very spontaneous in the beginning.” The change is noticeable in her pictures – while her style is still unmistakable, the motives have definitely evolved. Her success speaks for herself: she has a few exhibitions coming up soon, as well as a workshop.
It is almost romantic, in a dystopian way, that someone can make something beautiful out of the plastic we try to rid our beaches and oceans of. Hopefully one day, in a more Utopian future finding a piece of plastic at the beach will be a rarity and beach trash art will be rare vintage collectibles. But until then – go and support Elza’s work! Check out her website and Facebook – or order her postcards on Etsy!
- Market during the Giro d’Italia at Faberplein, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 7 – 8 of May;
- Mini-exhibition this Summer: Art Gallery Van Henken, Westerkade 7, Leeuwarden, Netherlands, 1st of June-4th of June
- Art Market in Groede, Zeeland, 3rd of September
All pictures belong to TrashWorks.