We all know that almost wistful feeling when it comes to throwing away pretty packaging. But really, why should we keep that beautiful little box our gourmet tea came in, or the funky printed tag that was attached to your new sweater? You don’t really need that junk, do you? What if you found a way to preserve it by turning it into functional art – that’s a win, win, win – isn’t it?
That’s clearly what South African-born and Dubai-based artist/designer Mariska Nell was thinking when she immersed herself in the ultimate Nespresso capsule saving project by creating a lamp out of 913 pods. “I started by collecting and cleaning my own pods for the first few months and realized that I would need a lot more if I wanted to create something exquisite. I contacted friends, family and companies around Dubai using Nespresso and in about 3 months I had enough pods to create my very first “Coffee Addiction Lamp” made from 913 pods.” And as she still does regular pickups around Dubai to maintain her supply, it’s clear that the DSSA (Design School of South Africa) alumna has a knack for turning recyclables into something beautiful to look at, or even use.
What prompted your love affair with art, and what made you decide to make it part of your everyday life?
Art has always been very much part of me. My mother would teach crafts as I was growing up, so I was always in her studio, painting whatever I could find or create. After completing my studies, I continued to paint a few pieces a year, mainly as gifts or to fill our walls.
What draws you toward making art out of household and recyclable items?
The environment is something that is very close to my heart, and reusing items that would have ended up in a landfill gives me a sense of accomplishment. I know that I have given these items a second chance in life, and at the same time contributed to bettering our environment a little bit.
What’s the greatest piece you’ve ever designed?
That is a very hard question, as I love all my pieces. But, two pieces in my new collection (“Coffee Addiction Lamp” and “Reuse, Recycle, Rehumanize”) are very near and dear to my heart. The painting I did in memory of my late father; (“I’ll Always Have Someone Watching Over Me”) makes the list as well. I also created two pieces that I have donated to charity. “On Route To Uhuru” was part of a silent auction for Warriors for Willow to raise funds for research to find a cure for MSD while, “Every Drop Counts” is a piece that is part of a Surge event to raise funds to invest in communities through safe water and sanitation solutions.
What kind of stories do your artworks tell?
The majority of my pieces tell stories of my travels and the people I see and meet along the journey. I always have a camera close, to capture moments that touch me. I then use these photographs to narrate the stories through my art. I have also completed a few commission pieces where I narrate stories that are dear to my clients by turning their family memories into works of art. Companies also ask me to create art that represents their core values.
Who or what inspires you?
Travel! I have always been fascinated with traveling. I feel so enriched every time I visit a new destination and am able to experience how the local people live, their beauty, love, ambitions and how they protect their siblings, families and their nation. It is in such moments that I feel inspiration: Like the little girl I photographed on our farm with her cupcake, the beautiful woman behind “Reuse, Recycle, Rehumanize“ and my husband while roaming the streets of Havana. I am also inspired to create art for philanthropic people and organizations. I also often visit other artists in their studios as they continually inspire me and I hope that I would be an inspiration to an artist out there as well.
Do you think that in the future, most design pieces on the market will be made from recycled items?
The hopeful side of me is screaming YES. I personally hope to contribute to increasing this practice, and amazingly, lots of companies, cafes and restaurants are joining me in this effort as well. This December, I will be exhibiting at WILD Coffee in Salmiya, Kuwait. This is an effort to increase awareness around recycling and show more coffee connoisseurs the beautiful artwork that can be created from coffee capsules. Clients who commission work from me sometimes bring their own sentimental pieces they could have thrown away. What I am doing is only a drop, if we all took part, we could create a recycling ocean. It’s a matter of asking, “How can I help to reduce, reuse and recycle?”
Mariska Nell will be exhibiting her art in Kuwait. Experience her unique creations this month at WILD Coffee in Salmiya. Follow @WILD.Kwt on Instagram for updates. Visit Mariska’s website for more on her work at www.designbymariska.com. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube: @DesignbyMariska.