'Finding good news printed in the newspapers to use in my art is the hardest part of what I do," says Desy Mei-Dan, an artist from Modi'in who sells her decorative work from her home studio, at art fairs across Israel, and at Tel Aviv's Nahalat Binyamin market every Tuesday and Friday.
"Of course the heat in the summer is hard to deal with too," she adds with a smile as the late summer sun beats down on the frenzied market crowd.
This summer, the rise in tourism brought back many Americans and Europeans, and Mei-Dan says that was great for her business, as they have more appreciation for the environmental, recycling aspect of her art than many Israelis.
"People are interested in helping the environment, and some Israelis are slowly starting to understanding that newspaper can be a strong, decorative material," explains Mei-Dan, waving a finger at the sign posted in the middle of her stand that reads in bold letters: "This is not straw. It's newspaper."
Of course, on closer inspection, the fine print of the newspaper emerges in the woven strands that come together to create Mei-Dan's art.
"The Americans and Europeans like my work a lot because I'm combining art with environmental concerns," she says.
Mei-Dan, who was always involved in artistic endeavors and has taken various art courses over the years, only began selling her work recently. She spent three years in Brazil, from 1997 to 2000, and it was there that she took a class in the art of newspaper weaving. Offering courses in recycled newspaper weaving was a great way for the Brazilian government to help Brazilians supplement their incomes and increase their quality of life.
"I heard about the courses the government was sponsoring and it sounded interesting. I was interested in learning how to do it, so I started taking the class and enjoyed it a lot," says Mei-Dan.
When she returned to Israel, she continued her new hobby, putting her own touch on the Brazilian craft. Soon, she was selling her work.
"The costs of the material are low but it takes a lot of time to make each piece," she says.
But the artwork Mei-Dan creates goes beyond the basic techniques she learned in Brazil. She puts an Israeli or Jewish stamp on her work by using either Hebrew-language newspapers with good news or international papers that discuss Israel or Israelis.
"The Summer Olympics in Greece were a great source for me because Israel was in the news, for once, in a positive light," says Mei-Dan.
Not only does Mei-Dan include only good news, but she never uses the obituary pages, and she checks each and every section carefully before she begins creating her art.
"People who come from abroad enjoy the decorative pieces because it's a special gift from Israel, made from either Hebrew language newspapers or newspapers that discuss Israel or the Jewish people," says Mei-Dan.
Mei-Dan's work ranges in price from NIS 30 for a small piece to NIS 200 for a large creation.
"It's a time-consuming process, but the end result is worth it," says Mei-Dan.
Every item, from bedside lamps to serving trays to vases to salad bowls, is water-resistant and functional.
"They make good conversation pieces," says Mei-Dan, "and of course they are useful and beautiful."
"I'm always looking for new things to do," says Mei-Dan. "I've worked in a lot of different jobs, but I've always been an artist," she says.
She is enjoying fulfilling her dream of creating art for a living, and is especially pleased when people return to buy more items because they like what they purchased previously or they need a special gift.
In the near future, she dreams of exhibiting her work in an art gallery, but for now she is content with the opportunity to expose her original creations to the public and promote environmental art in Israel.
For more information, contact Desy Mei-Dan at 052-422-9206.
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