Israeli Innnovations: From junk to jewelry

Over Pessah last year, Yoav Kotik began selling his work at the Tel Aviv artists' market. Since then, he has been approached by a number of stores and museum galleries across the country.

carona art 88 298 (photo credit: )
carona art 88 298
(photo credit: )
Whether browsers look at his artistic creations and think "I could do that myself" or comment on the ingenuity of his idea, Yoav Kotik's latest endeavor leaves few onlookers indifferent. "People usually respond very strongly to my work when they see it," says Kotik, who makes jewelry and sculptures out of aluminum bottle caps. "For me, it's about having a new perspective on the world. Turning trash into art is a good way to educate the public." Kotik, who was born in Rehovot and grew up in Beersheba, has been designing products for many years, but only in recent times has he truly done it for himself. After his obligatory army service, he lived in Holland for two years before returning to Israel to study industrial design at Bezalel in Jerusalem. When he finished his degree in 1987, he opened a studio designing office furniture and stationery. A few years later, he worked as a freelancer conceptualizing products like tackle boxes and plastic containers for the National Parks Authority. Most recently, he worked with a start-up company that sells expatriate insurance, helping it grow from a small project into a large operation that currently employs over 70 workers. "After four years of working with that company, I knew I needed to do something outside, to return to my art and to myself," says Kotik of his newest venture. After he quit his job, Kotik's sister-in-law brought him a box of jewelry-making equipment that she no longer wanted. At the same time, he satisfied his desire to recycle by collecting bottle caps. "I just started playing around with the materials I had recycled and realized that they became nice shapes. My wife suggested that I try and sell the jewelry in Nahalat Binyamin, and I got lucky because when I went to Tel Aviv, the interviews to enter the market were the very next week and they accepted me," Kotik says. Over Pessah last year, Kotik began selling his work at the Tel Aviv artists' market. Since then, he has been approached by a number of stores and museum galleries across the country. One location in Holland already sells his work, but, like many Israeli artists, he wants to expand and reach cities like London, Amsterdam and San Francisco. In order to do that, he envisions creating two separate lines - one of everyday items like jewelry that can be sold in street markets inexpensively, and another, more decorative line that will consist of higher-end artwork and unique pieces. One of the most unusual aspects of Kotik's recycled work involves the collection of materials. The bottle caps he uses come from bars and restaurants all over the world and are not always so easy to find. "I give some of the waitresses and bartenders jewelry to put aside the caps for me, and they usually don't mind collecting them for me," Kotik says. "And whenever people who know me travel, they usually bring me caps, so I get them from all sorts of interesting places." Kotik says he likes the gap that exists between what people consider useless garbage and beautiful art, and puts things together in his studio on Moshav Mishmeret. "Making these things gives me a chance to save something that would normally be thrown away and make it attractive and valuable. And at the same time it helps the environment," Kotik says. One of the challenges Kotik faces is constantly coming up with fresh ideas and creations. He says his three children sometimes provide the inspiration and feedback he needs. For a recent birthday, Kotik's son asked that all of his friends be given medallion necklaces. The party favors were a big hit with the children and gave Kotik a chance to imagine a new consumer age group. "The job of an artist is not political, but by giving people a new way of seeing trash, they might begin to understand things differently," Kotik says. "At least that is my hope for the future, and what I am working towards."