February 18, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

Pic cap: Craftsman Guy Loughashi is using buttons and brakes to create unusual lights.

When he’s not traveling around Holland or Germany, you’re likely to find Guy Lougashi creating art and crafts from other people’s junk. Or jumping inside a dumpster looking for new raw materials. “There is nothing like creating in Israel. I know the garbage. I know the people,” the 32-year-old says.

While most of us see things we don’t need anymore as garbage, pure and simple, Lougashi looks at thrown-away objects as something valuable. “I don’t see garbage as garbage,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “I see it as gold.”

The self-trained craftsman who’s been working in the area for eight years has recently created a sensation — weaving together baskets with mentally disabled people.

Going beyond pure environmentalism, Lougashi designed and crafted beautiful basketware from recycled paper. They were first showcased at a night flea market — Pish Pish Lila in Jaffa last year, where a local furniture design house bought a number of them, selling the baskets for hundreds of dollars a piece.

Weaving in life’s experiences

It got Lougashi thinking. “I know about people with disabilities because my brother is handicapped. And he’s working in a factory for the disabled,” says Lougashi, who with a friend, approached the craft-rehab organization Shekulo Tov to see what could be done. He ended up spending five months training mentally disabled people in an Arab-Jewish factory in Baqa Al Garabia, Israel.

There, the people mastered Lougashi’s techniques of weaving baskets from paper — a process which requires special know-how, such as how to glue the paper, to achieve a desired aesthetic.

Normally baskets are woven with straw. To make sure the baskets made from recycled paper last, Lougashi dips paper strips in glue — like papier-mache — and lacquers them with a final coat of paint. Lougashi’s basket project, as a result, adds another dimension to his story. For the first time in many years, these people in Baqa Al Garabia are now able to make a decent living.

A recycled paper movement in Israel

Lougashi is not the first one to design goods from recycled paper in Israel. Green Lullaby is producing EcoCradles out of cardboard paper; Amit Brilliant takes used paper and creates trendy wallets, while Erez Mulai rolls up wasted paper and use it to create wastepaper baskets.

Putting the baskets behind him, Lougashi is now working with buttons and brakes, creating new lights out of the unlikely materials.

But like other Israelis who work with recycled materials, Lougashi became a “green” designer as a matter of course, not through some sort of idealism. “I am green because I spent so many years collecting and repairing [garbage],” he tells ISRAEL21c.

“It’s something you find in the materials — it pops into your eyes and you see something else,” he says. He is keen that his work with lighting and baskets and such, be seen as craftwork, and not art. “I prefer doing my art as installations and sculptures. I just get carried away once in a while to make beautiful things, because I have an attraction to these materials,” he says.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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