September 15, 2009, Updated September 14, 2012

Israeli artist Inbal Limor draws inspiration – and raw materials – for her art from the “garbage of the garbage” in the ancient port city of Jaffa.

A few blocks from where artist Inbal Limor lives in Jaffa, Israel, is a junk collector’s dream. The Florentine neighborhood in South Tel Aviv is crammed with furniture studios, carpentry shops and young fashion designers who all throw their scraps and odds and ends into the big metal dumpsters that line the street.

Unlike in New York, the dumpsters in Israel considerately open from the side, making it easier to pull out finds without having to commit and dive inside.

The dumpsters hold a treasure trove of bags bursting with scraps of material, wooden blocks and furniture, old and new magazines, blueprints, stuffing, plastics and Styrofoam.

The 29-year-old collects all these, transforming them into paintings, sculptures, crafts and art. Limor is a little reluctant to divulge her trade secrets but she is willing to reveal that one of her best hunting spots is Jaffa’s nearby shuk (flea market).

She doesn’t go there to shop. After the garbage collectors sell whatever they can for pennies and dollars, they toss the “garbage of the garbage” left over from the day back onto the street.

Flea market trash

Destined for landfill, this is trash that not even the flea market crowd consider salvageable. “It’s the lowest form of garbage,” says Limor with some satisfaction, as she rescues it from its fate.

The shuk garbage provides some of the best materials for her art. “This love for vintage and old stuff is also eco friendly, and reusing is a nice way to help the planet,” she writes in her online journal.

Based in her studio in Jaffa, the ancient port city adjacent to Tel Aviv, Limor says she can work all day on her art and forget about the world around her. Today, she tells ISRAEL21c, she is much more focused on art than her other pursuits, and less on selling. “I am not into craft right now,” she says, but art, with “everything recycled.”

After a few art shows over the past years, two in the US and one in Israel – all centered on recycled art and memories – Limor is transitioning from the world of craft to art. But she’s still selling her hand-made psychedelic coloring books printed on recycled paper, fused plastic bag art and collages she’s created from magazine scraps, material and wood that she finds.

And she found time to curate an exhibit of the work of other artists as well: A collective exhibit of 13 Israeli artists and one American called White Trash, presenting art made from recycled materials was held in Israel recently.

Art printed on old records

One series that Limor is working on is based on notebooks she creates from materials she collects at Israeli festivals. “I take them and tape to them stickers and different stuff that I find in the garbage – not a sketchbook, but a booklet with art in it. I have about 10, and am hoping to exhibit them one day when I find a way to do it.”

She’s also showed her recycled record collection – art printed on old records – at a gallery in New York. “I have so many different projects,” she says. “One is about recycling, and one is through recycling and using things I find to reflect where I come from, where I live, and who I am in this crazy country.

“I deal a lot with asking myself questions and ask viewers political and social questions, and try to understand life through it. I don’t have answers to what I feel about this conflict that we live in [in Israel]. I have so many different views inside of me,” says Limor.

Her favorite materials are reused, recycled or upcycled. “I think there are plenty of materials on this planet without having to go to a shop to buy new ones,” she says.

Perhaps in an echo of her commitment to recycling, Limor tells ISRAEL21c that ” through each work and each sequence I try to learn something new about something or someone from the past… I am learning through this art, which is mostly based on recycling.”

A sketchbook tour in Atlanta

A favorite pastime of Limor’s is collecting old scrapbooks and reusing them for her dreams and memories, pasting snips and clips of curios and mementos inside.

In a more formal arrangement, she recently worked on a sketchbook project with Art House in Atlanta. It’s like a concert tour, but with sketchbooks, says the gallery website, which shows Limor’s Moleskin sketchbook in Atlanta, the Museum of Contemporary Art in DC, and in other cities like Brooklyn, Boston and Chicago.

The goal of the project is to create a giant collective of sketchbooks from around the globe and make it accessible to everyone.

The idea to make art from garbage first came to Limor when she was traveling in South Africa. “These travels were art and culture research times for me,” she writes. “And in all these Third World countries, I found nice and sometimes funny ways of local recycling.”

Plastic knitting revelation

A watershed moment occurred for Limor in Transki in South Africa, in what’s known as the last “real” strip of Africa. It was there where she met a “big mama” knitting plastic bags into a hat. “I was amazed,” she recalls. “I saw these hats everywhere but never really got it, and as soon as I did I thought this was the coolest thing ever.”

Born in 1980 in Ashkelon, Israel where she grew up, Limor has spent a few years in New Jersey. She loved arts and crafts from a young age and progressed to art and design studies in high school.

At 18, like most Israeli teens, she entered the army, where she served in an intelligence unit. After that, she traveled the world “in pursuit of her own truth and fate” she says, and then studied at a Swedish art and animation school.

Limor, who says, “I live through my art and designs, exploring different lands, times and cultures,” hopes to one day establish an ecological artist commune.

Limor’s work is sold locally in Tel Aviv shops and art markets and can also be ordered online from the wildly popular handmade arts and crafts site Etsy, based in the US.

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Jason Harris

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