Treat your visual senses and coffee table to the stylish tome, Art Without Waste: 500 Upcycled & Earth-Friendly Designs, by award-winning graphic designer Patty Wongpakdee, associate professor of fine arts. She talks about the creative inspiration for her first book, how she juggles teaching and scholarship, and why everyone should care about earth-friendly design.
The Box: How did you get the idea to do a book about upcycled art?
Wongpakdee: I originally proposed a similarly styled book to address the issue of graphic designers' overreliance on paper for visual communications (which subsequently endangers our environment). For that project, my research uncovered numerous exciting examples of how visual communicators from all over the world harness their creativity to create earth-friendly projects. Rockport Publishers loved the new direction, hence the birth of Art Without Waste.
The Box: Based on the experience of publishing your first book, what's your advice to aspiring authors?
Wongpakdee: This might seem obvious, but it is important to find a subject that you are really passionate about. You will spend many, many hours working on it: thinking, researching, refining, and executing it. If you really care about the subject, it will feel less like work, and the final product will be that much better.
The Box: How do you juggle teaching, publishing, your role on the NYIT academic senate, and your personal life? There's a lot to balance … how do you manage to do it all?
Wongpakdee: I don't know how I manage! I guess as long as I'm not expected to be at two places at the same time, can easily get coffee when traveling from point A to point B, and have local restaurants for takeout on speed dial, it's all good.
The Box: Why should everyone—artists and non-artists the same—care about sustainable design and upcycled art?
Wongpakdee: Everyone should care about "going green," being "eco-friendly," and promoting "upcycling" because we all are affected by the consequences of wasteful consumerism. These terms reference a consciousness that has been gaining momentum throughout the world, depicting a cultural and economic shift away from mass consumption toward a greater conservation of the earth's limited resources. It's imperative for all of us to work together to bring an awareness of the harm that is befalling our planet.
Sustainable design, upcycled, or earth-friendly art is a spin-off of this movement. What I hope readers will get from my book is to see "trash" in a completely new light, be inspired to unleash their own creative mojos, and start repurposing instead of packing landfills. Secondly, I hope my readers become more aware of and hopefully supportive of the many enterprising artists/designers whose work embraces sustainability. A reader commented, "green art/design is driven by joy, utility and not pretense," and I couldn't agree more.
The Box: What should we look forward to from you in 2015?
Wongpakdee: This was a great project, and I have other topics to propose to my publisher, but until then I would like to get back to doing pro-bono graphic design work for the American Cancer Society in New York City and my own artwork.
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