The Art of Trash with Ariela Kader

Hi Friends, 

I'm excited to share my inteview with Costa Rican artist Ariela Kader as part of an effort to highlight amazing humans and the work they're passionate about. If you didn't catch  the photos from our shoot, you can scroll through our instagram @renehabie or checkout our lookbook. Photographing Ariela has been one of my favorite collaborations yet! Access to her amazing ideas, art, and trove of treasures to use as props made for a glorious day of (fake) flamingo wearing, bubble blowing, emoji bathing, fire-starting, eye-blinking magic!

You can find her artwork online at and follow Ariela as she embarks on a one-year journey across the world through her latest project, Vueltica

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When did you realize that art making was something you had to do?

Ever since I can remember, I have always loved anything related to art and art-making. When I applied to Parsons, I decided to apply as a Communications Design major. As part of Foundation year, I took an intro to Communications Design class and for a homework, instead of cutting out on the computer using the tools on Photoshop, I printed the image, cut it with scissors, scanned it and relocated it in the background. I mean.. this was the clearest sign that I was way more of a more hands-on person, or at least I enjoyed it more. 

Can you describe your background and some of the experiences that led to your creative process?

In 2009 I made one of the biggest changes in my life, I switched the green for the gray, I moved from San Jose, Costa Rica, to New York, USA to study at Parsons The New School for Design. When I say "green" and "gray", I am not only referring to the real jungle versus the concrete jungle, but also to the different ways in which people interact with each other, and how differently they consume and throw away in these two cities. I strongly believe that we are more what we throw away than what we consume. This belief became way more evident after one morning when I was getting ready and saw a photo of a group of five trash bags on the sidewalk that I had printed and it reminded me of my family. Since then, I see trash bags on the streets as portraits of the people who filled them in, I use plastic bags as a way to tell a story about a particular place in a particular time, I see trash as everyone's resource rather than everyone's problem and I see inspiration where people do not even look. Lately, I have been focusing more on the Plastic Portraits series (the art that I make out of the plastic bags that I collect in every city that I visit) because I am scared that plastic bags might be banned around the world before I have a decent amount of works from different cities and countries. I am starting to think that maybe my artworks will find their home in a History Museum because in a future the plastic bag will be an artifact that past generations used to transport their belongings and purchases from one place to another and then threw them away and harmed the ocean and the ocean life. I am interested in collecting, composing, pausing and framing this moment in time that we are living in...
What does being creative mean to you?

Being able to see your reality in a different way, a way that makes more sense to you, that makes you happier.

What are you trying to communicate with your work?

That it is way more proactive to do something about the things that bother you rather than complaining about them. That even from the worst things and/or moments you can get something good out of it. That every problem is a challenge and an opportunity it is just a matter of switching your perspective. That if I teach you how trash bags can become characters by just writing something on them and that trash can be cleaned and transformed into something beautiful and/or functional, then you will never be able to see trash the same way. Same can happen with anything you want to transform, it is just a matter of interest, commitment and dedication.

What is it about trash that compels you to work with those materials?

Everyone always complains about it and sees it as something extremely negative. Trash happens and will most likely always happen so make the best out of it! That is why I decided to work with everyone's problem and everyone's resource and transform it into art and teach others how to do it as well.

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How has teaching influenced your art-making? Can you talk a little bit about your background as a teacher and what motivated you to teach? 

Teaching has allowed me to experience the power of art, education and art education. I taught a few after school art classes for a year at the Children's Museum of the Arts in TriBeCa, New York and I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it, but my favorite teaching experiences have been those where I give workshops on how to transform trash/waste into art because I truly enjoy being a part of this process where [participants] first don't really understand why I chose trash as the material for art making, and then they enter in this explorative phase where nothing is wrong and everything is accepted, and then the next class they bring a different kind of trash because they thought of something cool that they could do with it. That is what I am talking about, my definition of success in these workshops is not whether they continue transforming their waste or not but simply to understand and remember the potential for transformation that exists in every single piece of trash. "One man's trash is another man's treasure" =)

What role do you think the artist plays in society? (Either a specific society or in general terms)
We remind society the different ways in which one can perceive one's reality and just like any point of view, art is subjective and no one has ever made an artwork that had been liked by everyone, but if art makes you think, it is already doing something to you so it is doing its job. I believe that everyone is creative in their own way but are scared to explore it even further. Art is a constant reminder that pokes that inner creative/artist that exists inside each one of us.

What are your plans for the next year or two?
This year I will be traveling the world with Remote Year, a different city every month so I will definitely continue working on my Plastic Portraits series, writing on trash bags on the streets, curating some exhibitions along the way and hopefully teaching Trash2Art workshops whenever possible. =)