When you’re a self-proclaimed “junk artist” you start to look at everyday ephemera a little differently. Gabriel Dishaw has made waves in the Maker world by re-purposing discarded electronics and typewriters into pop-art masterpieces. This month, we picked Gabriel’s brain to learn more about his work and how to incorporate upcycled materials into projects.
When did you first become interested in making?
I’ve always been an artistic individual and was enrolled in advanced art classes in school. But I truly found my passion for this particular art form in 9th Grade. My teacher posted 30 or so art project ideas on the chalk board for us to choose from and make it our own. One of the items listed was “Junk Art.” To be honest, I had no idea what that was so I did a bit of research then went into my dad’s garage and began to tinker. That’s one of those moments you look back on and think had the art teacher not offered that particular project; I don’t know I would have emerged an artist in this genre.
Have you always tried to incorporate upcycling into your work or have you also created pieces with more traditional materials?
I did use traditional materials prior to the project in 9th grade, but I found my sweet spot with this type of material and never turned back. I do draw a bit here and there, mostly with a pencil.
Do you start with an idea for a finished sculpture in your head and then seek out the right materials for the job?
It really varies. Sometimes I have an idea or a theme in mind and I work really hard to find the right pieces or parts that align with that. Other times I let the material do the leading and let the creative process take over. For example I was taking apart an adding machine and this one part looked loosely like a horse’s head, this sparked an idea and then I worked to create a full sized rearing horse to fit the scale of the head I created. Once finished this piece stood over six feet tall and took about one month to complete. You can see the finished piece on the link below.
How do you collect materials for your projects?
I get them from all over but, mostly from family/friends and my local antique/flea markets. I have even had instances where people have dropped stuff off at my door step knowing that I will put good use to something they don't want to see end up in a landfill.
The materials you use for your art seem like they come primarily from old computers. Why are you drawn specifically to upcycling electronics?
I do use other materials, like adding machines, typewriters and anything mechanical, but you are correct I use a lot of electronics mostly because they are so readily available. Technology is advancing so quickly in this area that this stuff is replaced every few years.
Your work covers a lot of ground in the realm of popular culture and mass-media, from video games to science fiction films. What inspires you and what themes do you like to touch on with your work?
I get a lot of my inspiration from the things I’m passionate about and or enjoy. I grew up on Star Wars so that has influenced my work heavily. My art is generally created for me, that may sound counter intuitive, but I create things that I love and enjoy. I hope that others share my passion and enjoy them even more. Instagram is also a great resource for inspiration. I follow a bunch of great artists!
Do you have any advice for artists and Makers who are interested in upcycling to create their own “junk art”?
I love the process of taking things apart and understanding how they work. That, in part, is what keeps me so hungry for what I do. Everyone is different, but my advice would be to start there, by taking things apart. The second part is a creative exercise that I find myself doing all the time. I look at an ordinary object and reimagine it as something different. This takes a bit of practice, but you apply this approach when taking things apart and the creative juice will start to flow.
What are the tools that you always have at your workbench?
These are my go to tools that I use every day. In fact, these are always lying out on my bench as they never get placed back in their spot on the wall or toolbox:
Cordless Dremel rotary tool
Left cut and center tin snip cutters
How important is your Dremel rotary tool for a typical project?
My rotary tool is essential for molding the upcycled pieces to fit my vision and breathe life into the sculpture. I primarily utilize my Dremel rotary tool to cut, grind and polish. It especially helps me to break down materials into smaller components that I then sort. Once this is accomplished the creative fun begins. I used to use a large table grinder, sander and band saw. I can't tell you the last time I turned those stand-alone machines on. I have a number of Dremel rotary tool models, cordless and wired, and these do the job of all three of those stand-alone devices and more.
Do you have a dream project? Assuming money and resources were no object, what would you create?
I’ve always thought about doing a large scale (life size) African watering hole with a range of animals, zebras, giraffe and a few lions all created out of wire, typewriter parts and computer parts.
To see more of Gabriel’s work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram