These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.
David Ives sees beauty in the broken. He hopes his art will help us see the beauty and promise of reclaimed materials. This Vancouver-based mixed media artist and designer is passionate about redefining “waste” as things simply waiting to be repurposed.
Tell us about your work.
Perhaps the nail holes in a piece of cedar mean it is no longer usable for its first manufactured objective as a fence. For me, those same nail holes symbolize the stories that took place behind it. Maybe a leather sofa has been used so much it has wrinkles and the owner wants a new one. I see those wrinkles as evidence of the discussions and growth and sadness and joy that might have taken place by those who sat on it. For me, the things that make something unfit for its original purpose are the very things that give it unique value and elevate it to beauty.
I hope when people see my art, they are reminded that our lives are beautiful. I hope they feel inspired to conserve and preserve the objects that are part of our journeys rather than just buying something new and shiny.
IDS Vancouver - 2023 Interior Design Show featured my new collection Jireh — three circular pieces of art made from “waste” material donated by various local companies in Vancouver to showcase their commitment to becoming a zero-waste city by 2040. As people viewed the beauty elevated from an old fence, a well-loved leather sofa and a sign that had outlived its usefulness, all of which would have ended up in the landfill, many told me they experienced calm, hope and inspiration.
The same happens when people visit the new Adidas store in downtown Vancouver and see my piece Crows Commute. Adidas wanted something that was reclaimed and spoke of Vancouver. I am fascinated by the fact that 6,000 crows sleep in Burnaby and come downtown every day. They, like many Vancouverites, appear to find it hard to find a place to rest in our city but value the excesses of the wealth we produce. The commissioned artwork is made of many recycled materials, including defective Adidas sneakers that would otherwise have gone to waste.
I also run a signage company, Made to Fly Design, that makes signs, plaques and awards from locally sourced recycled material. Using reclaimed material is at the core of everything I create.
How did you get into this work?
David Ives sees beauty and promise in reclaimed materials. #YouthClimateAction
I was raised in Britain and taught to reuse and recycle and not to buy new things that I did not need. Waste was seen and discouraged. I studied design at university and taught schoolchildren to think creatively about repurposing. When we moved here, I was struck by the contrast between Vancouver’s incredible beauty and astonishing amounts of waste. I wanted to make a contribution to preserving the former while reducing the latter. My art aspires to do both at once.
What keeps you awake at night?
Ideas! I am always on the verge of creating something new. It really helps to have a singular focus on finding the beauty in reclaimed materials.
What makes it hard?
It can be isolating as an artist, but I enjoy the community I have found in CreativeMornings/Vancouver.
It is quite frightening to think about what our summers will be like from now on and what kind of world awaits my two boys.
What gives you hope?
I am an optimistic person and I think that shows in my art. When I see people inspired and calmed by my offerings, I feel hopeful because this is my intention.
It really helps when I see large institutions like the City of Vancouver making a serious commitment to become a zero-waste city in a few short years. If we are going to make the future safe, we need that.
I run workshops for people who have mental health challenges. I see the difference it makes when they leave my studio with a plaque they have designed and created from something that was seen as broken but which is now beautiful and inspirational.
What advice do you have for other creatives?
Climate change is so all-encompassing, we cannot look to the past for our better future. We have to design it from our imaginations. Use what we already have. We don't have to invent or make new things. We do need new ways of seeing. You have a talent for turning what you imagine into something that can inspire engineers, teachers, politicians, scientists, philosophers. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Good things can come from tough situations and imperfect work. We need the dreamers. Stay with it.