Elza Zijlstra makes collages of washed ashore trash and vintage photographs. The trash, though still recognisable as trash, becomes part of a story – a story that is humorous and interesting, while also not shying away from touching upon more serious topics. Today we talk creative business with Elza; the why, the how and the future for TrashWorks!
Women with tv – part of ‘Who rock the world? GIRLS!’ serie
Lovin’ my new trash fashion!
Crab with a hobby.
Essence of a Flamingo
Elza Zijlstra holds a medical degree, and is currently working as as a parttime PHD researcher and coordinator at a center for sexual and domestic violence in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Her creative energy is put into her company called TrashWorks. Using small pieces of plastic she finds on the beach, together with images she finds in vintage magazines, Elza creates little stories which she photographs and then prints.
Could you tell us the story behind Trashworks?
I already got to know beach combing during walks with my dad when I was young. When I was on a holiday in Spain, a few years ago, some beach trash drew my attention and I started playing around with it, making some collages. I may have taken a picture or two, but didn’t give it much thought. During another holiday in Greece, the amount of trash on the beach caught my eye again. I filled my suitcase with the trash and from there on started to take collaging more serious by buying a tripod for my camera and so on. I also started to wander around beaches in the Netherlands. I thought they were quite clean, but having a second look, they aren’t.
How did you end up combining vintage images and beach trash?
Adding vintage images was really such a coincidence. One day, when playing around with the pieces of plastic, I had a vintage magazine lying around. I realised that those images fit the stories really well. The images helped me in telling a better story.
Do you feel like you have enough space to get creative within the specific framework of trash+vintage images?
Yes, definitely! It’s actually these ‘restrictions’ that enable me to be creative – when I have too many possibilities, I kind of shut down and start to eat chips and watch TV. And there are many possibilities within the framework: I started with taking photos of the collages I made. Then I realised I could make 3d pieces as well, and if I could make a 3d item move, I’d have a movie. So I started experimenting with making stop motion movies. I move the collage around the tiniest little bit to take a new photo, until I have a couple of hundred photos, which I then edit into a short movie. It’s so much fun making the trash come to life!
“I have always been creative, at times I tried painting, other times I would make a collage. But I never really had a specific framework. Now that I do I can’t wait to see it evolve!”
What has changed in your life since you started TrashWorks?
I can honestly say that I am happier now that I have this creative outlet. By watching movies, or listening to songs, I always had many stories in my head. Now that I have found materials to work with, I can translate that image into a ‘trash work’. By now I know every piece of plastic by heart, and I instantly know which pieces to use to create the story or image that otherwise would have been stuck in my head. The undefined feeling I had that ‘something’ is missing, is gone.
What do you like best about your creative business?
Apart from making my ideas come to life, which is incredibly fun and fulfilling, meeting new people is something I really enjoy. I love to see how people get creative, start different projects and work together. It feels like there’s a whole new world opening up for me, meeting so many people with great ideas.
Are there any downsides you are struggling with?
There are times when my head is overflowing with ideas and I just lay awake filled with adrenaline. Especially with making the stop-motion videos, I can work for hours, end into the nights, and definitely miss my sleep! It’s nice to be super enthusiastic about creating things, but I definitely need to pace myself sometimes.
Another thing I struggle with is my lack of certain technical skills. I’m still a beginner when it comes to photography for example. I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out and sometimes it is kind of blocking my creativity.
Any advice for anyone who would like to get creative?
Most importantly – just start. I still need to remind myself this at times. Sometimes I have an idea that grows bigger and bigger in my mind – which makes me reluctant to actually start. Once you’ve gone past that, you’ll likely to find yourself getting into a flow.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to talk about what you do and be proud of it. Before, when I’d meet people I would mumble something along the lines: “Oh and I create some things with trash.. but what do you do!?” Now that I take the time to really tell people what it is I am working on, I get many great responses.
Thirdly, I find Social Media is really supporting my business and my creativity.It helps when there are people that enjoy your work, and start sharing it. I actively search for people that also create things with trash, follow them online, retweet their posts etc.
Indie birds recording their first album
What are your plans for TrashWorks?
One of the things I am excited about is my first exhibition. I am pondering the question of what makes a work interesting enough when you see it in a gallery setting. It comes with a whole new set of challenges but it’s definitely very exciting.
Currently, I am also taking on freelance assignments, designing logos, book covers, invitations and so on. This is also something I really enjoy doing and would love to do more.
One dream I have is to one day make a book. Putting the stories I tell with the images into a children’s book I think would be really great. Or I could also totally see my work printed on fabric, or for example a table cloth. I have tons of ideas, and I definitely enjoy coming up with different ways to show my work.
This all sounds very exciting! Where can we see and buy your work?
My first exhibition is coming up, the opening is April 26th in ‘Het Eerste Uur’ in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Online you can find me over trashworks.nl, and like I said I’m pretty busy on social media and I love to connect on facebook, twitter or instagram. I have a selection of cards and prints for sale on Etsy. And you can find my stop motion films on youtube!
Are you a creative with a small (side)business as well and would like to be interviewed about your work and your business? Get in touch!