Conscious Creators

Alchemy of Art: Deniz Sağdıç Weaves Waste into Wonder

Turkish artist Deniz Sağdıç transforms discarded materials into impressive portraits that deal with waste, sustainability and social issues. Her innovative process and public exhibitions encourage reflection on consumption and change and invite everyone to recognise their role in creating a better future.


Alexandra Wolff

Deniz Sağdıç's detailed artwork featuring a human eye, crafted with circular denim patterns.

Threads of denim cascade down the canvas, meticulously arranged to form the distinctive facial features of a woman’s face. Her eyes gaze at you, familiar and captivating at the same time. The closer you get, the clearer it becomes that the life-size portrait is composed of thousands of buttons, cut-off fabrics and other discarded textiles. This is the work of Deniz Sağdıç, a Turkish artist who breathes new life into waste through her sustainable art.

Sağdıç’s creative work is at the intersection of urgent social issues – the global waste crisis, sustainability and women’s rights. Through her work, she gives voice to these issues and uses art as a means to touch our collective conscience. As climate change and overconsumption push our planet to the brink of the abyss, Sağdıç’s art reminds us of the potential for change if we change the way we look at the world.

Deniz Sağdıç meticulously working on a denim art piece in her studio, with completed portraits in the background.
Artist Deniz Sağdıç in Her Studio Crafting Denim Portraits

Sağdıç’s unique artistic process involves salvaging discarded materials and meticulously arranging them into striking portraits. She digs through piles of fabric scraps and containers of buttons to find the perfect colour, texture or shape for her work. As she describes it, “I hold this material in my hand and watch it for days.” This deep observation allows the waste to “whisper” their potential to her before she begins her alchemical process.

Her groundbreaking “Ready ReMade” series, which she began in 2010, was a pioneering project for sustainable art. Using recycled denim, a universally recognised material, Sağdıç addressed the waste crisis and issues of equality in her art. As we grapple with the global impact of fast fashion, the 15,000 buttons sewn onto one of her paintings convey a profound message.

“If I can make art with garbage, you can do something about it in your fields of expertise or in your home,” she urges.

Close-up of Deniz Sağdıç's sustainable art piece with swirling denim fabric patterns.
Close-up of Deniz Sağdıç’s sustainable art piece with swirling denim fabric patterns.

The meticulousness of her process and the innovative use of waste materials have attracted worldwide attention. Now waste itself is seeking her out as individuals and organisations donate materials for her transformative art.

Beyond its visual brilliance, Sağdıç’s art is a catalyst for awareness and social change. She believes that sustainable art makes ecological issues “poetically visible” and inspires action through its sensory impact. Through public exhibitions, she spreads her message far and wide and reaches people from all walks of life.

Her well-known exhibition “0” Zero Point at Istanbul’s busy airport is an example of this. Surrounded by the detritus of travelling – plastic, luggage tags, food wrappers – her portraits drew attention to the wastefulness of consumer goods while showing the beauty inherent in discarded things. She explains how viewers recognise:

What is used in the artwork is what they consume. Actually, we are what we consume. These artworks are actually the work of all consumers, of all people.

This startling moment of realisation is the key to awakening consciousness.

“I aim for people to stop and think about consumption via my artworks,” Sağdıç explains.

The exhibition also emphasised global solidarity in relation to ecological issues through its culturally diverse portraits. By choosing public spaces rather than conventional art venues, her work reaches a wider audience and encourages them to rethink prevailing systems and behaviours.

While Sağdıç’s artistic motivation is to remind people of our common humanity, she also invites fellow artists to join her sustainable creative process. For her, sustainable art and the sustainability of art itself are linked. She recycles waste not only to reduce environmental impact, but also to preserve art by providing materials and platforms for creative expression.

She advocates for artists to use public spaces and recycled materials as opportunities for their creation. Aside from addressing environmental issues, these unrestricted approaches can expand the accessibility of art.

“It brings with it a feeling of closeness and sincerity towards art. The art then transforms into a language and interprets the concept we would like to present to the audience. I think it is very important to establish such a language for the sustainability of art,” Sağdıç notes.

Through its sensual vocabulary, art communicates across the boundaries of language, education and privilege. By drawing on shared materials and experiences, sustainable art can convey important messages while being accessible to all.

Deniz Sağdıç’s sustainable art practise points to an inspiring path for artists seeking to create social impact. Outside of her studio, Sağdıç continues to work with various groups through collaborations and workshops on upcycling. She also works closely with non-governmental organisations and political institutes to show how multidisciplinary collaboration can lead to solutions.

The world may be awash with waste, but through the alchemy of sustainable art, Sağdıç turns rubbish into gold. Her dazzling portraits speak of the human capacity for change – challenging us to recognise our collective duty and imagine a better future.

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