Javad “Jay” Ashrafi can find inspiration in just about anything.
Signs of his creativity cover his Powell home. An old satellite dish has been transformed into a luxury birdbath on his patio. Mirrors have been etched with a cityscape and illuminated to create a piece that’s more a work of art than an entryway lamp.
“I love doing stuff like this,” Ashrafi says, pointing out a tall wooden shelf that holds plants. He made it and smaller ones to match throughout the living and dining rooms.
“We are always looking for ways to prolong our lives; why not try to prolong the lives of other things?” he says. “It feels good when you make use of something when it is not necessarily needed or used anymore.”
Iranian-born Ashrafi’s resourceful nature is what led to his emergence as an artist. An architect by trade, Ashrafi builds model homes and offices. Once the building plans are no longer needed, those pieces that were toiled over during late nights become nothing more than trash for many.
A sentimental artist, Ashrafi admits that parting with his work isn’t easy – even when those works are art pieces he creates specifically to be sold at shows – so he chose to hang on to one particular mock-up 15 years ago. He hung the home model on the wall and started designing around it. A hobby was born.
“It just kind of happened,” he says. “I noticed when I was creating art that the time went by quickly and it is almost like a kind of meditation for me.”
Ashrafi’s first works centered on those building models and expanded into a full-blown mixed media and 3-D repertoire by the time he showed at his first art festivals in 2008. In anticipation of those festivals, which he still attends, he spends the early months of every year looking for reusable materials to influence new collections that hearken back to his abstract roots.
His pieces made with mixes of copper, wire mesh, car parts, wood and other recycled materials can only be seen at art festivals. Ashrafi attends about half a dozen festivals each year, including those in Columbus, Upper Arlington and Easton Town Center.
At last year’s festivals, he showed from three different collections. Each piece – whether depicting a cityscape, a fruit bowl or a water pitcher – highlights Ashrafi’s contemporary and industrial style.
In his cityscape pieces, Ashrafi builds skylines from metal, ripped paper and wood. In other works, he crafts fruit and dinnerware from mesh wire, oil paint and copper that was upcycled from his neighbor’s summer home. A collection he refers to as Network features metals and junkyard parts, which he hunted for after an inspiring trip to the mechanic.
None of his pieces – which range from 8” by 10” and $100 to larger focal works that sell for as much as $2,000 – can be finished in just one day. There are too many many stages in the creative process for that.
After collecting materials for his work, Ashrafi lays them out and makes sketches. He arranges wire, foil, metal strips – anything he’s acquired – then re-arranges them.
“After a while, it starts to show itself because of the particular shapes or functions of the pieces,” he says.
The backgrounds for the pieces are made from a mixture of sand and acrylic or oil paint that Ashrafi prepares himself.
Before he uses multiple layers of transparent paint to seal his abstract materials to their backing, Ashrafi goes through various metal-working processes to finish and add shading to the otherwise dull metal pieces.
Though he hasn’t yet found inspiration for the pieces he’ll debut in the upcoming festival season, Ashrafi says, the way he describes his previous work with metal may give some indication of the direction he’s headed.
“Metal really has its own history and the metallic, heavy metal look appeals to me,” he says, showing off a photo he took of his work desk, which he assembled from recycled pipes and wire cages that are painted red. “I enjoy doing that kind of stuff and I know how to weld, so I’d like to get into more metal-working or building sculptures in the future.”
Sculptures would be a departure from his previous work but, so are the pastel paintings that hang above his home basement workspace. Ashrafi says he never wants to be locked into a certain genre.
“I’m into mixed media because it doesn’t bond me to anything. I can move from this subject to that subject and there is no limit for me,” Ashrafi says. “I’m able to start working from things I find inspiring, and that’s what art is all about, right?”
Melissa Dilley is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.