Arya Djenar: self-educating, ambitious, and creative. Financial lack has never stopped him from getting what he wants. Although at a turning point in his life, Arya remains clear with his life goals and values, pushing through challenges with a positive mindset.

So, tell me who you are, what are you studying here at OCAD, and how many years have you been studying here for?
My name is Arya Djenar, I immigrated here 8 years ago. I’m from Bali, Indonesia. Small island. I am in Graphic Design right now, I have 2 more years left. I’m turning 22… and I will change majors. Yeah, so, second year.
So, did you immigrate to Canada to study or…? 
I immigrated here to live, actually. I became Canadian like 2 years ago.
Oh, good for you! When you immigrated what kind of jobs did you start getting?
My very first real job was in a call centre, so, like, taking complaints. But I worked for, like, 2 years and then I decided that I don’t wanna do this for rest of my life… and then I went to college.
What did you do in college?
I took Hospitality, actually.
George Brown. But… So, my family, all my family members, are artists. My dad, he was an architect. And my mom, she does dance a little bit.
So, she’s the other… performing dance.
Yeah, yes. But I didn’t want to… Initially I didn’t want to be like…
Oh, you didn’t want to follow these footsteps.
Yeah. But when I went to the college, I felt like this was not for me. I wanted to do something creative. So, yeah. I feel that it’s in the family, I cannot lie, and, yeah.
Oh, that’s good, though. So, you finished at George Brown and then you started coming here?
That’s pretty good. How do you like OCAD so far?
It’s a really good school. It’s a lot of knowledge that you can learn… if you actually go out and try to, like, reach it. People are nice, yeah, and profs are pretty good. Sometimes the workload is a little bit too much. Yeah. I like it so far.
That’s awesome. So, tell me about some of the works that you’re gonna show us.
I’m really into upcycling. Because, uh… I’m pretty broke. I don’t wanna spend too much on materials. So, I just salvage everything, usually. This one I made from a cigar box and just a piece of wood that I found in my workplace. And then I started pretty much building a small guitar. And it’s pretty functional, I think. I also really love music, and before I came to Canada I used to work as a full-time musician.
That’s awesome. So, is guitar your musical instrument of choice?
Yes. First one, small guitar. From salvaged material.
Salvaging materials, that’s kinda what is important nowadays, being sustainable.
For sure. Yeah, I’m really into, like, sustainability, recycling, and… not trying to consume something… you know… consumerism. Especially if you’re broke you’re very against that.
For sure. And do you try to kinda merge that within the graphic design that you do?
I’m trying to, but it’s kinda hard because everything is so digitalized. You can’t really salvage everything digital, yeah? I mean, if you wanna reuse someone else’s work that’s just… plagiarism. But for things like this, a lot of materials are… they are used very quickly, and the waste is, like… I don’t know, it’s hard to… I guess, how do you call it? It’s hard to find a way to use that waste. So I think it’s our job as … creative people.
Yeah, to kind of recycle. Upcycle.
But in the graphic design sense, it’s kinda hard. I’m trying to find a way.
So, is there anything you wanna show us?
This is my very first time building a guitar. So it looks kinda, like, rough.
Well, it’s a prototype right?
Yeah, it’s a prototype. Because, especially the fret part, like… a guitar fret isn’t supposed to look like this and work like this. I was just trying to figure out a way, you know, to sound like…
Well, yeah, that’s what we’re here for, right?
But yeah, pretty much, that’s all I have to say for this one.
Where do you get your materials from?
On the street. Oh, so, I work in the kitchen also, and there’s a lot of waste in the kitchen. I usually get my materials from there. Fabric, woods, or some food materials.
Do you use the woodshop scraps?
So, it’s pretty much whatever you can find.
Whatever is free. I’m pretty broke, so…
Do you brainstorm before you go for it or do you find the items and then you think what you can make with them?
I usually do the second option. I just figure it out while I do it. But I have, like, I visualize it —“ok… I wanna make a guitar, how does it look like?” And then I try to do it.
I see. Now let’s talk about your graphic design. What kind of work do you do within that field?
Mostly, right now, I do a lot of advertisement. Especially for my workplace. Yeah, mostly just posters, social media.
You mentioned that you wanted to change degrees, what were you thinking of doing in the next 2-4 years?
My biggest dream is to work with or for — yeah, with the government of Canada, because, well I feel like I owe them so much. Also, in terms of graphic design, I want to design a way-finding for public places such as airports or subways.
That’s really good. Is there anything else you wanna tell me or show me?
So, like I told you, I work in the kitchen. This one time I really wanted to buy an apron made out of denim. But when I looked online it was, like, 100 bucks or something, so I said to myself, no, I’m gonna build it. So I took my old denims that I used to work in, and turned it into an apron. And I started learning to hand sew everything. So, this is what I have so far. It’s pretty dirty because I use it every day at work, in the kitchen.
It’s being used, that’s a good thing!
There’s a lot of tears in it.
That’s good though, it shows the signs of wearing.
So, yeah, I built it from one old denim. It took me a while, actually, to do this, because I hand sew everything and I’ve never hand sewn before.
So this is  your first time?
My first time, yeah. It took me, like, almost 2 weeks, because I was quite busy with work, too.
And this was just a side project right? It wasn’t for school?
Yeah, because I wanted a denim apron and I didn’t have the money.
Yeah, ingenuity, it really comes from necessity, right?
Yeah, for sure, the less you have, the more creative you become. I actually bought this thing, for like a dollar, I could actually afford a dollar. So, yeah, that’s all I can say for this one. It’s functional, it doesn’t look that good, but…
No, that’s fine, it looks great!
For this one, I made a bag… from an apron, a used apron. I can show you the process before it became this.
Ah, so before and after?
Yes. So, this is a typical Japanese apron. Right now, I work in a Japanese kitchen. These aprons are very… I really like this material cause they still make it traditionally with like really old loom machines, so, the material is very different and lasting.
You can tell.
So, I chose this material because it’s good. This one was an old apron, it was really dirty and stinky, so, I just put it in the washing machine, cut it, and visualized what a bag would look like from the inside, and just started sewing. Like, as you can see the flap on the top is a little bit like a t-shirt, and that’s because I didn’t design it initially.
You started building from outside in.
Yeah, this is the part where you tie your belt, and just hand sew everything. Oh, I designed this bag with only one thing in mind… to fit my headphones, that’s it. That’s why the dimension is a little bit too small. The only thing I can put in there is my wallet, phone, and headphones.
Oh, that’s cute though, just what you need, the necessities. The basics.
Yeah, I guess everything comes back to functionality… and recycling. Part of it is that I don’t want to spend any money buying materials. And also, I would say that I’m a pretty ambitious guy, so if I see something, I wanna say “I can build that” and I’m gonna try.

— Interview by Vanessa Shaman

— Transcribed by Melissa Roberts

— Photography by Amoolia Kodukulla