Erez Benari – Steam punk and upcycling art maker

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A touch of steam punk, Photo by Erez Benari

Erez Benari is known as a calculated person who doesn’t like to waste money. In his column “There’s rain here” in the Seatelon he teaches new residents, as well as veterans to the area, how to save when shopping for cars, insurance and even furniture. In fact, being frugal is what led him into art and creating. “A jeweler was offering a pendant looking like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. As a geek and a fan of ‘Star Wars’, I was interested in the piece, which was pure gold and cost a fortune. I decided to try and make something similar myself.”

Erez learned how to create silicone molds and cast various creations with Pewter (a combination of tin and copper) which allows melting and casting at a home setup. In time, he mastered more and more techniques, from basic carpentry to 3D design and printing. After one of his pieces was featured in a local exhibition, he received some additional exposure in the GeekWire magazine, which led to an invetation to host a ‘Makers’ panel in SteamPosium , a local steam punk convention.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you end up in the Seattle area?

From an early age I worked in technology, including 7 years at Microsoft Haifa in Israel. I’ve always wanted to live in the United States, and after winning the American Green Card lottery in 2008 I came here with my wife. Since we knew the Seattle area well, we elected to settle down here. I was accepted for a position on Microsoft’s technical support team for a product called UAG where I worked for 5 years during which I published a successful blog and a few books.

What is Steam punk?

Steam punk is a genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy which includes a visual style and technology inspired by the 19th century. During that period technology was based on steam and production materials were based on wood, leather, copper and gold instead of todays’ steel and plastic. Steam punk enthusiasts use products with a retro-futuristic design, from Victorian-era inspired clothing to modern technological products that have an antique look. For example, a cellphone with a leather case featuring cogwheels. Sometimes these additions are intentionally exaggerated, but they have a very unique and eye-catching look.

How did you get into Steam punk?

My interest began after watching the 1991 film ‘The Rocketeer, I didn’t even know this was called steam punk. After moving to the USA I started participating in Steam punk conventions and published an article about it. As an engineer who has technology at the core of his life, I’m drawn to the respect that Steam punk pays to a period where technology was much more unique and personal. At that period, there was a bigger focus on quality and durability. People invested years in designing and creating a product or tools that last dozens and even hundreds of years or intensive use.

Erez is also an upcycling artist – a combination of updating and recycling. This is a form of art that focuses on practical sustainability. Upcycling is about reusing scraps and material that would otherwise be trashed and pollute our environment. Instead, upcycling turns that trash into something useful and beautiful.

Tell us about your creative process, inspiration, materials…?

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Retro-futuristic weapons from the Enterprise starship

Most of the items I make are based on taking an ordinary item and rebuilding with Steam punk elements. In my workshop I have a stock of parts that I usually get at thrift stores. I reshape the items using paint and various elements such as leather scraps and pieces of metal and plastic. I also use an industrial laser cutter and engraver, but sometimes, all it takes is a bit of creative painting.

What is the piece you’re most proud of?

The two guitars I created are my biggest pride, because they are very large and impressive, and are a collection of all the techniques I’ve acquired and developed over the years. One of them was even featured in the annual Microsoft Employees art exhibition. I get a lot of offers to sell my items, and I often sell them at cost. I believe it’s better that someone enjoys my creation than have it locked away in some drawer.

To see and purchase Erez’s art, visit his website: www.sirsteamalot.com

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Someone just Steam-Punked my guitar! Photo by Erez Benari

 

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