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From plastic bottle to art: Halifax man nurtures ‘obsession’ with fish

In four years, Ronald Yhap has made around 150 fish out of plastic bottles

3 min read
caption Ronald Yhap holds a few of his plastic bottle fish.

For some, plastic bottles may be garbage or things they toss in the recycling bin, but Ronald Yhap sees an artistic opportunity.

Yhap, 60, started making fish from plastic bottles about four years ago when he went to a trade show and saw people spray painting two-litre bottles. After the show, he was inspired and chose to hand paint bottles and turn them into fish because it was the easiest item to make.

“I just took advantage of the shape and painted it,” says Yhap, who makes other creatures, but considers fish his specialty. 

Yhap says his love for fish started when he was a child growing up in Guyana. He remembers going fishing with a friend and watching the fish they caught swim in a bucket.

“The different shapes and different colours interest me,” he says.

caption Fish are made using shampoo bottles, conditioner bottles and regular water bottles.

Yhap immigrated to Halifax in 1971. He took art classes as child, but became an engineer because he was good in math and science. He practiced engineering on and off for about 20 years before becoming a land surveyor. 

Now that he’s retired, he dedicates his time to art.

caption This turtle pin is made from a plastic spoon and Styrofoam.

Yhap uses all sorts of items to help make his creations, including plastic spoons, onion nets, egg cartons and chip bags.

Yhap does all his artwork at home. Usually each piece takes about three to four hours to complete, but some pieces have taken up to seven hours.

“Sometimes you just don’t know when to stop; it becomes sort of like an obsession,” he says.

Despite the amount of time he spends on his art, he doesn’t sell it. Occasionally, he’ll give items to friends.

Yhap has been contacted to teach his art by groups like International Student Ministries Canada in Halifax.

Ronald’s art is mostly about animals, which are cute and liked by many people, including children that attend our events, along with their parents,” says Chi Perrie, with ISMC.

“The use of recycled materials makes his art even more special because, as a society, we are supposed to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Yhap also does oil painting, etching and acrylic painting. Some of this work is displayed in the Dal Art Gallery, but he loves making his fish and is always looking for different materials to use.

caption Each fish takes about three to seven hours to make.

This summer, he plans to experiment with handmade fish hooks using pop tops and chips bags as material.

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