"F*** it. It's a handbag now." 

This is the type of energy that 27-year-old artist Nik Bentel (@nikbentel) carried into his latest art project, The Pasta Bag. Inspired by his time in quarantine and the third installment of his series of storytelling products, The Pasta Bag reimagines an all-too-familiar pantry staple: Barilla Penne Pasta

Courtesy of Nik Bentel.

Born in Long Island, New York to two architects, Bentel's love for art blossomed early. He found his passion for architectural design early on, and graduated in 2017 from the Brown/Rhode Island School of Design's dual-degree program, where he studied Industrial Design and Modern Culture Media.

Since then, Bentel has been working towards a Master's Degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and working on several small projects — some of which are a part of the 12-part episodic series that focuses on storytelling utilities and features The Pasta Bag.

Constructed from leather and printed with UV technology, Bentel's newest creation is an ode to the mundane as he taps into the penne box's undiscovered potential. After a year of staying inside and brainstorming yet another way to make pasta appetizing (Cacio e Pepe is his go-to), Bentel wanted to give Barilla Penne Pasta an artistic makeover fit for a post-pandemic world (yes, even a box of pasta is in on #VaxxedGirlSummer). Hence, the idea for The Pasta Bag was born.

What inspired The Pasta Bag? Why a box of Barilla Penne?

During the pandemic, I was staring at my pantry filled with Barilla pasta boxes. I just felt that they were kind of ubiquitous objects — that everyone understands the graphics of them. There was definitely a box of pasta every single pantry during the during the height of quarantine, so it felt like an object that we could all relate to in this very mundane way. And I wanted to make it slightly more exciting, so that that kind of was the beginning of  the process, this big adventure.

I chose Barilla (I'm pretty sure they know, but no one has reached out to me yet) because of its beauty...the box just has it. If you go to any store, Barilla Penne Pasta is the most generic pasta to purchase. I definitely considered other brands and other pastas, but Barilla Penne just felt like the right box to to bag. 

Why did you choose to make a purse?

I build things now, but the bag was something small enough for one to wear. It just felt like the right object you could choose, and there are so many different takes on this, so I'm so glad that [a purse] really resonated with a lot of people. The bag was the was the first thing that came to mind and it was the obvious choice.

When did you have the idea for the bag and what did the timeline and process look like? 

It was probably right around this time last summer, when we are  all (kind of) still being told to stay inside. After that, I decided, 'You know what? I'm going to spend the next week trying to figure out how to get this done.' If it seems like a feasible project, I can put down the money to figure out how to get this made. Talk to some professionals. Help me figure out how to get this bag to be really amazing.

So the first month, it's just doing research. There's no designer or anything like that. Then the next couple of months — I'm in school at this point as well — is to figure out how you would do this and waiting for manufacturers. And then the next step is to do all these research and spend a ton of time on it. Once it's done, you take the photos, videos, all that.

After that is how [the project] will be publicized. So it's the it's the smallest part of the whole process, but it's the most important because it doesn't get in the in the right people, then the project will go anywhere. And that obviously happens quite a bit. So it's a long, long process -- it takes a lot of time, but it is a very fun one. 

What advice would you give a member of Gen Z looking to pursue their passion?

There's no better feeling than turning your passion project work into your full time job. Everyone who is Gen Z or younger has the feeling of being in a job, with college and stuff like that. But I do think that focusing on your artwork, at least for a little bit, is so fulfilling. I spent years trying to get to a point where I could like something and be able to do it for myself. I absolutely would support young people pursuing their art practice and their personal projects.

Courtesy of Nik Bentel.

The Pasta Bag is a limited edition handbag of 100 units and costs a pretty ~penne~. Retailing at $159, the handbag will be available beginning Wednesday, August 11 at 10 a.m. ET on www.nikolasbentelstudio.com, until supplies sell out.

Bentel's project is not affiliated with Barilla.