Is there anything cuter than this recycled Nike puppy? When I saw this little rubbery ball of cuteness on Coolhunting, I just couldn’t turn away. Turns out this is just one small representative of a creative art project from Japan which encourages people to find new use for their old worn-out sporting equipment by turning them into art objects.

RECYCL’art is an ongoing Japan-based project that promotes recycling and environmentalism in sports, by pairing celebrity athletes with emerging artists. The artists take the athletes’ old sporting gear (mostly shoes, gloves and clothing) and transform them into amazingly inspired pieces like Kazuhiro Kiyohara’s Nike shoe puppy (above), and Hidetoshi Nakata’s Nike shark (below). RECYCL’arts stated goal is “to promote the ‘reuse’ of goods in an enjoyable and positive way, through sports.”

RECYCL’art is currently hosting a traveling exhibition of 3-D works. Directed by Yuko Tamae of the IGFY Corporation, and curated by art critic Junji Ito, this exhibition has creations ranging from critters, to mobiles, to more functional items such as rucksacks.

Artist Koji Iijima?s dog sculpture, made from the Yomiuri Giants first baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara?s shoes and gloves was inspired by the well-known tenacity of the baseball player. ?I thought of Kazuhiro Kiyohara as he protects base and it reminded me of a guard dog protecting their home ground, Tokyo Dome,? Iijima explains, ?Whenever the opponent comes, he?s ready to bite!?

Via Coolhunting