There’s always a good bit of conjecturing as to why there are so many creative types in Israel, making everything from uniquely conceived costume jewelry and unique clothing to clever housewares and inspired ceramics (as well as useful apps and defensive military drones). It could be the country’s small size, in which one person’s creative spirit easily rubs off on those nearby, or the constant instruction to use whatever is at hand, learned regularly and often during that early-on stint in the army.
Whatever the medium, when it comes to design, be it fashion, jewelry or new ideas for home and office, it’s generally easy to get to know local designers and buy their as-yet-unknown work. Israel’s two main design schools are located in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (not including several other smaller, but influential institutions in other locations), cities where students and graduates regularly sell at street fairs or shops dedicated to showing the work of young and emerging artists. And that well-instituted art of using whatever is at hand is an important concept if you’re a young and underfunded artist, regular themes that lead to unexpected combinations, particularly at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
Gali Slutski, a fourth-year industrial design student at Bezalel, was born in Belarus and moved to Israel when she was a child. A fabric-based student project, a huggable doll for young children who have experienced a disaster left Slutski with fabric remnants that needed to be used.
“I’m still sewing because of that class,” she explains. She started making jewelry, repurposing her materials into something new. Her colorful and useful infinity circle scarves, available on ebay, are the result. Light and easy, they can be worn year-round, and layered during the winter for more warmth. “I’m reusing elements,” Gali says, “Not recycling.”
Baruch Mogilevski and Ido Mohar, the creators of the Ashtanur pencil case, have worked together on a few projects, but this, their most successful to date, was conceived of and developed in their last year at Bezalel. Cunningly designed, with a room to store an array of writing implements and beyond, it’s a wink at the locals and their love of the ashtanur wrap, the alternative to pita, for serving falafel (or schwarma) and its accompanying chopped salad and dressing in a large, flat, rolled-up pita. Currently being sold on Etsy, and soon in Japan and Italy, it’s manufactured in a West Bank village not far from Bethlehem, a point of pride for the two designers. Baruch commented that “industrial design is about sensing things that are around you…looking at and improving them.”
When you take a look at Dorian Gottlieb’s recent photographic work, you’re instantly struck by what seems familiar alongside what appears nearly unrecognizable. Gottlieb’s final show with Bezalel this past summer was based on digitally altered and combined images taken in both Romania, the country of his birth, and Israel, the country of his adoptive parents.
“Questions of belonging, memory and identity are very important to me,” tells Dorian, explaining that he liked the methodology of the project and the ensuing results, along with confusing the viewer who can’t apply regular filters when looking at the final work. Dorian, who’s currently working on new material in his new life post-Bezalel, came to photography after a year in the architecture school, where he couldn’t quite find his place. Photography appealed to him, along with its “connection to philosophy even more than traditional art forms,” and the success he found in taking images, even as a novice.
Aviel Abudraham, a fourth-year industrial design student at Bezalel, is a manipulator of media, looking to conceptualize ideas that come from images and everyday items he renders ever so slightly. His ever-changing line of jewelry — laser-cut metalware — is based on images of the northern community of Nahalal as seen from the air.
“I don’t want to be a silversmith or jeweler,” says Aviel. “I want to come at my work from my angle as an industrial designer.” The work is different, with shapes not commonly seen in necklaces, almost architectural in style, and contours that beguile and surprise. Aviel’s designs, along with the work of other young artists, can be seen in Asufa, a store in Jaffa, in the rapidly gentrifying flea market section of the neighborhood. He takes private commissions as well.
Miriam Sacks graduated from Bezalel this past July with a degree in jewelry design, but also learned weaving and sewing during her four years at the school, skills she’s put to use throughout her education, designing the dresses worn to offset her jewelry at Bezalel shows. Now living in Tel Aviv, Miriam hopes to learn the ropes of running a business by working at an established jeweler, and taking time to make special pieces for family and friends. Her work thoughtfully considers society’s attitudes towards the precious and the beautiful, combining textures, colors and new materials not ordinarily seen in jewelry design. “It’s a form of expression,” says Miriam, adding, “be creative as possible with your materials and express some idea behind your work.” Some images from her end-of-year show.