A shutter onto the world
When Miri Breskin, Adi Shpigel and Keren Tomer were studying industrial design at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design they began keeping tabs on apartments that were being renovated, so that they could use the construction waste in their class assignments. What bothered them most of all was the question of where all the white plastic jalousie blinds - trisim - one of the most notorious components of apartment balconies in Greater Tel Aviv, disappeared to.
"We started tracing the path of discarded construction material," relates Tomer. "We discovered that the renovators weren't willing to give us the shutters and would only sell them to us, because they sell the aluminum frames. From the renovators we moved on to scrap metal shops, where we saw how they mishandled the poor plastic shutters, kicked them and broke them. We asked one of the scrap-shop owners for the shutters and because he had to pay for waste removal, he agreed to let us take as much as we wanted. We came, loaded up, and that's how we found new raw material to work with."
Ever since, Shpigel explains, she, Breskin and Tomer have lived in the studio amid piles of the plastic shutters, which are sorted, painted and cut on the way to their transformation into finished products. The three have used the blinds to create a surprising and original line of furniture that so far includes a stool, a chair and a CD rack whose precise, minimalist esthetic contradicts the standard perception of their main component.
Even though the main raw material is considered very Israeli, Tomer says the studio, located in Moshav Beit Yitzhak, has received favorable responses from Japan, Italy and France. It turns out that the same plastic blinds are used in these countries. In Israel, she says, the initial reaction to the chair is wonder and questions like "Can you actually sit on that?" and "I recognize this, my grandmother had one like it."
The use of local materials is also reflected in the name of the studio. "It's 'kulla' (merely, in Hebrew slang) industrial design," explains Tomer with a smile. "In the end, they realize that it's the simplest thing, the smallest thing, that doesn't have to take itself too seriously." Shpigel adds: "There is sometimes a sense in the design world that everything is terribly serious, terribly lofty. In the end, it's design for people, simple, at eye level, everyday."
Breskin says the idea of opening a studio together came up while they were still students, when they discovered they had similar areas of interest. After Tomer and Shpigel worked for other studios, they decided to realize their shared dream. Breskin joined later: "We have more or less the same approach, the same taste in design. At first we built a portfolio with works from the time when all three of us were students, and we noticed that when someone who didn't know us looked at the portfolio they often thought that one person had done the whole thing."
Beyond the shared areas of interest, however, the main reason for opening a studio together was the desire to realize their dreams and not those of others. Shpigel: "In industrial design in Israel there aren't many interesting work options for young designers, who usually make blueprints, do technical work on a computer, things that appealed to us less. When you work for someone else you are realizing someone else's dreams, and that starts to frustrate you at some point. We wanted to create a framework that would enable us to do things that interest us, our things, from start to finish. We don't always know what the next project will be or where the money will come from. We say that we'll work with what is of interest to us and then it will work out from there."
Tomer: "This is also why what it was important to us to open the studio as close as possible to the time of our graduation, in order to maintain the spirit of creativity, innovation and daring."
Shpigel says, "It was important for us to maintain the framework from our studies. It's very fruitful, you're not in a vacuum. It's something that typifies our class a whole. To this day, when we have an idea or a sketch we send them first to our classmates and ask what they think. That of course doesn't mean we don't have any outside customers. That's where the money comes from."
As an example of an external project they refer to a project to build a sculpture garden in the Bird Mosaic forest in Caesarea, for the Caesarea Development Company. It brought 12 volunteer artists from the community together with 12 groups of golfers, kindergartens, schoolchildren and others who designed benches made from discarded materials from the Caesarea industrial park. "We went to all the factories to see what there was, what you could work with, what would be durable, what wasn't toxic, what is suitable for children to work with and so on," Tomer says. "Each group prepared a few sketches and we translated them into professional plans. We tried to limit them as little as possible. It took nine months and the whole process was very exciting.
"In general, this is a good example for understanding what interests us, it's more the materials and the work methods, and not necessarily the end product. So far it has not yet happened that someone came and said 'I want to make a ring or a new desk.' Each project has a supervisor, who coordinates, ties loose ends, worries about arrangements and manages the whole project," Tomer explains.
Doesn't a studio consisting of only three women generate tensions?
Shpigel: "On the contrary. Girl power, no? Basically, each one brings something a little different, and individual abilities. Miri and I are stronger in the details, the tuning, and compositions. Keren is stronger in the technical aspects, computers and anything related to carpentry and measurements. When she was abroad and we had to saw something, it just didn't come out the same."