Hans Pallada with his daughter Mai, also an artist.
Hans Pallada with his daughter Mai, also an artist. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Hans Pallada’s “Mr. Green.”
Hans Pallada’s “Mr. Green.”

Thirty years ago, when Hans Pallada and Ilana Herschenberg opened Plastic Plus on the corner of Sheinkin and Yohanan Hasandlar streets in Tel Aviv, Sheinkin was still a sleepy little street. The couple were looking for a place to showcase the colorful plastic items they designed. Their products were perfect for Sheinkin's then clientele: Young people and financially-strapped students with an aesthetic awareness, looking for relatively-cheap goods with a light and friendly feel.

"There weren't any design shops around then. The most modern thing was the Danish Plus store in Kikar Hamedina," recalls Pallada. "Because we didn't have a place to sell from, we decided to open a store near home. In the evening we'd sit at home, think about new products, produce them and in the morning bring them to the store to sell."

Why plastic?

"At that time, Polygal was replacing cardboard, which had become expensive. We made the first lampshades out of Plexiglas, but they were heavy and expensive. The mix of Polygal and the light and stripes was rich and beautiful. We got hooked on the material and upgraded it. That's the source of the name Plastic Plus."

It's bit a random.

"Yes. I don't understand the chemistry of plastic. I just like the material." Pallada, 57, was born in Holland, grew up in Amsterdam and studied at the School of Photography in The Hague. In 1980 he arrived in Israel while motorbiking around the world. He met Herschenberg, who studied at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and was a member of the Tartakover and Friends Studio in Tel Aviv. At Plastic Plus, they used polypropylene to make lampshades, watches, lighting fixtures and Judaica items, all made from plastic. They established a reputation for themselves there and in 1987 won the prestigious Sandberg Prize for Israeli Art, awarded by the Israel Museum (which features several of their works in its permanent design collection ).

In 1994, they moved with their three children to Pardes Hannah. The original store closed in 1996, but continued operating out of a small space on Sheinkin Street, which closed in 2002.

Why did you leave Sheinkin?

"The house was small, we had three kids and we needed a normal studio. Even then it was expensive to buy in Tel Aviv, and we heard about friends who bought much cheaper houses in Pardes Hannah. We closed the original store because the landlord wanted to double the rent. For about a year we didn't have a store and then someone offered us a small store up the street. It suited us to leave some kind of calling card on Sheinkin Street, but it wasn't the same thing."

In Pardes Hannah, the couple continued to design plastic products. At the same time, Pallada developed Retired, an environmental design and building firm using recycled and disposed-of products. Among other things, he built sitting areas, fences, fish ponds, window boxes and memorial niches in homes, schools, gardens, dormitories and other places.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Pallada will be exhibiting at the Shlomi on the Border Festival 2 - a multidisciplinary festival organized by the Shlomi Center for Alternative Theater in northern Israel. Pallada's installation, "Mr. Green," consists of a bicycle and dozens of plastic bottles. "When we moved to Pardes Hannah, we saw a lot more materials than we had in the city," Pallada says. "In Tel Aviv, the inspiration was the south of the city and automobile plastic. I saw parts and used them. I don't make things that are not part of the environment."

What is the value of your installation? Isn't it a gimmick?

"I don't think I'm causing people to use fewer plastic bottles. It's also not my job. I'm showing that from one bottle it's possible to make nice things. The same is true of tires. I turned tens of thousands of tires into play areas, sitting areas and other things. I work with children and teenagers, and there is value in this. Today, you no longer see people working and littering. Suddenly it happens. This was also the power of Plastic Plus: the simplicity of it. One of the most common reactions we'd hear in the store was 'Wow, I can do this as well.'"