Shedding New Light on Design

Local artist Naama Hofman designs objects that hold light, which she never calls lamps because they won't illuminate a room.

The objects designed by Naama Hofman disseminate light, but when she is asked what she does she will never say she's a "lighting designer." She is willing to compromise on "designing light fixtures," but as far as she is concerned, the ideal definition of the somewhat strange objects that she designs – bent metal objects combined with LED lighting, with a minimalist structure and clean lines – is objects that hold light.

"I don't want to sound pompous, but I make objects that hold light inside them," she says. "It's not even lamps. I never call it lamps. One has certain expectations of a lamp; the objects I create won't deliver the goods."

What in your opinion are the expectations of a lamp?

"That it will illuminate, that it will dominate the room. Maybe what I do could be called atmospheric lighting. These objects won't illuminate the room, but they will create an atmosphere in it."

Hoffman, 30, is a 2008 graduate of the department of industrial design at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. She sells the light fixtures she designs in Canada, Germany and France, as well as on design websites such as Fab Europe and Fab United States. In May she will exhibit at New York Design Week and in Israel her work can be found in a store in Jaffa and on her website.

Last Thursday, Hofman began displaying her light fixtures and her style of work at artist Orit Haviv's Studio 2 on Harekevet Street in Tel Aviv, after a chance acquaintance between the two women. Another random encounter led to her collaboration with the Israeli electro-pop band Terry Poison, for whom she designed a light fixture that was placed onstage during their performances.

Although Hofman displayed light fixtures already in her final project – she printed electrical circuits on a flexible surface and created small light fixtures – the follow-up was not easy. She searched for herself during the frist two years after completing her studies and wasn't really successful. "I didn't know what to do," she recalls. "I didn't even know whether I would remain in the field. I wasn't a brilliant student. I'm very surprised at the place where I am now. There was no reason why that should happen, in terms of talent or technical ability."

Meanwhile she worked as a waitress in a Tel Aviv café where there were design magazines.

"I would sit down, leaf through the magazines and make sketches in a notebook. I knew that I would work with strips of LED bulbs, I didn't even know why," she says. "The strips immediately direct you to a long shape, and I thought about what could hold them, and that's how I arrived at the final form. It took me a lot of time to understand which materials to use and how to create it, until in the end I used a bent metal rod that is complemented by an acrylic tube, in which the LEDs are located. I didn't want the points of light created by the LEDs to be visible, and it took me months to understand how to blur them so that they would look like a uniform fluorescent bulb."

Do you do everything by yourself?

"I work with professionals in south Tel Aviv who do things like bending or painting, and afterwards I collect everything and assemble it at home. It's already happened that I slept among the light fixtures because I had nowhere to put things."

Why are your lamps successful abroad, in your opinion?

"Maybe they have more money to waste, maybe it's more logical to them to use such things, but it's also a matter of taste. People who can afford to buy such things are usually older. Here in Israel people are looking for something very practical. People wear New Balance shoes in the street, does that seem logical to you?"

What are your future plans?

"People often tell me 'Make something more practical.' Already with my second light fixture, after I exhibited in Milan, I tried to make something that would sell, but it didn't work out. It simply didn't look good and that's not the reason why I do things. I would be happy to continue trying to make interesting objects and never to make lamps."

David Bachar
Dan Peretz