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A dose of Israeli humor and purpose in 21c design [VIDEO]

Posted By Karin Kloosterman On March 3, 2008 @ 9:20 am In | No Comments

Designers Shay Alkalay and partner Yael Mer: Ready to make it in the real world.Big box stores like IKEA are great for students and those of us on a limited budget, but after a promotion at work, or just for the love of art, more and more people are looking to buy limited edition items that reflect one’s unique tastes.

Taking design to the next level requires young talent that can push the envelope just a little bit further. Doing just that is the Israeli design duo Shay Alkalay and his partner Yael Mer of Raw-Edges Design Studio.

Based in London, their designs and furniture are making the circuit in top design exhibits around the world, including the International Furniture Fair in Cologne and Design Miami. High-end galleries in the US, such as New York’s Johnson Trading Gallery, have recently showcased their work.

Last month, the chic gallery featured Alkalay’s unusual stackable chest of drawers, ‘Stack’, which are built to defy gravity.

“It was very exciting,” says Alkalay. “The showing in New York was a very important step in our career, as Paul Johnson is one of the most leading figures in the design scheme in the US at the moment.

“I wasn’t there during the exhibition but I know that my piece Stack got lots of great responses from visitors like Paula Antonelli, the Museum of Modern Art’s design curator. The piece was sold so it means that someone in New York is actually using this stack of drawers in his home which is super exciting for us.”

Trained at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, the couple travelled across the sea to be mentored by Israel’s most accomplished designer, Ron Arad, who now heads the Design Products masters’ degree course at the Royal College of Art in London.

Today, about a year after graduating from the college, the design duo, both 31, who are also a couple, are shaking the design world up. Their funky and functional furniture, household items and clothing, reflect a whimsical sense of humor and a passion for challenging the limits of the trade.

Their work could fit into the new definition of environmental art or sustainable design. Take for example Mer’s inflatable skirt the ‘Evacuation Skirt’ that transforms from a regular skirt to a kayak “in times of trouble.”

Answering the need of rethinking clothing in times of imminent climate change, the skirt is perfect for catastrophic events such as hurricanes or floods, she muses tongue in cheek.

Mer has also developed a line of furniture made out of brown paper cut-outs, and her ‘Slipper Rocker,’ designed as a rocking chair with built-in slippers comes in handy during the winter.

Alkalay has his own unique contribution. His ‘Sticky Stains’ are iron-ons that can transform any drip or stain on your shirt into one of four cartoon characters, in effect hiding the stain and prolonging the life of your clothes.

For Alkalay, it’s the world of animation that gives him the most inspiration. “I am interested in movement,” he says. “Animators can dream and also designers can dream.

“But my place is to make it in the real world. Both when I was at Bezalel and also in the Royal College of Art, when I have an idea, I straight away buy materials and make a quick prototype.”

The public seems to be excited. One design reviewer who blogged about Stack wrote: “Shay Alkalay’s colored plywood stacks are a serious organizer’s dream come true. Comprising of literally a pile of floating drawer units stacked as high as you like. The sky’s the limit literally. As long as you’ve got a long enough ladder of course.”