Shuli Levin: There is such a thing as positive consumption.Shuli Levin’s lampshades look so good you could almost eat them. But rather than cultivate the squash-like gourds that grow outside his studio in Bnei Zion, a moshav north of Ra’anana, for food, the intrepid Israeli industrial designer transforms their fibers into hip, cutting-edge eye candy for the home.
The 33-year-old former kibbutznik, carpenter, and exhibition designer’s business-conscious idealism combined with his novel use of raw material, ecologically and socially conscious manufacturing process, put him at the forefront of innovative Israeli design now beginning to command the world’s attention.
A graduate of Tel Aviv’s Ascola School of Design, Levin launched Studio Shulime (Studio on the Fringes) in 2003, staunchly adhering to the principles of sustainable design: recycling, reuse of materials and reducing the amount of virgin material needed for the production of his light fixtures and furniture.
“There is such a thing as positive consumption,” Levin told ISRAEL21c. “I want to return a sense of environmental awareness to Israel.”
Light fixtures are Levin’s mainstay. Gourd fibers imported from the Far East via Hebron (the ones that grow outside his home in organic waste compost are for demonstration purposes) are dyed and fashioned into intriguing boulder like floor lamps as well as other fascinating shapes and designs. His earlier Metamorphosa line includes cake tins, vacuum bags and water pitchers transformed into one-of-a-kind lamps and fixtures. Just as unique is his current Ecosphera series of light forms made of industrial felt, natural fibers and recycled paper.
Needlework required for some of Levin’s lamps is done by mentally challenged persons in the southern border town of Sderot. And until recently, bamboo used for some of his designs was woven by artisans from Gaza. According to Levin, socially responsible manufacturing is as important as respect for the environment.
“I am proud to be able to contribute to the community,” he said, referring to this aspect of the manufacturing process.
Levin ensures clients will never tire of his designs by inviting them to return items even years after they have been purchased. Rather than turf the old lamps and furniture, he crafts them anew into fresh, functional household articles, a subtle swipe at throw-away society and wasteful manufacturing.
While his designs are ecologically and socially sound, Levin is still a businessman. By his own estimation, he is just “a drop idealistic, but not too much so”, and pitches “a lamp for every household.” He sees great potential for Israeli design abroad citing successes like Oded Friedland’s fun and functional office and home design firm Monkey Business. The company, known for its ‘doorganizer’, (knob-mounted organizer for keys, cellphones and other easily misplaced paraphernalia), ‘bikini vase’ and other innovations has won acclaim in US magazines like Elle, Redbook and others.
Levin’s work was displayed this month at designed in israel 07, an exhibition of Israeli design at the Reading Power Station. With the scope of the domestic market limited, Levin?s sights are firmly set overseas. His luminous objets d’art, ranging in price from $50 to $200 plus, are just now becoming available outside of Israel, mainly ordered by private individuals having heard of the designer by word of mouth.
People buy his products, says Levin, “because design makes life more interesting.”