In mid-December, more than 180 Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design students, exchange students and alumni pitched tents at the Neve Midbar Beach on the Dead Sea.

Against this inspirational backdrop, they created low-tech industrial designs using wood, metal, aluminum, date branch‏‏‏‏es, bamboo, fire, sand and organic dyes.

It was the 14th straight year that Bezalel’s department of industrial design sponsored a Dead Sea Seminar to get creative juices flowing at the lowest place on Earth.

An industrial design student soaks date branches used to create baskets at Bezalel Academy’s annual Dead Sea Seminar in December 2018. Photo: courtesy

“In the academic setting, it’s often difficult for designers to find opportunities to experiment with hands-on crafts, push the boundaries of their own creativity, and tap into their artistic intuition without the constraints of the formal design process,” said Galit Maoz, department coordinator and organizer of the two-day Dead Sea Seminar.

“This annual seminar physically relocates our students to the shores of the Dead Sea, to a ‘sandbox’ where they can learn the importance of both careful planning and improvisation and allow their hands to lead the creative process. By bringing them back to the basics, we facilitate the highest form of creation at the lowest point on Earth.”

Bezalel industrial design students doing woodcrafts at the Dead Sea Seminar, December 2018. Photo: courtesy

It takes less than an hour to drive from Bezalel’s campus on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem to the northern shores of Dead Sea.

But the radical change in scenery inspires the designers to expand their repertoires and deepen their understanding of traditional craft techniques, including blacksmithing, basket weaving, wire sculpting, casting aluminum in a sand mold, firing glass beads, carving spoons out of wood, painting fabrics with dyes from vegetables, roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood, and creating utensils, furniture and flutes from bamboo.

Industrial design students shape glass beads over an open fire at Bezalel Academy’s annual Dead Sea Seminar. Photo: courtesy

“Our modern world demands a reliance on digital technology, and our students spend much of their time mastering the creative process via computers,” said Safi Hefetz, head of the industrial design department.

A student interlacing strips of bamboo to create the seat for a stool at Bezalel Academy’s annual Dead Sea Seminar. Photo: courtesy

“While this process is, of course, essential to their growth and success, it is important to us that our students are also afforded opportunities to become ‘makers,’ learning how to craft works of art via the traditional methods.”

“When we are at the Dead Sea, the artificial barriers that exist between students break down entirely,” said Choni Beigel, a recent industrial design graduate of Bezalel.

“Our disciplines and year in school no longer matter. The beautiful surroundings and informal framework encourage us to work together and ask each other questions that help us decide who we want to be as designer and how we want to redefine true Israeli design.”

“Low-Tech Design at the Lowest Place on Earth” is a requirement for all industrial design students during all four years of their studies at Bezalel.