Art by Design Furniture & Lighting by Israeli Makers are both Sculptural & Functional

By Laura Goldstein

When Hagit Pincovici was a little girl in her grandparents’ atelier in Tel Aviv, she remembers the exhilaration of playing with and running between colourful sheets of plexiglass that would eventually be molded into trays, frames and furniture by her artisan grandparents. “When my grandfather left Romania for Israel, he brought the recipe for making plexiglass and I remember it was a kind of paradise looking through all the colourful pieces,” says Pincovici, now third generation maker, reminiscing by Skype from Tel Aviv.

It’s not entirely coincidental then, that her multi-hued Art Deco-inspired furniture in SwitzerCultCreative’s showroom evokes a modern twist on a bygone era. Pincovici’s From Above Coffee Table from The Eclipse Collection couldn’t be more timely; a geometric Carrara marble ‘moon’ is integrated into an abstract path of black shadow and coral sun in lacquered wood on a brushed brass base. Flamingo Storage Side Table, also from The Eclipse Collection, is a stunning sculptural platform perched atop stilt-like legs of its namesake. A secret compartment rotates out to store jewelry if placed in a bedroom or as a handy bar for drinks, sure to spark conversation in the living room. The Metaphysics Sideboard is Pincovici’s take on sophisticated elegance. The blue and black lacquered geometric wood console designed at multiple heights, is mounted on brushed brass and immediately recalls the glamour of the 20s and 30s. “I love the thin minimalist lines just bordering on the decorative,” she explains.

After working her way up as head of product development for Aqua Creations in Israel and organizing their exhibition at the annual Salone del Mobile, in Milan, Pincovici decided to re-locate to Italy “where I fell in love with the Italian spirit of creativity,” not to mention her husband, Fabrizio Checchi.

She opened her own design studio in the furniture district of Brianza in 2014 where she sketches her designs by hand. Then furniture is made with traditional craftsmanship and sold internationally. When not working on her first collection of lighting, Pincovici is also an instructor at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti,) in Milan.

“You know, we (Israeli) designers are like chameleons,” Pincovici laughs. “I don’t think we share a common style but we do share that drive to create and in Italy they really appreciate that approach.”

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London-born, Eli Chissick of Chissick Design is waxing poetic about wood. Skyping from his home-studio near Tel Aviv the award-winning designer is concerned about the environment, recycling and products that will increase the mobility of the disabled.  Unlike the vast forests found in Canada, trees are not harvested for the lumber industry in Israel and wood is usually imported. That forces the industrial and product designer to be ingenious about scavenging off-cuts and re-purposed wood from carpentry floors. “It’s a magical transformation when I sort what is usually thrown out, then press into large sheets from which I create my furniture,” explains Chissick.

The results are as sculptural as they are utilitarian. Mosaica, from Chissick’s Wood-Con-Fusion series, is a coffee table (or bench) composed of over 2,000 intricate puzzle pieces of multi-coloured wood. The Marmelade, coffee table is a mouth-watering compote of wood with inlaid lime, raspberry and white striped Formica laminate. It’s built on wheels for easy maneuvering in any space.

“I’m really excited about working with Renee at SwitzerCultCreative because I’m now able to send my furniture designs created on the computer to her and then have many pieces hand- made in British Columbia with the same quality as in Israel,” says Chissick. Those pieces include the Gradient Cocktail Table, hand-crafted from 8 types of veneer juxtaposed from light to dark in Wenge, Imbuia, American Walnut, Teak, African Walnut, Anigre, White Oak and Maple.

 Mirror 2012, from Chissick’s Wood-Con-Fusion series, is set in a painted and lacquered salvaged wood frame and can be customized in various colours.  (It was a 2015 Platinum Winner at the U.S. ADEX Awards for Product and Project Design.)

Always challenging himself, Chissick partnered with German company, LugerOptik to produce sleek binoculars including Manta, inspired by the sea; The Salarium Series of saltshakers based on coins from present-day currency and Sitybike that enables its rider to remove the seat and use as an independent chair.

He’s also a big proponent of TOMS- (Tikkun Olam Makers,) a global movement of extraordinary makers who donate their specialties to create solutions for people struggling with a debilitating problem. Over just three days, 100 designers, engineers and techies meet with these people personally then brainstorm in small groups and set to work making prototypes. Chissick has participated in these “Makeathons” in both Tel Aviv and San Francisco resulting in a walker that allows a person to navigate stairs; a door opener for a quadriplegic; a digital hand and a high-tech go-cart for a disabled child, to name only a few.

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It’s impossible to look at Aqua Creations’ lamps, lighting installations and furniture without feeling a sense of awe and wonderment! The urge to touch them or curl up in the enveloping Gladis Lounge Chair, is overpowering. When co-founder, Albi Serfaty hears my confession, he’s laughing in agreement. “This is what art is all about,” he says, Skyping from his home in Tel Aviv. “There must be this emotional connection, both for me as a designer because I’m passionate about my work and hopefully from our pieces as interior décor in a home, a restaurant or hotel.”

What began in 1994 as a small atelier in Tel Aviv is now a global brand with an Aqua Creations showroom in New York and their lighting installations world-wide including 1 Hotel, Brooklyn; Savoy Hotel, Seychelles, Hotel Okura Fukuoka, Japan and The Red Sea Star underwater restaurant in Eilat Israel.

As a photographer and designer, Serfaty’s imagination has no limits, re-interpreting organic forms and abstract sea life into lighting and furniture. Morning Glory Floor Lamps, in silk over metal, when illuminated, seem to take on an otherworldly beauty all their own. Collections since 1994 show a definite evolutionary progression with current geometric shapes like The Simon Says Yes Pendant part of Aqua Creations Mino Collection. Whether as a singular hanging pendant or grouped together as colourful wall mounts as shown in the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, they add a sculptural yet functional addition to interiors.

If you can imagine thousands of magnified neurons under a microscope, you will see the genesis of The Mimosa Collection. Composed of laser-cut galvanized metal, sprayed with clear polymer, the hand-sculpted shades transmit a dreamy, calming light.

The Lucky Lamp wall fixtures are Serfaty’s newest iteration using ground-breaking technology in which each sustainable and dimmable light is controlled by a micro-computer that alters colour, motion and intensity.

“I’d love to collaborate in the future with a fashion designer like Missoni,” confides Serfaty, “and at some point, build a place that combines home, work and studio in one location.” “I’m like a sheep dog in that way- I like everything together.”