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Rooted in a desire to forge the past with the present, Talila Abraham's first designs came to her after she saw a friend's antique cloth. Both beautiful and practical, the lacy napkin was used to cover the hallot for Shabbat and to decorate the table.
"A few years ago, I participated in an exhibition that sought to explain the meaning of bread," explains Talila. "When I was looking for ideas, a friend showed me her lace cloths and told me the reason behind covering the two loaves of halla bread on Shabbat."
As the story goes, the halla bread is wrapped and covered so that it will not get offended that the Shabbat candles are lit before it is eaten. Talila found inspiration for her work in these charming lace cloths, and began drawing patterns that could be used in photochemical etching to "print" the negatives onto sheets of metal.
Named "Metalace" because it looks like lace but feels like metal, Talila says that the first dishes, called Matzabowls, were designed to hold matzot on Pessah.
"I wanted to create something that would be one of a kind and carry the imprint of my hands with it," she says of the two-part process in which sheets of stainless steel are etched with her drawings and then shaped by hand into their final form.
"I fold each metal sheet myself, and this technique gives my work its voice," says Talila. "It goes from my drawings to the metal, and then it is bent into shape in my house before it goes to another person's house. I like this human touch, and this ability to connect people through a handmade object. It's very feminine."
The cocktail of traditional and contemporary that defines Talila's delicate work has even prompted some buyers to ask if the metal itself was somehow sewn with a needle by hand because it looks so similar to cloth.
The antique look of her metal handiwork once attracted the eye of a friend's mother as she was searching for a gift. When Talila's friend saw the bowl her mother had purchased, she told her that this Metalace bowl was actually inspired by her own father's Shabbat napkins.
"I love these coincidences and the way objects can bring people together," Talila says.
The photochemical technology that Talila uses to etch the metal sheets took much trial and error before reaching a stage where it was strong enough to function but maintained its elegant, gauzy appearance. The metal material has a good memory, and it takes a steady hand to make it look like a folded napkin or a stylish bowl without breaking it.
"I started from nothing, and it was a long process, but now that my technique has been perfected, I have plans for many, many more designs," says Talila. One recent item involves etching round sheets of metal with different patterns of roses to make decorative plates. Between the machine press, the photochemical etching and the hand folding, she says the possibilities for future designs are endless.
Though the photochemical etching process is expensive and the hand folding is time-consuming, Talila says she cannot express how pleased she is to have found something she can do entirely for herself from her own home.
"I have five children, and I often work in the kitchen while spending time with my kids. The symbiosis is wonderful, and the best thing about this art is that it's all mine," she says with enthusiasm.
Talila, who also teaches industrial design at the Holon Institute of Technology, has a superstitious side to her, evident in the story she tells about wearing only one earring for good luck.
"I believe in creating art that looks to the past before it just rushes out and tries to be 'original,'" she says, "and I am enjoying every minute of my work. It has taught me many things about myself and how to do things I never thought I could."
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