My Working Week

"I’m living my dream. This is the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life."

By YOCHEVED MIRIAM RUSSO
August 14, 2011 13:36
4 minute read.
Barbara Shaw

Barbara Shaw311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Barbara Shaw
www.barbarashawgifts.com

Job title:
Founder, Barbara Shaw Gifts

Age: 56

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Marital status:
married, three sons

Aliya:
1986 from Sydney, Australia

Job description:

Barbara Shaw Gifts is a totally unique gift shop at 2 Bezalel Street in Jerusalem. We make and sell beautiful, useful and stylish gifts inspired by Jerusalem, its landscapes and flowers, and by Jewish themes.

Together with designers, seamstresses and other artists, we make most of our items ourselves in my studio in Givat Shaul. Everything – aprons, tote bags, mugs, cushions, halla covers, teapots, trivets, kids and baby T-shirts with Hebrew or Yiddish sayings – comes in bright, bold colors with designs that reflect a confident Israeli style.

I create many designs, oversee production, buy fabrics in Tel Aviv and bring them back to Jerusalem, where I do the cutting myself. We also market through other Israeli stores and export to places like the Jewish Museum in New York, to London, Paris and Denmark as well as to Judaica shops around the world.

Education:

I came to Israel in 1973, studied history of art and archeology at the Hebrew University, studied art in England and Holland, then returned to Australia and studied marketing.

How did you get into this?

I was looking for a gift to send overseas and couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy, so I decided to make something myself. What I wanted was something bright and cheerful that spoke of Israel, something that was useful, not breakable so it could be shipped, and not heavily religious. Many shops sell items with traditional motifs, but I wanted something different, something bold, not dainty. I took the Jaffa orange, created a very iconic design, and put it on aprons, trivets and teapots. Or the pomegranate – lots of designers use that, but I do it in a much more contemporary style.

I solve a lot of gift dilemmas, what to give a grandmother, uncle, or grandchild. Humor is big with me – we have napkins that look like matza, aprons with “Beste Balebaste” on them, mugs with Yiddish sayings, “Man plans and God laughs.” Living here isn’t simple, so getting a laugh is always good.

Who buys?

Three markets: local people giving gifts, locals wanting to send gifts overseas, and tourists. We’re increasing our export efforts. I like the idea of products being made here, using Israeli talent, and being exported around the world.

First job?

Working for my Holocaust-survivor parents, who had a printing business.

Worst job?

Delivering newspapers in Sydney, which is very hilly. I didn’t last very long walking up and down the hills at the crack of dawn.

High moment?

It was exciting to get my products into places like the Jewish Museum and taking large orders from a catalog in Holland, knowing that something that came out of my little studio in Givat Shaul would travel so far. But smaller moments, too – when I’ve had a feeling about something fabulous I wanted to make, then watch it come into being.

Low moment?

There’s a constant struggle between having too much to do and too few hands to do it. And seeing prices for raw materials rise, while you know there’s only so much you can charge.

First item you made?

Three aprons, three designs, one of which was a cactus. It seemed appropriate to me, but people said it looked more like Mexico.

Truth is, none of the first three were good, but you have to start somewhere. It’s important to just get started.

Biggest-selling item?

Aprons, with many different designs. People laughed at the beginning, “Who wears aprons anymore?” But I’ve sold thousands and thousands of them. I have all kinds of aprons for men, women and kids. People love them.

Price range?

Most items are under NIS 100 to NIS 150. Most expensive? Large tablecloths, around NIS 300. Least expensive? Pencil cases, notebooks, magnets, NIS 20 to NIS 25.

Controversial?

Nothing that’s meant to be controversial.

If not this? I’ve always wanted to develop a design incubator to help artists learn to market and sell their work.

In five years?

More and better.

I’d like to open one more store in Jerusalem and maybe two in Tel Aviv.

Biggest accomplishment?

The simple things: running a business that’s reasonably successful, having my family in Israel, raising kids who are Zionists.

Dream:

I’m living my dream. This is the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life. When the store is hopping, people looking, buying, delighted with what they see, that’s incredibly satisfying.

Worldwide, Israel is becoming known for innovative and creative design. I feel privileged and grateful to be a part of that, knowing I’m contributing in my own way.


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