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(photo credit: Koby Mehager)
Some people prefer classic jewelry with simple, elegant lines made of gold or silver. Others refuse all but the latest trends, and wear everything from huge plastic earrings to stainless steel spikes. But one thing most people can agree upon about jewelry is this: whatever style of accessory may be chosen, it should be original.
For Gal Barash, transforming functional materials into something beautiful gave him exactly what he was after in design - originality.
"I wanted to take something that is normally used in a pragmatic way and make it pure fun," he says of his unusual designs, in which he uses building materials to make rings, bracelets and necklaces.
The idea of turning nuts, bolts and screws into jewelry began as a project for school. After trying his hand at computers, Gal realized he hated sitting in front of a screen and decided to pursue his true love of fashion and design.
"I was the worst student in school," he laughs, remembering his failed technological beginnings.
Four years ago, he enrolled at the Academic Institute for Design in Holon. One of the required courses covered how to make things out of ready-made materials. Most of the students focused on constructing things people could actually use, but Gal decided to make something bold and unexpected. He showed up in class with shiny square bolts fitted onto looped springs that took the materials in a direction where no one else had gone: jewelry. His fellow students loved it, and with such encouraging feedback, he decided to apply his design to necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
At the end of the year, the students put their projects on sale, and Gal's jewelry attracted a lot of attention. He decided to start selling his work in Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv at the weekend artisan market, and within a few months, he was approached by shops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, asking if they could sell his work. Today, his jewelry is sold in more than 10 stores across the country.
"I have always liked fashion, and when I was in school I spent all my time in the workshop making things," says Gal. And because they are usually used for functional purposes, like affixing things to the wall or hanging cabinets, the materials he uses for his jewelry make it strong, durable and water-resistant.
"I started out using only stainless steel," he says, "then I started working with brass and copper, and later I started covering these metals with gold and silver." Once Gal began working with more traditional elements, his market expanded to appeal to people who might not otherwise be interested in wearing building materials as decorative items on their body.
In some of the jewelry, Gal embeds stones of turquoise, tiger eye, Russian crystal and garnets within the loops of chunky bolts or twisted onto the round springs.
"I think making something unique with gold, silver and precious stones attracts more people because it's still original and flashy, but it looks more like the jewelry they are used to purchasing," says Gal.
The broad range of materials he uses means the prices differ greatly, starting at around 75 shekels and going all the way up to 350 shekels. Soon, they will vary even more, as Gal is planning on adding even more gold to the collection.
"Next week I'm putting some things on sale for 700 or 800 shekels that are made from 18 karat gold," he says.
Now that he has some return customers and things are beginning to take off, he wants to use more expensive materials. But he says that stainless steel is still one of the best materials to use for jewelry because it is resistant to water, soap and just about any other skin product - not to mention its addition to the industrial look Gal is trying to create in his designs.
"People have to digest the fact that jewelry can be made out of these materials," he says. "It used to appeal especially to the 'rebel woman' or the 'tough guy,' but since I've started using more gold and stones, it suits more people's taste."
For those who have already grown accustomed to the idea, nuts and bolts certainly make for unusual accessories, and who knows, in a pinch, maybe they could hold up a wall hanging, too.
For more information, contact Gal Barash at email@example.com.