Israeli Innovations: Bundles of baskets

After the birth of her first son, Iris Zohar realized that she needed a soft, flexible way to store his toys.

basket inn 88 (photo credit: )
basket inn 88
(photo credit: )
After the birth of her first son, Iris Zohar realized that she needed a soft, flexible way to store his toys. Everything she found was made of either rigid plastic or hard wood, materials that scarred the space and were dangerous for babies and small children. Her frustrated searches ended in the creation of her own designs that would serve the purpose she wanted and be a beautiful decoration in the room. "I always enjoyed working with my hands and making things," says Zohar of her new venture. And her ability to create the "Iggy products" (named for the nickname young children adopted for her after being unable to pronounce "Iris") comes from a strong background in design. After she finished her degree at Bezalel, Zohar started working for Max Brenner conceptualizing boxes to store the chocolate. "I think like an industrial designer when I consider the manufacturing costs and creating products that function," she says as she gently unfolds a colorful felt basket. Deliberately sewn so they can be easily folded, Zohar says she had functionality in mind when she conceptualized the storage capability. She wanted something soft and colorful that would be appealing to children, but remain inexpensive enough to produce that it would be affordable for parents. All of the baskets are sewn with several different types of felt, and each one has decorative felt cut-outs. One of the greatest challenges Zohar faced when she started making more and more baskets was finding people to sew the baskets for her once she had designed the cut-outs. "In such a small country, few factories exist," she says, "but once I found the right seamstresses, I could not ask for any finer people. They care so much about each individual basket that they call me about even the smallest details to make sure everything is perfect." She turned to a professional factory for some of the production in order to lower the cost of her baskets and to free her time to design more products. Simple and attractive, her baskets were a success in stores like Dayda and Del'Arte in Tel Aviv, Sodot in Ra'anana and Nisha in Jerusalem. After having such positive feedback, she started to make baskets for holding diapers that attach to the crib with felt handles. Then she branched out into smaller decorative items, such as felt magnets and headbands adorned with colorful flowers that will never wilt. "I started using the leftover pieces of felt from the baskets to conceptualize new products," she explains. This way, she can kill two birds with one stone and gain both economically by using more of her material and environmentally by recycling. One of the newest products created from the end pieces is a growth chart made of felt panels held together with colorful ribbon that has a centimeter tape measure on each side. Attached to the chart is a small notebook for keeping track of how much your child has grown, and small felt arrows with Velcro can be affixed next to the measurements to show progress. Recently, Zohar has started to make products for adults using her trademark material: felt. Everything from small felt-covered notebooks to key rings attached to felt-covered notepads or bright felt flowers affixed to paper weights that decorate the office. "My inspiration comes mainly from my life," says Iris. "I usually end up finding something I need myself and figuring out how to make it as functional and beautiful as possible." Keeping her prices reasonable is an important factor for Zohar, and her products range in price from 16 shekels for the small magnets to 130 shekels for the large baskets. "The cost of material is expensive in Israel, and at one point I wanted thicker pieces of felt that were only imported here in white, so in order to make the products affordable, I made the thicker, colored felt myself by gluing layers together." Sometimes overcoming adversity creates challenges that require knowing how to make lemonade from lemons, says Zohar. But the process of designing, despite its challenges, is fun and rewarding, and Zohar hopes that her baskets bring something nice into the homes of others. "It's nice to know that people like them, and it's fun for me to hear that customers take them as gifts from abroad because they represent an Israeli creation they haven't seen anywhere else." For more information, visit