Israeli Innovations: Raw recycling

Like everything Doron Sar-Shalom creates, the central theme is on recycling with style. (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
'Do you like my newest piece?" asks Doron Sar-Shalom shyly as he unravels a cord from the bottom of a silver pasta strainer. At first glance, an electrical wire attached to a strainer makes little sense. But when he turns it over to show the inside of the strainer, a light bulb at the base clarifies the design. Once suspended from the ceiling, tiny round holes allow small amounts of light to escape, and it is designed to emit a soft glow. Like everything Doron creates, the central theme is on recycling with style. "My ideology shows in all of my work," says Doron. "I make things that are functional and beautiful, in keeping with the old Italian proverb that nothing should be thrown away from the pig." One example of his artistic philosophy shows in the hanukkia he designed this year. From one aluminum sheet, he made two hanukkias by etching, so that one is formed inside the sheet from the space created, and one is the actual cut-out of the space. He even thought of a practical application for the nook left in the base: holding matches. The same technique applies to the stickers he cuts out to decorate his jerry can lamps. If he cuts out an elephant from one sheet, then he can use both the cut-out and the elephant itself. "I never waste any material. It's the basis of my work and what makes it challenging," he says, pointing out a lamp made from an old-fashioned, mesh tea brewer. The chain that was once attached to the base of the brewer is now used to wrap the cord. Next to some of his other lamps constructed from wine bottles, milk glasses and even cheese graters, one of the more obvious recycled products stands out in an array of bright blue, green and orange. Empty plastic water bottles, crushed into soap holders, molded into a vase or shaped into toothbrush holders are filled with colored water. "The message I wanted to get across with these designs is that if you keep nature clean by recycling, you keep yourself clean, too." But finding his niche in industrial design in the early 1990s was not easy for Doron. Born in Haifa, he spent part of his childhood on a kibbutz and always felt strongly connected to nature. After his military service, he decided to work as a medic until he could find a way to combine his environmental concerns and technical propensities. Industrial design was a little-known field of study in Israel, and it was only after a mentor saw some of his sketches and recommended it to Doron that he started to investigate the opportunity. He found a program in Italy and completed his degree at the Institute for Superior Industrial Artistry in Rome in 1995 after five years of study. "In Israel at the time, you could either study mechanical engineering, which was too cold for me, or you could create art that was aesthetic but not useful," says Doron. "I wanted to do both." Yet studying in Italy held other challenges in store for him. As the first foreigner at the Institute, Doron was not given any special privileges. Barely familiar with the language, he had to pass the rigorous entrance examinations just like every other Italian. Once he was accepted into the program, the professors helped him a lot and his Italian rapidly improved. When he returned to Israel, he decided to go against the stream and work independently, a risky move for a burgeoning industrial designer. He started making his designs and contacted museum gift stores and specialty boutiques, like the Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv, where his work could be sold. He likens his creation of the designs to that of a director in a movie who, unlike the actors, produces the film but then stands back in the shadows as the film stars are lauded. "Selling my own work does not appeal to me," he says. "By letting other people market it for me, it stands alone and has no connection to me personally." Doron uses a vast array of materials in his work, including plastic, aluminum, glass and metal, and the prices range from 20 shekels for the bathroom products all the way up to 400 shekels for some of the larger designs constructed from more expensive materials. His inspiration comes from his desire to consider nature and recycling in everything he creates, and he says knowing what object to make next is 80 percent of the work. "But the truly hard part," he adds, "is knowing how to do it in a way that will keep the spirit of my philosophy at the center of the design."