The philosophy of design

From recycled-paper kites to the parking fairy, a young duo is hoping to change the way consumers think.

top spinner 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
top spinner 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tucked away on the third floor of an old building on Rehov Levontin, in the heart of the Tel Aviv's trendy Gan Hahashmal neighborhood, Nomi Lewin and Tal Dayan are infusing unique designs with a personal philosophy that centers on reduction, not production. "There is such an abundance of materials and objects that already exist in the world that no one needs any more," says Lewin slowly, picking up a bright green lamp shade. From a distance, the material is far from obvious, but upon closer inspection it's clear that the negative space is created by the hollows between small plastic spoons used for ice cream samples. In other designs that focus on recycling, old Yellow Pages make beautiful bowls for the home and refined plastic bags are transformed into colorful wallets and bags. Pages from an old atlas inspired the "map table" - a small end table topped with an antique map. "It's a pun in Hebrew because mapot shulhan plays on the word for map and tablecloth," says Dayan. "They're also special because the world maps from the atlas are very old. It gives them an antique, retro appeal and people like the fact that they can flip through and choose the one that speaks to them." Called Hasadna ("the workshop"), Lewin explains that the nomenclature combines the material world of things and the inner, spiritual realm that is far beyond matter. "This is our philosophy of design. We believe that in life you can't separate the material from the spiritual. The two have to work together in harmony, and by understanding this and learning to ask questions, we can discover a peaceful balance." Two years ago, after designing the line of recycled products, the pair took a side trip to the Arava desert for a sadna of their own. "We wanted to create things purely from the heart without thinking about the business side of things or being profitable, but we were doing time- and labor-intensive designs and we couldn't sustain ourselves," says Lewin. "Things were really hard, and we decided to go out to the desert alone and look for inspiration." This brief interlude led to a short-lived kite-making workshop. "It was so calming to be in the desert and there was a huge sense of space and freedom there," says Lewin. Making gigantic kites out of recycled plastic bags turned out to be an important metaphor for life: To build a kite that will fly, you must first build the structure and the framework properly. Once you've got that right, you can truly soar. "We learned an important lesson. The simplest kites were also the most beautiful and the strongest." In the end, the kite-making workshop turned out to be a less than lucrative endeavor, but it gave the pair a new focus. In December of that year, inspired by movement and color, they started making one-of-a-kind wooden dreidels for Hanukka. Made with two parts, a small stick that fits into the center of a wooden ring, the dreidel's base is simplistic and plain. "We started using a technique to put color on them while they spin so each dreidel is unique and represents a specific moment in time that is connected to the miracle," says Dayan. "It's amazing to watch the movement of the color as it spreads, and we changed the statement from 'a miracle happened here' to 'a miracle is happening here.'" As with their other creations, this one too has an underlying philosophy and lesson for life. After a slight push, surrendering yourself to the movement illuminates your center. "Each dreidel is flawless," says Lewin. "There are no mistakes, and it's a good reminder for people that each one of us is beautiful and unique the way we are. With a slight intention about the direction we want to take, we can move seamlessly through circular time." A similar interactive participation is asked of people who purchase "The Parking Fairy." Manufactured by people at the Green Center in Beersheba (an experimental community that is a model for sustainable development), the fairy's wings must first be released from their cardboard city map. Then, three simple steps should be followed for The Parking Fairy's karma to work: 1. Imagine the exact parking space you want; 2. Feel the happiness of finding it; 3. Wish. Extremely popular in Tel Aviv, The Parking Fairy could be just the solution thousands of tired residents need every evening as they circle the same block again and again and again. It's light on the scientific research and data, but there is something to the idea that you are in charge of your destiny and the master of your fate. "Even cynical people, once they've gotten a Parking Fairy, find that they can't ignore her," Dayan says. "The point is to apply this to your life and try to do things, give it a shot. Even if you fail, your intentions have an effect." If nothing else, for the many unfortunate latecomers to the ridiculously overcrowded city streets, a fairy on the dashboard may help preserve sanity. Always in the process of creating new things, Hasadna's vision is to open an interactive store where people are encouraged to participate in the philosophical activities behind the design - a kind of one-stop think-as-you-shop gallery and store.