From tomatoes to tables

At age 62, David Zamet took a big chance by leaving his long-time job to pursue his dream of becoming a craftsman.

David Zamet 370 (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
David Zamet 370
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
After living in Israel for 36 years, first as a kibbutznik, then in Kiryat Ata, always working in stable jobs in his chosen career as an agricultural engineer, David Zamet has given it all up – to realize his dream of being a table designer and maker.
In March 2011, he left the job he held for 18 years at the Milos tomato-processing plant in the western Galilee, rented a studio nearby and began his new career – designing and building his extraordinary coffee tables, made from oak, metal and glass, with their distinctive lines and very contemporary look.
To embark on a new career at the age of 62 takes some guts – but he has the complete support of his wife of 38 years, Venice-born Olga, and their two daughters, Hanni and Ilana.
He was born in London in 1950 to a typical British Jewish family where Israel was always there, in his consciousness, growing up. It was talked about constantly and he always felt, from the age of 11, that he belonged “somewhere else.”
He first came for a visit at age 13 and when the Six Day War broke out he went to the Jewish Agency, an earnest 17-yearold, to volunteer to fight.
“They laughed at me,” he remembers.
He began his studies as an agricultural engineer with the intention of having a profession which would be useful in Israel, and in 1969 came to Kibbutz Usha for his first “Shnat Sherut” (year of service).
He remembers most of the year picking fruit, but later, he came back to gain experience with industrial machines for his qualification and on that visit he met Olga, they fell in love, and he took her back to England to meet his family.
They married in 1974, and David finished his qualifications. In 1976 they returned to Israel and they joined Kibbutz Usha. It is a small kibbutz, with a population of about 350, belonging to the Hanoar Hatzioni movement established in 1937. Olga became the kibbutz occupational therapist and David worked in the garage, taking care of the farm machinery.
Olga hated giving up her children at night to sleep in the children’s house and fought the whole thing with passion.
Eventually she gained the right to keep her children at home.
In 1988, when they both turned 38, they decided to leave the cocooned world of the kibbutz and try out life in the town for a year, leaving their options open for a return.
“We heard terrible stories about people who left kibbutz life and couldn’t adapt to life in the town,” said Zamet.
They rented an apartment, met the neighbors who welcomed them with open arms and quickly made new friends. David studied for a license to become a garage manager, and got a job with a large contractor; Olga carried on with her work as an occupational therapist.
They did not miss the kibbutz at all.
After five years he found the job he would stay in for 18 years as maintenance manager at the Milos tomato factory, the largest tomato-processing plant in Israel.
Used to working with tractors on the kibbutz farm, he found it strange at first – but decided a machine’s a machine, and soon adapted.
He had always loved making furniture as a hobby. The idea of doing it professionally grew slowly until one day, when they were returning from a holiday in Spain and waiting at the check-in to go back to Israel, he made his decision.
“Olga, we’re doing it,” he said.
She supported him from the beginning, agreeing to be the only breadwinner until his new business was established. He considered doing it part-time without giving up his steady job, but decided it would not be the right way.
“I don’t believe in wearing two hats,” he said. “If I’m going to do something I have to do it properly and finish the tables to the standard I want.”
In March 2011 he left his secure job and set up in business as a table designer and builder.
He loves what he is doing and is cautiously optimistic.
“It’s very creative to be able to design the table and very satisfying to see it being made and becoming three-dimensional,” he said. Most of the work is done by hand, although he outsources some of it for laser cutting. The attention to detail and the finish are quite superb and attest to his talent as a craftsman.
His website went up only a month ago and he has already had a positive response from home stylists and interior designers taken with his original designs.
In the catalogue so far he has four different designs, each named after his four grandchildren, Joy, Maya, Eden and three-month-old Sky.
“What I’d like,” he says, “is to be able to support ourselves in the manner we’re used to but by making and selling tables.”