Since the Jovella show doesn’t actually open until tomorrow, our hosts had some designer visits planned for today. Reli Stav of The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute was our guide, ensuring that we met with a range of artists, and that our dialogue on Israeli design continued.
From left to right: Yulia Runova, Jewellery Russia; Reli Stav, The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute ; Jennifer Heebner, JCK Magazine; Giora and Dori Csengeri, Dori Csengeri. We are outside of Dori’s shop in Tel Aviv.
Stav explained that the perceived roughness of Israeli jewelry is due to the country’s frank demeanor. “Israelis are direct,” she said. “We don’t wear masks [don’t hide feelings].” Since Israel the country is relatively young, it has few jewelry traditions. Alternatively, natives have an abundance of creativity and chutzpah—Yiddish for confidence—evident in a local expression: “In order to survive [in Israel], you must jump,” says Soffer. “Check later if there’s water, but you first must jump.”
A hat in the window of Dori Csengeri was altered specially for an exhibit of flea-market objects for the Premiere Classe Show in Paris this year.
To give the international journalists a well-rounded view of the country, the government arranged for us to meet non-exhibiting jewelers. These firms include Dori Csengeri Designs on Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv; Ayala Bar Design at Tfuzot Israel St., Givataim; Avi Soffer on Haharoshet St., Ramat Gan; and Shay Lahover Jewelry, also on Dizengoff St. I knew of Csengeri from the JA show in New York, but the others were all new to me.
Dori Csengeri, Tel Aviv, Israel; www.doricsengeri.com.
Signature Style: Textile-like embroidery set with gemstones and Swarovski crystals
Starting Retail Price Point: $120
Backstory: Csengeri is a former textile designer who grew tired of clients misusing her creations. “I would design fabric for evening gowns and people would use it to make pajamas,” she says. Her soutache cord styles are hand-stitched by Russian immigrants in her studio; stones and crystals are glued onto industrial fabric and then hand-sewn into designs, and piece backs are finished with leather trimmed with nail salon scissors to give clean cuts. Shoes and bags now join her jewelry designs.
Jewelry and purses from Dori Csengeri.
Necklaces and shoes from Csengeri.
Csengeri doubles as a model for her work; Csengeri showing soutache before it becomes jewelry.
Employees hand-sew pieces, including jewels glued onto pieces of industrial felt.
An employee hand makes jewelry in Csengeri’s studio.
Another employee adheres leather onto the backs of pieces. She’s trimming the leather with nail salon scissors because they give the cleanest and most precise cut.
Ayala Bar Design, Givatayim, Israel; (972) 3732-7090; www.ayalabar.com.
Signature Style: Colorful combinations of glass and crystal beads
Starting Retail Price Point: $35
Backstory: Bar trained at art school, made theatre costumes, and designed window displays before making jewelry design a full-time pursuit. She claims that life (including her daughter’s bat mitzvah celebration) is her inspiration for styles, and that the value of her pieces lies in the artistic expression and not in the materials used (this line is costume). To her credit (and surprise), she was recently honored by a 300-person fan club of collectors in Memphis, Tenn., who threw a bash in her honor.
Joel Ron, managing director, and Ayala Bar, owner/designer, at Bar’s design studio.
Ron gives us a tour of the facility. Beads are everywhere!
An employee wire wraps components for jewelry.
Eat your heart out, Container Store! Bar has a filing system that would have neatniks drooling.
Avi Soffer Designs, Ramat-Gan, Israel; (972) 3752-7111; www.avisoffer.com.
Signature Style: Sterling silver suites of women’s jewelry with karat-gold accents, gemstones, and statement-making focal points.
Starting Retail Price: $40
Backstory: Soffer apprenticed with Georg Jensen, and his 38-year-old firm has a wide range of clients—from independent stores to television retailers. Perhaps a pioneer in the Fair Trade arena, Soffer has long-employed the disabled and is vigilant of U.S. legislation regarding organic gems like pearls and coral.
Avi Soffer shows us some of his designs.
An employee sets stones, and Soffer shows us a model and a piece in the making.
Well, well, look who else has superb organizational skills!
Shay Lahover Jewelry, Tel Aviv, Israel; (972) 3523-3887; www.shay-lahover.com.
Signature Style: Rustic- and organic-looking 18k – 24k gold designs set with uncommon gems like rose-cut spinel, mandarin garnets, and rough-cut diamonds.
Starting Retail Price Point: $3,000
Backstory: Lahover secured jewelry-making degrees in Israel and still works at the bench along with his five jewelers. He has one retail store in Israel and four U.S. accounts, and favors one-offs and statement pieces rather than perfectly matched sets. Fine melee work finishes off most pieces.
Kunzite is set in karat gold, and tiny tulips set with tourmalines are moveable.
Mandarin garnets and tourmaline set in huge pendants. These were about to be photographed for local press.
Shay Lahover in his studio and store.