The stiletto curator who got married barefooted

An interview with Yaara Keidar, curator of the stiletto exhibition “Cinderella Syndrome”

 עברית

Desires, aspirations, longing for something which is beyond you;

Shortage, lacking, a difference, deification. longing, desiring, imaging…

The stiletto fills the gap between our dreams and reality;

8 centimeters of desire,

20 centimeters of eagerness and fascination

4 cm of longing for more and more

I also want more

To show, to create

So here I am, writing a blog

Words that wrap words, liquefying energy bursting into a flow which flit upon the paper or screen instead of in a gallery and a ‘real’ space

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“The gap betwwen elegance and pain”designed by Tal Drori and Asaf Shem Tov, 2006

Above: Is this a shoe or a sealed idea of a shoe?

When I first heard about the Cinderella Syndrome exhibition

I held my breath for a second

And then reminded myself to take a good deep breath

“I am not there” shouted a hidden voice in my head

I design for other brands,

I have not yet created my own line of items with a clear statement

But

I’ve this place, here

The blog, into which the energy flows

Energy that might not be channeled into materials, objects, heel heights, leather, glue, feathers and nails, colours and forms

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Above: Working into the material, into the leather – “Venus’s Trap” by Shani bar. Material: Nappa leather. Photo by Shai Ben Efraim

The desire to bridge a gap, to reach the un reachable

is found in the story of Yaara Kider, curator of the exhibition,

who hasn’t worn high heels for two years following a glorious and painful fall from high heels

and has hung up her heels and proceeded to celebrate life

in flat shoes

a clear contact with the ground – a sort of truthfulness

stability and comfort

that now guide her feet

But the nature of ideas and desires is not to rest nor to remain silent and the intellectual and creative  curatorship of Cinderella Syndrome provided Yaara with the drama and magic she needs just like the air she breathes

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“Bleeding Innocence” by Maya Maimon-Friedman, The Guid, 2016

Looking for some Drama?

“When I started digging dipper into the story of The Wizard of Oz I realized that Dorothy, who comes across as an innocent girl, launches a killing spree in order to return to her home” says Maya, whom I know from the Trend course I teach at The Guild. “It reminded me of an intriguing yet scary image I once saw by the photographer Brit Bentine. This image had a strong impact on me, and it inspired my work”. Brit Bentine dresses up children as figures in a horror movie, examining the border line between innocence and fear in childhood and life itself.

The interview with Yaara Keidar

Was squeezed into her tight schedule during her visit to Israel

An hour before the opening

Amid a team making last minute arrangements

Yaara, who conducts this dynamic ensemble, finds a few precious moments for our meeting

Shelley: a moment when a stiletto was more than just a shoe, an unforgettable moment?

Yaara: I got married barefooted! I wasn’t comfortable in the stiletto I was wearing, and a few moments before the wedding ceremony I took off my stiletto shoes, to my Mum’s great annoyance!

Shelley: You were ahead of your time, even pre-empting Julia Roberts!:)

Embed from Getty Images

Julia Roberts who took off her shoes before stepping onto the red carpet in Cannes, and by doing this expressed her support at the protest against the demand women should wear stiletto shoes – if at work places or at Cannes festival itself.

Shelley: when working on a creative project, there’s a moment when it all “clicks”, a magical moment, of understanding something that couldn’t be understood at the beginning. Did you have such a moment during the work on the exhibition, and if so – what was in this moment?

 

Yaara: “When I started I didn’t know what topics and content would arise in the exhibition. The application to the designers was very open, I said to them “relate to the subject in any way you want – be critical or not critical, say that stilettos are amazing or alternatively that the end of the world’s approaching – do whatever’s burning inside you”

Some amazing works arrived from Bezalel, Shenkar, from the Guild, that conducted a competition for participating in Cinderella Syndrome

A natural harmony was created, a division into categories  and then I understood that there was a basis for the exhibition, a track, and that’s how it was created”.

The division into four topics within the exhibition:

The pink room relates to children’s fairy tales; are the stories really as pleasant as they seem to us?

The green room displays shoes that take the term height to a new level

The white room shows us the artistic aspect of shoes, where does the shoe end and art begin?

And the black room – the fetish room that examines the pain and aggression in shoes

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The white room, “Rogatka” by Kobi Levi. Materials: wood and leather. Photo: Ilit Azulai

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“La Petite Sirene” by Mor Kfir, relates to the little mermaid fairy tale. The mermaid gave up her voice and tale for love, she loved a prince who did not love her back and didn’t appreciate her natural qualities. The shoe with its sharp fish bones expresses the tragedy of her masochism . Materials: Macarel fish bones, pearls, oysters, fimo, leather. Photo by Arnesto Eisner

נורמן ובלה_ Cenerentola Nostra טל ארבל ואלסנדרו בריגנטי_בלוג_נעליים_3D-Footwear_DesignCenerentola Nostra by Allesandrom Brigenti and Tal Arbel for Norman and Bella. Materials: Resin, 3D printing. Photo by Bar Sharir

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The Black room, “Dominatrix”, designed by Tali Sorit, Bezalel Academy. Photo by Yoav Zohar

Shelley: did you identify any Israeli characteristics during the curator work, or was the content mainly universal, global?

 Yaara: I think that today everyone, that is, everyone who’s connected to popular western culture, has a global perception of high heels

True, in Israel there’s a great fondness for flat shoes, but even so, at most events today, in Israel as well, you can see a significant number of women in high heels.

However, I think that because women tend not to wear these on a day-to-day basis, and our dress culture is a bit more casual, then it’s easier for designers to see this shoe as an object rather than as a clothing item, and to neutralise its comfort and clothing element and concentrate on the artistic aspect that the shoe can express

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Above: surrealism at its best. head pieces by Avigail Talmor and Tami Bar-Lev exhibited in “Cinderella Syndrome”, address iconic symbols such as Shciaparelli’s shoe hat and the statue of liberty.

Clockwise from top left: The statue of liberty during its  assembly in Paris picture from here; Heed Over Heels by Those Who Pray/Avigail Talmor; Shoe Hat by Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali, picture from here; Pretty Woman by Tami Bar-Lev.

Me: a stiletto shoe from your private collection that you particularly love

Yaara: Not stiletto but Prada’s 20 cm. platforms from the Japanese collection, 2013. With these, too, I have a love-fear relationship, and right now I don’t dare to go with them, maybe I’ll go back to wearing them in the future.

The eight-minute interview passed in the blink of an eye

The first visitors were starting to arrive. Yaara was busy straightening hidden corners of signs and other details – precision and perfectionism which she says give her great pleasure. Because in shoes, each millimetre counts and the sky’s the limit.

I was left with my thoughts.

What stilettos and high heels have I ever designed?

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Concept, Shelley Lewis
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Sandals I designed for B.Unique; sample
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Shoes I designed for B. Unique, SS 2014

For further reading I invite you to follow my steps and read about the opening evening of the Cinderella Syndrome.

Cinderella Syndrome will be exhibited until the end of the month in Ha’Hava Gallery in Holon.

I’ll be more than happy to hear you feedback and read your comments, I aldo invite you to tell and share your personal stories about shoes and other memories 🙂

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Cinderella Syndrome – Real or Dream?

A  ‘warm up’ post towards the in-depth post about the Cinderella Syndrome exhibition, now exhibiting in Ha’Chava Gallery in Holon exploring beyond the boundaries of stiletto shoes as we know them.So what did we have?The opening on June-18 was hot, just before summer’s hottest heat wave reaches our shores, and there was genuine excitement in the air.The exhibited shoes were fascinating each on its own merit; together they created a colourful, fantastical drama.And there was another drama taking place – the audience! A cool crowd of creative and innovative individuals, proving they understand one or two things about shoes, and who took the concept of “an exhibition” one or two steps forward – into life itself!

 

Maya and Kobi Gutwein

She’s wearing shoes by Shoemaker, where she worked as a designer for two years. Kobi is wearing shoes by Loading which were bought in France.

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The Guild shoe and accessory design school

Shoes designed  by Maya Gutwein

The shoe relates to the erotic aspects of Rapunzel.

Most amazing: the yellow hair is real! Additional materials: leather upper and a wooden, leather-covered  heel.

Produced by The Guild, Footwear And Fashion Accessories Design School, under the management of Nina Rozin, Kobi Levi, Orit Zaks

Photo: The Guild

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Rapunzel’s shoe by Maya Gutwein

Sharon Tal

The designer who brought Maskit fashion house back to life, wearing shoes by Vince

Tal Tsur, the brand’s founder Iota Project ; Iota Project create furniture based on knitted textiles in a technique they have developed. The innovative brand also carries the values of social responsibility. Tal is wearing sandals designed by Theory .

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A summer dialogue

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Ya’ara Keydar,

The exhibition’s curator, is wearing sandals by Loeffler Randall

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Delicate gold straps amid many fascinating patterns

Aviva is wearing pumps by Nine West. A colourful zebra

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It’s not about snakes and ladders, but about snakes and zebras! A colourful Hermes bag flits with all its might.

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The sculptress Dorit Levinstein with a bag by Issey Miyake. Geometric, clean, complex simplicity. I loooove the adjustable openings along the strap.

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Who’s in the pic: Sharon Ziv, a yoga teacher. Most precise: the shell bracelet. That’s the way to go when wearing Zara sandals! In the background Barak Lahav, fashion designer, wearing New Balance shoes.

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Me, in a dialogue with myself:

Me: why the hell did I take this picture with such an open aperture? There’s only about 1.5 mm in focus! All the rest is kind of blurry. What on earth was I thinking??

Myself: You’d better learn for the next exhibition!

Me: This is a once in life time exhibition; the moment was snapped and gone.

So here we are, left with Zara with a hint and tint of focus 🙂

More colours; United Nude, Desigual and a smile

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Amelia Naaman from Kfar Saba, owner of “Peace Café”. Wearing shoes by Norman And Bella.

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Sandals by Norman and Bella

The riot of colour continues: Amelia Naaman is wearing jewelry designed by Ruth Hassan, and holding a bag bought in an exclusive home sale of imported designer’s items.

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Shoes worn by Kay Long. Source: unknown and so mysterious. Classically golden.

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Kay Long; a golden mystery 

I also met Noa Rubin who exhibited three pairs of shoes. The shoes she is wearing were bought from a Victorian-style website. “I am connected to Gothic style, also in my work” says Noa. And you can also see it in the necklaces she’s wearing: the pink one was bought in the flea market, the black one she made herself; she took apart and re-assembled jewelry items to create her own Gothic fantasy.

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Noa Rubin. Her connection to Gothic is her starting point

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Noa Rubin. A Gothic puzzle

Bezalel Design Academy;

Noa Rubin; Sacred Pulse

The shoe is created out of and inspired by parchment leather traditionally used for sacred texts. The life force of the parchment itself is reflected in the form and flow of the shoe.

Materials:  parchment leather, sole leather, goat skin, fiberglass, beech wood

Technique: wet molding, sewing, hand sculpting and carving.

Instructor: Eli Ginzburg, Bezalel Academy, Jewelry and Fashion Department.

Photo: Pola Shechtman, Dean Wilson

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Noa Rubin, Sacred Pulse

Noa Rubin;Tribute to Alexander McQueen

Materials: goat leather, synthetic cork, natural cork, magic steel clay ,sole leather, karkit fiberglass

Technique: hand sculpting, wet molding, leather coating

Instructor: Eli Ginzburg, Bezalel Academy, Jewelry and Fashion Department

Photo: Noy Biri

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Noa Rubin, a tribute to Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo shoe

Noy Biri was also at the exhibition. She bought the sandals she was wearing on-line. ”This was the first time I’ve bought sandals on-line, and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again”. Why? Because I was missing the fun of trying on the shoe, also, waiting for the sandals to arrive from overseas totally drove me mad. I just couldn’t wait!

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Noy Biri, experiments in buying shoes on-line

Noy Biri. Straight lines in black and white on soft materials. In the background: Torn jeans. Noy is holding a catalogue of the exhibition printed in a super-limited edition.  Currently the hottest accessory in town.

Dress: Top-Shop New York. Bag designed by Aya Feldman. Ring designed by Noy Biri.

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Many desirable items, especially the flamingo-coloured catalogue

Noy Biri; Spanish Dancer

Materials: carbon fibres, beech wood, leather processed from plants, koyo

Bezalel Academy, Jewelry and Fashion Department

Photo: Tal Avisar

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Spanish Dancer by Noy Biri

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Design: Noy Biri. Photo by Tal Avisar

Rivka Bezalel wearing a dress by Zara. The tattoo is an ancient blessing in Hebrew. Sometimes that’s all you need; a good dress with the right blessing 😉

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Rivka with a bag by My Urban Runway

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And the crowning glory (in my view) Rivka is wearing shoes by Sutrah designed by Guild graduate Sahar Abu Seif, who made her debut with an original and high quality collection. Sahar presented her final project at The Guild less than a year ago; in my view the project and the presentation were among the most exciting and beautiful that I’ve seen.

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Shoes by Sutrah, Sahar Abu Seif

Yasmin Sasson, manageress of Ha’Chava Gallery, who seemed slightly overwhelmed from the many people who stomped to the opening, wearing Bally shoes

Did I like them?? Yes, indeed! A squarish cut off shaped last is a rare bird in these pointed days.

The shoe resonates functionality and steadiness straight from the 1940’s style.

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Shoes by Bally

I loved: the mix with the zippered dress

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Oren Rehani: actor and portrait photographer who recently returned after 12 years in Los Angeles, wearing Fly London sandals. What’s interesting? Wide straps and wide buckle in men’s sandals. What’s even more interesting: the edges of the straps are slightly filed down creating a graphic line along the edges; shiny leather versus rough surfaces. Exquisite details, hidden drama.

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Sandals by Fly London

Rosario is wearing flip flops by Raf Simons, created in a limited edition. Bought in Fred Segal, Los Angeles

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 And what was I wearing? Sandals I designed for Yoopi Shoes

What’s fun about them? Leather manufactured using ecological processes that don’t pollute. Laser cut on the front strap, and really comfortable heel and sole

And why are they photographed this way?? Because I forgot to take a picture of me! I was too infatuated by all that was happening around me. All was so amazing and fun.

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Enlightened stiletto shoe

Two final photos of shoes from a totally different aspect – lighting

Creation presented by Rotem Gur of Vas and Crafts: metaphysical glass shoe. How does all this happen? Screening wine glasses on to the wall creates a silhouette of stiletto heels

Why did I love this? Original, and created with lighting, without materials

And it’s even more interesting to see such work from a designer who creates the shoes with her own hands and has mastered the secrets and creation of sandals.

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Vas and Crafts. And lights

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Through the peeping hole: a kind of romantic dream in a pink fluffy cloud. And what is the outcome of this pink dream? Yep, you are right – Cinderella Syndrome! 🙂 So beware and watch your steps:)

 

 

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Shoes and more; jewelry design in Shenkar

It was Thursday evening

Entertainment venue: Shenkar, Faculty of Design

What’s going on: presentation in the Department of Jewelry Design

Which course: designing display windows

The course has been running at Shenkar for 14 years, headed by Gillian Golan and Hagar ben Shalom

Moderators for the current course: Gillian Golan who specializes in business development in the field of design and Yoav Miller, a sculptor who has brought a new and fresh perspective to the design department.

Why I’m there: I was invited, as a guest critic to give an appraisal on the students’ work

Me. A critic? More on this at the end of the post. Stay tuned 🙂

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Presentation at Shenkar; dramatic, beautiful and funny too. Photo by Mark Grossman
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Yael Uliel; lecturer at Shenkar; An interesting dialogue between lecturers and students. Photo by Mark Grossman

 

The course on display windows is a unique course within the framewrk of the Department of Jewelry at Shenkar. After 4 years during which the students design in the scale of millimeters, they are asked to design a display window two meters high. They probably feel like Lilliputian in the land of the Giants. Apparently this is also the first time that they experience their jewelry from the commercial aspect of a display window. The aim:  to transform a good concept into a harmonious window that will create this “must have” feeling and make passersby stop, desire and forget all about their plans for that day!

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Gulliver in the land of the Little People and the Giants, illustration by Otto Ernst Schmidt. Drawing from here 

Every two months five different students present the display window they have designed. This is a year’s course so the teaching staff make sure that the students will give their blood, sweat and tears throughout the year; designing is first of all a process and research, and only then are the design decisions expressed in material and the small details.

So who do we have this time?

Mary Grossman

Mary’s window is painted yellow with touches of ochre which break it far from the CMYK yellow but still leave it close to the circle of bold colours. Mary chose a central element in her jewelry design – a fold line that creates a three-dimensional structure with a clean look – and used it on a large scale in order to create aluminium display surfaces. Each surface is a unique design yet still a clear and uniform language.  The aluminium surfaces define a display area within the large window, leaving a yellow surround, which is exactly what our eyes and soul crave for.

Mary has also designed shoes inspired by the architect Dominique Perrault and they continue Mary’s design language: folds, fragmenting, and building anew through a variety of materials – leather, silver and plastic. The final result of the shoes is a combination of serious avant garde with a dash of darkness; just the way we love it 😉

You can see more of  Mary’s work here

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Smiling 🙂 Photo by Mark Grossman

Shoes inspired by architect Dominique Perrault. I love its folds and the geometric sensation.

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Image from Mary Grossman’s website

Mary Grossman’s chess board. Folds, bold colours and a clean look; style with a clear hand writing

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Image from Mary Grossman’s website

Chain of hearts, response to one of the narratives that occupies the jewelry world – a heart is the most widely sold shape in jewelry.

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Image from Mary Grossman’s website
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From Mary’s display window; detail
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Mary Grossman’s display window

Two windows, two colours which tell so many stories.

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Photo by Mark Grossman
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Batya Wang, Lecturer at Shenkar. Photo by Mark Grossman

Liraz Borstain

Liraz presented an aesthetic and precise window at a high standard. The items are presented on panels that echo and resonate the jewelry. How did she do this?

Elastic bands were her starting point. The same elastic bands used for wax injection. She incorporated them to create surfaces into which she poured silicone. Does this go without saying? No, absolutely no! This is a technique developed by Liraz herself.

The general sensation is of floating archeology, as if an historical secrete is revealed to us, sharing with us its ancient pink spell. Liraz’s jewelry are created from a variety of materials and textiles, in integrated technologies

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Liraz Borstain; floating archeology in dream like smoky colours.

In the picture three pieces of Liraz’s jewelry:

The piece on the right is made from biased cut ribbons and beads,

The middle piece is made from biased cut ribbons and metal,

The smaller pendants on the left are made from synthetic threads using heating technique

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Liraz Borstain; technique, materials, design
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Bag by Liraz Borstain

Maya Shoshan

Combined inspiration from Britain and Africa which were an endless source of inspiration for her during her studies, but this time she decided to also make a stopover in Casablanca, which danced in the background in a blue print image and three-dimensional elements which served as connectors and hooks on which she presented the jewelry. Maya is a creator who follows the charm of beauty, and she blends eclectic elements in a way that sparks inspiration. We didn’t fully understand the flight path she chose: Britain-Casablanca-the depths of Africa, but hey, who said design is all about logic? In Maya’s hands this turns this into an aesthetic logic.

As a designer who usually falls in love mainly with the idea, I wondered about this. Yael Ulliel described this beautifully when she suggested refining the terms so as to create a more exact and integrated design.Yet Maya’s love of the magic of beauty transcends above all this, or as Uri Samt summarized: your noise is not noisy, harmonious noisy.

See more on Maya’s instagram page

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Detail from Mays Shoshan’s display window

English horse, African bag and Moroccan decoration. A new logic in a rich and global world.

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Photos by Maya Shoshan
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Eclectic royalty from the land of legends. Photos by Maya Shoshan
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Maya Shoshan’s display window
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Necklace desinged by Maya Shoshan. Photo by Maya Shoshan

Tal Efraim

Placed in the window large pages which resemble a gigantic sketch book. (Haven’t we’ve said Lilliput already?? 🙂 Tal has created order in the space, first by the sketch book, which is smaller than the window. An excellent decision; you don’t have to use all the window, sometimes the ’emptiness’ defines the center and the essential. To the sketch book Tal added an element from the world of sewing – a large red stitch which creates a grid along the page from which the connectors sprout, the hooks which serve to display the jewelry. The transition between the red stitch and the red metal hooks  is almost invisible – it’s not obvious to create such an harmonious transition between two different materials, so that they will look almost as one.

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Items from Tal Efraim’s display window. Brass jewelry.
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A detail from Tal Efraim’s display window

Jewelry designed by Tal Efraim. On the right, silver ring, a model that was built and printed in 3D, and zircons. In the centre a pendant set with garnets and on the left a brooch from 925 silver and pure silver inside.

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Image by Tal Efraim

Brooches made of silver plated brass. Tal already created a relief by hand during the wax stage, before the metal was poured. The black stones  – Swarovski stones in a limited edition

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Image by Tal Efraim

What else would we just loooove to see: adding pages so we get more of this ‘sketch book’ feeling, and connecting the sketch book to the background using the red stitch instead of the aluminium pole. In my opinion a less shiny background would also add. Extra brilliant: the little irregularities of the threads which pop out of the sides and bottom of the sketch book; escaping the order. To me this felt like a dash of good British humour – a (very) little wink taking place in the margins 😉

Interesting items from Tal Efraim’s display window: elements that “escape” from the sketch book. One of them is even sewn into the wall

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Tal Efraim’s funky escaping details

Hadar Shragai

Displayed her jewelry on a background that combines recycled wood coated in concrete with the stucco technique, a technique characterised by coating, planing and so forth, like a soft sculpture on the concrete and wood. The result exposes the wood from between the concrete which is painted in blue and similar to the woodwork found in some of her jewelry designs. A (slightly) more detailed explanation about stucco at the end of the post.

The division of the background into four panels refreshes and contributes to the composition, and the light colour lends softness and leaves centre stage to the jewelry.

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Hadar’s display window; details.
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HadarLing’s jewelry design. Image by Hadar Shragai
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Jewerlry degisn, Hadar Shragai. Image by Hadar
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Hadarling; a stand for business cards in the spirit of the display window.

What people were wearing and a little more atmosphere

Mary is wearing Adidas sneakers in a colour reminiscent of Liraz’s window. Did they plot this together? 😉

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Oh Melissa, you are so stylish

Several levels above the regular snacks; stylish catering! Missing in this picture: the fine wine and sweet watermelons which were part of the fun.

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_cup cakes
Photo by Mark Grossman

The presentation has ended, and where am I in the big, or small picture?

After the presentation I met up with friends.

“I was at a presentation at Shenkar”, I told them, “Is was invited to be a critic, and I am not crazy about the  word critic. When I was studying design the criticism wasn’t ‘my cup of tea’. I think everyone suffers from this at one level or other.  I am looking for an alternative word. I thought of feedback. But that’s also not so great”

“Mentor, you’re a mentor!”, Niva said

“No”, I said, “mentor is for someone who’s studied, who has education and training”.

Perhaps we could call it a design dialogue, or a creative conversation? I don’t know, let’s leave it for the moment as an open and wild question.  One day I’ll understand who I am and what my role is in Lilliput, the land of Giants and the Little People.

Further reading;

In Hebrew about the creative process and design process. If you find your way in this biblical language the following posts are really cool and interesting

From Mina Protnov-Mashan’s “Migdala” blog, a series of three posts about design thinking. For the first post, second and third.

From Carina Weber’s blog, The Trilogy of Creation; part one, two and three.

Shoe I designed for Nubikk

The sketches are a (small) part of the entire design process

Uncoded Steps Nubikk men shoe design

Additional lecturers

Who took part in the presentation and contributed their experience, knowledge and insights to the lively discussion about display windows

Sharon Keren, current head of the department

Uri Samt, incoming head of the department

Batya Wang

Yael Ulliel

Uriel Miron

And of course the moderators Gillian Golan and Yoav Miller

 

More about Stucco

The attached description is based on an explanation I received from Hadar – another minute and I’ll start plastering by myself 🙂 The word stucco describes a certain type of plaster which is used as a surface finish.

The first layer on the blue panels of Hadar’s display window are made from compressed OCB wood. Hadar used the wood as a means of creating the main composition of the panels, the three-dimensional structure

Above this is a netting combined with a semantic splattering  ( I learnt many new terms about plaster!) – crude plaster that can be used for building and sculpturing and on top of that, the queen of the layers – the stucco! Two very thin layers of plaster. Before the plaster dries it’s polished with cotton material, a process which creates a shine and gives the whole window its unique appearance

And to summarize the process: at the end of the day caressing and gentle strokes is what we really love and need .  Remember this when you are on the way from the Land of the Little People to the Land of the Giants 🙂

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Purple Revolution

My first prince

Memory: I am 16, my best friend has moved to Paris, her family relocated for one year due to her father’s research. I miss her. The time of year: spring, April. My parents allow and help me to arrange a 10 day visit to my friend’s house. I fly over during the Passover holiday. I’m excited. I arrive at their house, receive a loving welcome from her and her family. After a short Parisian brunch my best friend and I go for a walk. “We will soon be back, we just want to go for a walk around the block” we tell her parents, “Shelley is too curious, she wants to see just about everything,” my friend explains. The streets of Paris are a living museum to me; at that time I studied at an Art boarding school in Jerusalem, I literally ‘lived’ inside renaissance painting and medieval art and sculpture. So I just had to stop at every corner, alley, church, courtyard. The short ‘around the block’ tour turned into a long and magical day… we returned at 10pm, I believe just a few minutes before her parents, who are the coolest parents in the world, were about to freak out. This was way before mobile phones were popular, they were not even in my spectrum of awareness.

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Purple Paris

That same day, or perhaps it is the following day, we go to the Virgin record store in the Champs Elysees. The huge store is like wonderland to me. I am mesmerised by its size and endless rows of records, cassettes; music was everywhere.

I buy 4 cassettes, I am almost sure they include Led Zeppelin, Susanne Vega, Peter Murphy and one I remember for sure: Purple Rain by Prince.

Today’s charming Prince

When I listen to Prince’s music today I fly back in time to the Art boarding school I went to during high school years. I spent a lot of my time daydreaming about the future (which I guess includes this exact moment too) and finding our way through hidden openings in the school’s fence, to explore hidden corners in the hills around the school’s compound. It makes me wonder how similar that imaginary future is to today’s reality, was I loyal to the hopes and dream of the girl I was?

Prince’s shoes?

As a footwear designer today I wonder what shoes I would design to echo Prince’s creation, life, vibe, existence, music.

One almost immediate influence Prince’s death might have will be in the popularity of purple. We’ve been seeing purple all around us the past few days; from a NASA-tweeted picture of a nebula in honour of the Purple Rain singer to people lighting purple candles in the streets. For a minute; purple is everywhere. We might be seeing this influence on large or small collections. Purple has hardly ever been a mainstream colour in fashion, let alone in shoes. How will this come about? You can see more of these magnificent gestures here. Get ready to be struck by ultra-purple!

I felt like examining this idea on a sandal that has many stripes. The gladiator sandal was a natural choice to play with colour gradation.

Uncoded-Steps Purple-gladiator footwear
One gladiator sandal; lots of purple

Purple for Kings and Princes

And how would this work for a commercial footwear company? It is a little complicated due to the large number of materials used for its creation – it would mean stocking almost 10 colours of leather for the upper. Most companies which do not make custom made shoes, but have a production line, even a small one, would choose to avoid such a process and to use a small number of materials per style. From my personal experience if you’d dare to ask such a task from a manufacturer she or he would prefer to avoid it, to choose a sandal that production would be more straight forward.

Another option is to create the sandal from thick leather that has not been through the final stages of colouring and finish; this would allow you to dip colour the leather to reach the exact shades; a delicate work bringing this sandal almost to the level of one of a kind art item – a work process which isn’t for everyone…

It is more likely that we will see purple used for details such as insock, eyelets or laces. On the other end of the ‘purple spectrum’ we might also see it as a strong and clear statement: purple shoes! Perhaps produced in small quantities.

Uncoded Steps Prince shoe design Gabbiano Tannery-C
Natural pigment at Gabbiano’s ecco leather tannery, Italy. Photo by Shelley Lewis
Uncoded Steps Prince purple boots Gabbiano Tannery C
More at Gabbiano’s Tannery; natual pigment on the floor. In the background: purple boots :)) Photoby Shelley Lewis

We want heels!

Among the many things Prince was known for, wearing shoes with heels was one of them. Heels for men have been flirting with the outskirts of fashion for the past few years, remaining in the blurred boundaries of avant-garde. Rad Hourani who was the first designer ever to create a haute couture unisex collection, a collection he presented in Paris in January 2013, has been wearing them for years and recently we’ve seen them in Dior’s AW 2015 collection. So they’ve been gradually moving from a more avant-garde brand to a more established one; this is the first clue showing us a direction which fashion is moving towards. A trend is first of all an evolving tendency and we certainly can see it here. Prince’s sudden death sheds light on this; suddenly heels for men are the talk of the day.

Uncoded Steps Heels for men hommedesign-
In these two images you can see the evolution, from Rad Hourani on the left in 2009, to Dior’s AW 2015-16 collection.

Rad Hourani’s picture is from the blog New Male Fashion . Dior’s image is from “Get In The Ring”

Heels; are they high or deep?

In her book “Fashion Forecasting” Evelyn Brannon meticulously explains the intriguing dynamics of fashion and culture. Trend forecasters notice similarities and connections amid the haul of information and creativity surrounding us. This helps us sense the connection between Rad Hourani, Dior and Prince. Things add up. All this does not happen in a vacuum, but amid times with many asking themselves ” am I attracted to men or women or both, am I a man or women, do I want to dress as a man or women or a mix of the two?” It seems time is just about ready for the comeback of heels for men.

You can see more about centuries long history of men’s heels in this charming one min. video: Listen to Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toront

A trend evolves from many directions and places. It voices a zeitgeist, a state of mind, an aspect of current culture. It is much more than being fashion, fashion is the outcome of the deep undercurrent of trend. The blurring lines between men and women have been happening in many ways, and they represent our personal inner desires and yields; sexuality is no longer something you are born into and you live to play its pre-written script, but you write your life’s script and play, or live the role you choose to.

Uncoded-Steps Purple-boot
I drew this high heel bootie two years ago, Its image ‘jumped’ into my head one sunny afternoon, including its colours

I am curious to see the future; will men’s heels become more popular? Will Prince’s electric purple be seen in the upcoming shows, and if so, for how long will the “purple phase” stay with us? For a final goodbye I am adding two more pictures, they are smoky and glittery, electric and hazed, it seems purple electric heels are part of the beat. Your music stays with me, and will always resonate so many moments and feelings. RIP.

uncodedsteps Prince & the Revolution footwear design
Image from Feel Numb
uncodedsteps Prince purplerain
Image from Nolastudiola

 

Space ships and shoes

I fancy seeing a UFO, a spaceship. Suddenly it will burst out of the clouds, a huge, round dish full of impressive lights. And all humanity will stand and cast its gaze upwards, and for one moment we will be united, with no differences, the differences which frequently define us – gender, and colour, origin, and ethnicity, power, and cognitive ability, not to mention the many objects which define us over and over again, and serve us to diagnose and characterize.  Nothing. Zilch, all these attributes will disappear.  We all will be as on; get ready, the aliens are coming!!

Maybe they’ll be nice, the aliens; we’ll all be friends, the many people of planet earth and our new exciting guests.

This reminds me of a lecture I attended when I was studying in Holland, in SLEM, the incredible and unique school where I studied in 2013. A few days after the studies had started, there was a festive welcoming evening which included cocktails of a festive colour that matched the walls and… a guest lecture.

Coctails in SLEM 700
Milou, Marlen, Lenka and I. Starring: aqua-blue cocktails (A picture well blurred : )

 

The honorable guest lecture spoke to us about why human beings wear shoes. He made a long, long presentation full of beautiful slides in which he appeared in many different places around the world, travelling and investigating ancient cultures. In all the pictures he is standing with a broad smile full of light and happiness from the extensive search.

“And why,” he asked again and again, “do humans wear shoes? I’ve wandered all over the world, travelled for ages and ages, but haven’t yet got to the bottom of the matter.”

Animals go about barefoot, and the transition from “the barefoot human” to “the shoe-shod human” is, in the light of the archeological information we possess is not clear.

This means there is no evolutionary development, gradualness, but rather an immediate, sudden sharp leap. Suddenly human are wearing shoes, this is called a quantum leap, when information, understanding and actions appear without any preparation. Transcending over world view, over an array of actions, habits and values to a new knowledge. And how did such an event occur, an action that is not characteristic of a proper historical evolution, something which maybe never happened = a quantum leap for humanity??

And finally he revealed to us, he exposed the secret at that same exciting, introductory evening

“Thanks to the aliens!” declared the learned lecturer vigorously (he really is well educated and well traveled).

“The aliens appeared”, he continued to explain, “arrived from another, distant planet, riding in their sophisticated spaceships, equipped with a variety of gadgets beyond the ability of humans to comprehend, understand or  imagine then and apparently also today = quantum leap have we already mentioned? = and they also wore shoes!” And humans admired them, or studied them, or imitated them or all the other things that humans do every day, a whole network of reactions and emotions. From fear to curiosity, from amazement to “I also want”.  And they performed one of the first actions in the learning process = imitation. And afterwards change, and development and enhancement, and slowly, slowly they created shoes suitable for human beings.

And so, thanks to mysterious and apparently lovable aliens, and also thanks to our collective forefathers, we can have fun going to the store to buy colourful, comfortable, fashionable shoes, according to our heart’s desire.

And sometimes I wonder if those same aliens have really left, or maybe they have assimilated among us, and within each and every one of us there is one lonely, special tiny drop; an alien!

Disclosure: I don’t believe in aliens, but I love stories, and new connections, even between a seemingly subjects which are apart from one another..

And that same evening in Holland, we didn’t believe that a guest lecturer came to lecture on shoes, and in the end gave a lecture on aliens.

But now I’m curious to remember the lecturer’s name. And maybe in the future, in some future post I’ll write more about him. After all he is a leading researcher in the field of footwear.

Meanwhile I’m attaching here two photos of astronaut’s shoes; there’s still much more to explore in this field too. Perhaps when the next space ship lands here : )

The Lunar Overshoe

Eugene Cernan 1972
The Lunar Overshoe

These Lunar Overshoe were worn by Eugene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 mission that landed on the moon on December 10, 1972.

The boots were part of Cernan’s extra-vehicular (EV) equipment and were worn over the boots that were integrated into the spacesuit. The boots were made with a silicone sole, woven stainless steel uppers (Chromel-R), and included additional layers of thermal protection and beta felt in the soles as protection against extreme temperatures and sharp rocks on the lunar surface. Materials: Exterior: Beta cloth, Chromel-R, Velcro, silicone rubber/compound, steel. Interior: Beta cloth, Beta felt. Read more about the Lunar Overshoe here .

Nike’s Space Exploration and All-Star Game Packs

During 2012 Nike released its Space Exploration Pack which featured sneakers with galactic images and colours. That year the NBA All-Star game took place in Orlando, not too far from NASA . Read more about this at Nike’s website

Nike foamposite Galaxy shoes

Foamposite was a material which revolutionized sneakers back in 1998. The Galaxy foamposite, released in February 2012, feature dark purple graphics and glow in the dark. Image: by Nike and from HuffingtonPost

nike-space-shoes-cosmic super nova stylking
Nike’s Foamposite Galaxy

Nike Dunk High 2012 NBA All-Star Galaxy Pack, released Feb-23, 2012. Image from Sole Collector

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Nike Dunk High

 

 

May the force be with you

These shoes were designed in 2014 by Xsens for NASA, their purpose is to collect data from the astronauts while exercising during their travel in space. Astronauts exercise approximately 2.5 hours a day in order to reduce the loss of bone and skeletal muscle strength experienced by astronauts during long duration spaceflight. “Force Shoe” sandal offers comprehensive load measures. Having an accurate track of their movements and the use they make of their muscles and body during the practice will help improve their training in the future.

ForceShoes_2014
May the force be with you; Force Shoes

Personal note: one thing is clear to me; these shoes were designed by engineers, not designers, probably meant to be an advanced, but not final prototype. The Force shoe sandals lack the extra touch that integrates them into an entirety, an item which blends aesthetics with functionality and addresses practical issues as well as semantics and human perception. In other words: footwear designers required asap!

Read more about the FroceShoe at NASA’s website

 

Nike Zoom Rockie Galaxy

Last but not least; Nike Zoom rockie Galaxy, which features a red label saying “Remove before flight”. I love it. Image from Fight Club

nike-zoom-rookie-prm-galaxy-black-pod-black-black-action-red-041782_1
“Remove before flight” , Nike Zoom Rockie Galaxy
Zoom Rookie (2011)
Nike Zoom Rockie Galaxy

Image from Sole Collector

Funny or fancy shoes?

Introduction

A few months ago I heard Lydia Amir’s radio program about the tragic and comic. It was a quick, but deep, look into these two feelings. The show discussed the writings of the great philosophers on these subjects, and as all of Lydia’s radio programs it was accompanied by music relating to these sensitive and vast issues.

Listening to the radio show inspired me; when does a shoe become comic? Can we draw a clear line where a shoe stops being a ‘regular’ shoe, and becomes something funny?

I was curious to interview Prof. Lydia Amir – who is a practical philosopher – and hear more about these two qualities and feelings, (that make the world go round).

 

When: Sep 2015

Where: Berlin-Boston, via Viber.

 

If you were to choose one word to describe the dynamics between tragedy and comedy, what would it be?

HUMOR! Humor has the capacity to change tragic into the comic.

clownschoen_geblokt_nr_13
Clown’s shoes by Van Beers, The Netherlands

 

 

Could there be a situation which is neither tragic nor comic? If so, what is it called?

Most things are neither tragic nor comic, it is we who experience them as one of the two. Frustration, for example, will usually be described as tragic by most people.

By doing this we move away from the clear essence of the experience and the event. But there is way to manage, adjust or tune these strong emotions; to metamorphose the tragic into comic and thereby resolving inner conflicts. It creates a stable joy, peace, and leads to better action.

 

Would you describe the transformation from tragic to comic as a sharp instant change, or a more gradual, evolving change?

It is not sharp, it involves work.

Part of the process is to acknowledge the world and realize how many times human needs or desires are not met. Being aware of this, instead of trying to avoid this honest look into and at the world, enlightens us, connects us to the presence of the cosmos.

 

Sophia Webster 600
Sophia Webster, LFW Sep 2013

 

There is work to do, you have to allow yourself to live with conflict, with the tragic contradiction, and then while things are happening practice in ‘real time’ to see them as comic.

It takes a few years of repeating this – that you are fundamentally ridiculous! Then wonderful things can happen.

It is really a remedy that works, I published a set of exercises to practice this skill and method.

 

A thought has occurred to me, shoes – their existence is tragic. They express the gap between the foot and the ground. Their subtext is ‘the world around us is not perfect; there are stones, spikes and hot sand that could hurt our feet’. Could we say that a shoe has a tragic essence in it, (-or: Could we say that the exi
stence of a shoe is tragic) but shoes that are flexible and ethical are able to address this tragedy and suggest consolation?

It is an interesting idea.

sneakers-2-Funny_3-for-p2_cr
Classic skate shoe; just a regular shoe??

 

 

If we conceive shoes as an ‘opposition’ to the reality around us then yes, they could be tragic. But before tragic, the shoes represent creation, aiming to resolve the conflict between us and the environment. Shoes come as a mediator; they intervene between us and the world. Shoes influence our mood and wearing flexible and comfortable shoes allows us to be ourselves, therefore they are less tragic and more comic.

 

What would make a comic shoe, what attributes, or design?

Comic shoes; that is a great idea! We have two feet but still people wear two identical shoes and I never really realized why. I think it is about time to create shoes that talk to each other, that are related to one another. Shoes that are not a replica or a mirror of the other half pair; a story could start on one shoe and then continue to the other and when you position the two together they complete a picture. Also there is no need for the two shoes to have the same colors!

The same goes for earrings; I think they should be of different length, different designs. There should be movement between the two earrings, not repetition.

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A-symmetric shoes by Camper

 

It’s more common to see someone wear earrings in an asymmetrical way.

Still not common enough.

A pair of shoes could consist of different colour patterns on each shoe. When, for example, you sit crossed legged – they complete one another. The asymmetrical shapes should make sense in many situations.

 

This is quite a complicated task, creating shoes that in many situations have some logic.

Maybe. But still the main point is that we expect our clothing and items to be symmetrical. Asymmetrical challenges us.

sneakers-2-Funny_3-for-ip3_cr
A slightly chubby sneaker skate shoe?

This reminds me of an experience I once had:

When I was living in Paris I went to school wearing two shoes from different pairs; I was in a hurry, and it was still dark outside, so by mistake I put on one shoe in red, the other in black. I think they also had a slight difference in heel height. By the time I discovered the mistake it was too late, I was on the bus, heading to school.

 

How did people react to it?

People were looking at me. I wanted to let them know that I know this is wrong, so they would not think I chose to dress this way – this would mean I am “really crazy”.

 

You could talk to them, say something short, simple and funny ‘break the ice’ of this comic situation.

You can’t talk to people on a bus in Paris. That would have been even crazier!

Uncoded Steps Paris Shelley Lewis
A view from a window; Paris 2013

So I tried to hide my shoes, to move, to show people on the bus that it made me feel awkward – to “pass on” the message that I knew this was ridiculous.

This is an example of the philosophy practice I mentioned; by acknowledging that I was ridiculous – it made the situation less tragic. We are fighting so profoundly against being ridiculous but when we accept it, it becomes ok. When we do not acknowledge it, do not accept it, we increase its tragic aspect. People assign much importance to symmetry; as soon as one item is not coherent we call it comic.

Sneakers_3_cr
Is this funny enough?

 

I thought proportions are the key for defining comic or tragic.

Out of order, something not cognitive.

I would like to design shoes like that, philosophical shoes. They should express movement, not symmetry. I would like to use color, writing that flows from one shoe to the other. Shoes should emphasize the movement.

So let’s design shoes, I do not know about comfort, but I do know women need to come to work on high heels. They commute to work wearing sneakers and then change to high heeled shoes. I would love to see a shoe transform from a really flat heel to a high heel. Design portable heel. And comic, asymmetric shoes.

Also shoes with too much adornment, are considered ridiculous.

Sneakers_4_cr

Sneakers_5_cr
Evolution of a sneaker; from regular to comic

What made you become a philosopher, is this a decision you made at a young age, or was it a personal development which evolved out of other events and disciplines in your life?

Growing up, I was trained as a classical pianist, I loved composing music and also loved mathematics. When I became 17 I wanted to study in the academy but had to choose between my two loves – music or mathematics. I felt sad, I had a tragic feeling because of this.  At the age of 17 I found at our home books written by Plato, Victor Frankl, those books helped me at the time.

I chose mathematics and added philosophy.

Then I continued to study Philosophy of Mathematics.

And then philosophy.

Music has stayed my great love as a hobby, so it has been taken outside of the stress of career.

I chose the radio program because I could incorporate music, experiment with music to see how it helps to digest philosophy. I try to add music that not only relates to what I am talking about, but really helps transcend the conversation to the listener; it is a form of messaging. I put a lot of thought into choosing the music I will play in my radio program, it has the same scope as the words said. Problems are universal, that is why I incorporate music from all parts of the world, of all kind.

Music can help convey abstract ideas – I do not know how much this has been studied.

Music – between two segments of the talk, can distract or it could link to the following segment of a conversation, illustrate what has been said. Music could be like a chapter in the conversation.

Sarawti pinterest_
Sarawati, goddess of music and art, wisdom and learning. Picture from here: Miniture painting of 1880s Indian banknote

Something, or someone, who influenced your work, your cogitation?

When I was a child my best friends were comic books. I think humor accompanied me since then and influenced the way I wanted to bring philosophy to the public.

Another influence on my way was Prof. Josef Agaai. I studied with him from my first year in Tel-Aviv university and through to my Ph.D. which he mentored.

Agasi encouraged me to do what had started to evolve in my work; a practical point of view on philosophy, linking philosophy to our day-to-day lives.

These two powers, two qualities – humor and practicality – were my best guidance and influences.

 

Did you get the sense of humor from your surroundings, or was it something more innate?

There was a lot of humor in our home

We traveled all over the world, my father was an ambassador and being the only child made me develop a deep inner world, it encouraged me to use my imagination.

 

If you were not a philosopher, what would you be, which profession would you have chosen along the way?

Composer, mathematician, sexologist. I would be happy dancing in a club as a go-go girl. Dance makes me the happiest in the world, I dance at home.

I think life should be celebrated!

Gianluca-Tamburini_scilla
Sandals for a go-go dancer?! “Schilla” by Gianluca Tamburini, summer 2012

I took the long way via philosophy to prove that through the tragic sense of life, a better, revealing, healing, humorous way can arise; the short way for me was dancing and singing. I love to evolve arts, poetry, FERFORMING but it would not have satisfied me because my intellectual side would have been neglected. So it was a challenge, how to combine different loves and interests. A good example of how to arrange your life and existence is shwarma, yes, the food – how by putting everything around one center, we create life, clarity, harmony. For me it was philosophy that created this center around which I could arrange the questions of life, dilemmas, emotions. It still is.

 

If there was one question for which you could choose to receive a clear definite answer, what would it be?

Does God exist?

 

The interview ended. I was left with many inspiring thoughts and ideas; how could I create comic shoes? Perhaps I should scribble a few “amusing pump shoes” or “funny sneakers”? and what if one day I would want to turn these sketches into a real shoe, to create a sample = what will it take?? I guess the shoe would consist of some very unusual patterns and would require the loving work of an open minded pattern maker with hands of gold.

I also had the urge to sketch shoes that gradually become comic. I wonder where along the line the shoes start looking comic to you, where does this magic begin?

 

 

About Prof. Lydia Amir;

Lydia Amir is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the College of Management Academic Studies, Rishon LeZion, Israel, Visiting Professor at Tufts University, Boston, USA, and Researcher at the Institute of Advanced Humanistic Studies, Hubei University, Wuhan, Hubei, China. Apart from many articles and essays on the history of philosophy, ethics, practical philosophy and the philosophy of humor, she is finalizing her sequel to her 2014 monograph, Humor and the Good Life in Modern Philosophy: Shaftesbury, Hamann, Kierkegaard (Albany, NY: SUNY Press), calledLaughter and the Good Life: Montaigne, Nietzsche, Santayana. She co-edited an anthology on Practicing Philosophyfor Cambridge Scholars Press. She is the Founding-President of the International Association for the Philosophy of Humor, the President of Joyology, and the editor of The Israeli Journal of Humor Research: An International Journal. She is a certified philosophical practitioner and airs a weekly radio program, “Diotima” on philosophy in everyday life www.106fm.co.il