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 🙂

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_Mary Grossman
Presentation at Shenkar; dramatic, beautiful and funny too. Photo by Mark Grossman
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_3
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!

Uncoded Steps Liliput Gulliver shoe design
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

Mary Grossman_Mark_2
Smiling 🙂 Photo by Mark Grossman

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

Uncoded Steps Mary Grossman shoe design Shenkar
Image from Mary Grossman’s website

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

Uncoded Steps Mary Grossman Chess design project Shenkar
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.

Uncoded Steps Mary Grossman Heart design jewelry neckless Shenkar
Image from Mary Grossman’s website
Mary Grossman_1.2
From Mary’s display window; detail
Mary Grossman_4.2
Mary Grossman’s display window

Two windows, two colours which tell so many stories.

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_5
Photo by Mark Grossman
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_2
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

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Liraz Borstain_1
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

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Liraz Borstain_3
Liraz Borstain; technique, materials, design
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Liraz Borstain_2
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

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Maya Shoshan_3
Detail from Mays Shoshan’s display window

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

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Maya Shoshan_1
Photos by Maya Shoshan
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Maya Shoshan_5
Eclectic royalty from the land of legends. Photos by Maya Shoshan
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Maya Shoshan_2
Maya Shoshan’s display window
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Maya Shoshan_4
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.

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Tal Efraim_6
Items from Tal Efraim’s display window. Brass jewelry.
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Tal Efraim_4
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.

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Tal Efraim_2
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

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Tal Efraim_1
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

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry design Tal Efraim_3
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.

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry Hadarling 3
Hadar’s display window; details.
Uncoded Steps Hadar Shragai Jewelry design fashion
HadarLing’s jewelry design. Image by Hadar Shragai
Uncoded Steps שנקר הדר שרגאי עיצוב תכשיטים
Jewerlry degisn, Hadar Shragai. Image by Hadar
Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry Hadarling business cards
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? 😉

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_Adidas

Uncoded Steps Shenkar Jewelry shoes design_Melissa
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 🙂

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Funny or fancy shoes?


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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