It’s no secret that Textile has been one of my greatest discoveries since starting my DesignBreak journey almost five years ago…
Back than I knew nothing about it, but little by little I discovered so many young talented designers, who make this tiny Israeli scene much more exciting let alone beautiful and vibrant. Michal Fierstein and Roni Yeheskel who graduated from Shenkar College just last year and were among my favorite decided to take a leap of faith and jump start their very own textile story, their Swift story.
These two aren’t afraid of hard work or getting their hands dirty. Super dirty. They hand dye, print and sew each and every fabric that goes under their hands and the outcome is oh-so-pretty. The girls have such a talent for turning minimal black and white lines into a truly one of a kind creation. As you probably guess, I’m especially in love with their line of towels. Yep, black and white all the way.
But enough about me, let’s hear what Michal and Roni have to say about their brand new journey. Girls, take it away!
I’d love to hear about your journey, how it all began.
Roni: Michal (29) and I (28) studied together Textile Design at Shenkar College, just graduated last summer. We connected on our second year when each student is given a different textile specialization, and we both ended up in weaving class. Weaving is a traditional technique, requires planning and accuracy, and has it’s demanding frame limits. The challenge is to exceed those limitations and to create a new form from an ancient technique, through design. During the third year we got to work on a small project together, and already then I knew that someday we will collaborate again. I was happy to find out it was sooner than later. Michal: I was too! Each of us has a different thinking process, but our aesthetics are close enough so that they can connect clearly together. Handcrafting is an important and main principle in Swift, it’s important to us to be in control on one hand, and letting nature do its thing on the other. Also a handmade process creates one-of-a-kind pieces, so each of them is uniquely different.
Where do you live, what do you like about it and how does it affect your creations?
We both moved to south Tel Aviv just recently. This area stimulated the will to create in us, now that we live right next to all the suppliers and tradesmen. This city’s tempo is what motivates us the most, making us keep up and create as fast as things happen here. Even though we both came from cities in central Israel, Tel Aviv is the closest we have here to what goes on in other places in the world, and it really is close.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of being an Israeli based designer?
First of all, our roots are here. When you are grounded somewhere, it will bring good things out of you, makes you feel secure and comfortable. Israel is also a fusion of cultures, which allows naturally to combine different aesthetics, to merge east and west and to put tradition into modern design.
Of course there are also disadvantages. Unfortunately, the Israeli textile industry is disappearing, and so do the suppliers. In addition, Israel is a small country full of extremely talented people, which flood a limited consumer market with a large group of designers. This also creates a healthy competition and an obligation to stay focused.
I’d love to here about the collaboration between the two of you. How does it work and who does what?
Each of us took on a role in quite a naturally way. Michal already got to know a lot of people in the field, which made her our PR person. She also had some experience in producing and selling her own designs. Roni is a more practical (and organized :) person, and now is in charge of the administration parts, and also on the internet issues.
In terms of design, we are much more equals. Each of us has her own characteristics but eventually we speak the same aesthetic language, willing to give and take criticism and to learn from each other. Creating in a pair is a big advantage. It means we share the loads, encourages each other and it makes us much more obligating to our work.
What led you towards opening your own studio right after finishing design school? Did you consider working for others first?
Roni: The truth is that opening an independent business right after school was the last thing I thought will happen, but you can never really anticipate how things will turn out in the design field. When Michal offered me to join her it just felt right. Besides, creating freely is something I wish for every designer out there.
Michal: Independency is always important for me when it comes to creativity. While studying I already opened a small brand and when school was over it happened naturally. Of course there is always the question- Is this right as a first step? But experience is the best teacher.
What makes you different from other Israeli designers?
Our brand is one of a few here that creates home and fashion textiles, we believe the line between them is getting blurry. Textile is our set of tools to answer and solve aesthetic and practical needs. Textile thinking, is in the microscopic details like the compound of a thread, which eventually affects the quality and sustainability of the final product. This is the way we think and create each item, from the smallest detail to the final result.
Which materials do you work with?
Of course it depends on the product. If it refers to the body, we will make sure the textile will be natural and pleasant. If the product refers to home, then the resistance of the textile is important. There are more important parameters we take into consideration, such as weather and laundry resistance. Synthetic textile is also an option, when it fits. As textile designers we know that the technological progress can result in amazing synthetic products, and we are not afraid of it.
Can you describe your work process?
It starts with an inspirational concept, leading to patterns and motives we abstract and also to the technique we will use. Then comes the part when we look for a product within the textile and soft world. Texture and feel are main principles when we search for materials to create from. It is also important for us that the products will be complementary to each other, connected in material and technique wise.
What does a normal day in your life look like?
As of this moment we are both combining “Swift” with day jobs. In a matter of fact the pressure and intensity are making us work more effectively, even during abnormal working hours. A Swift-day usually begins with a foot trip to Nahalat-Binyamin Street (the textile suppliers street in central Tel Aviv). On the go, we never skip the coffee and the grumble about the dishes our partner left in the sink. We continue to buy some textile dye materials or different work tools for that day’s project and then we head up to one of the apartments to get started. The choice of which house to work in, depends mostly on Tony (Michal’s dog) and what kind of Zen we need to be in. We boil some water, fill the pots with dye materials, and off we go!
Is there anything in particular that fuels your creativity as a designer?
We thought about it for a moment and agreed that what fuels our creativity is the aesthetics we are drawn to. For us, if we find in nature incredibly geometric and symmetric creations, that will arouse curiosity on and motivate us to create. Technique is also a stimulus for our creativity, especially if it’s one we don’t have experience in or a bit out of our comfort zone.
Are there any up and coming designers that you like at the moment?
Of course! There are AndreyAndShay, two industrial designers, which also just graduated from the Shenkar College. Their brand is about small leather products, very aesthetic. We love it!
Also there are a few non-local designers we got to know and appreciate through our Etsy activity, such as Marlene Huissoud. A French-London based textile designer, who designs amazing printed silk scarves.
What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting out?
Never use a Stanley knife off the cutting mat… Though the day we spent together at the E.R. was quite funny!
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
The fact that we have creative freedom, and also that the feedback is immediate, even if it’s negative you learn so much from it!
What’s next? What is your dream?
The dream is to open a studio and never stop handcrafting. Collaboration is something we believe in, with hands that work with different materials the same way we work with textile. Our wish is to collaborate with both local and foreign designers. Another dream is traveling to places around the world that manufacture and creates textile, learn new techniques, get to know new materials and go beyond textile. We both enjoy challenges and look forward to the next adventure…