Wood veneers glowing in the dark – Interview with Studio Vayehi
Tzuri Gottlieb and Katharina Brand in an exclusive interview reveal the insights of Studio Vayehi from how it started to in-depth knowledge of their designs of light fittings with hand-crafted wood veneers.
Nature-inspired designers Tzuri Gottlieb and Katharina Brand from Israel, owners of Studio Vayehi, bring beautifully handcrafted light objects made from thin slices of wood.
In this interview with Studio Vayehi, the designers narrate a personal story of the brand and how their journey began.
How was Studio Vayehi born?
Tzuri & Katharina: “Studio Vayehi was born out of our desire to collaborate, after working together on two projects and the realization that we made a great team. We are craftspeople, which we know and absolutely love.
We decided that we wanted to turn this love into our lives’ main work, even before knowing what exactly we would do.
Once we saw the amount of scrap veneer discarded by the wood industry, we got the grips of the material quickly and started experimenting with it.
The understanding of light passing through the veneer and enhancing wood’s natural beauty directed us towards light fittings. Two years from that moment the studio became up and running.”
Israel Design Week attracted more than 200 designers and curators to present over 100 new and existing projects. What is the design scene like in Israel?
Tzuri & Katharina: “The design scene here in Israel is still finding its way, and it is continually developing.
As of now, there are many talented makers coming to the fore, reflecting a global trend of return in traditional handwork.
Also, the fact that it is now possible to present creations and products to the world through the internet and to make a living out of it, is something to consider.
There is a large community of designers here, who are well connected and collaborative with each other. Especially with events such as the Jerusalem Design Week and the Fresh Paint exhibition in Tel Aviv were introduced in the Public Forum recently.
These events make the world of design accessible to a wider community which is beneficial in bringing together small places such as Israel.
Also, the Holon Design Museum established around a decade ago, has been successful in drumming up interest amongst designers through exhibitions from Israel and across the world.
For few years, architects and interior designers have been taking it upon themselves to promote local creators and to bring them into public and private spaces with the help of design schools and more and more design galleries on the way.
Moreover, today’s Israeli consumer has higher demands regarding the appearance of where they live and value more on the objects they surround themselves in day-to-day lives.”
What is the experimentation phase like at Studio Vayehi?
Tzuri & Kathrina: “We do not sit in an office and make plans, it’s more like a playground as our showroom is also the studio workshop, full of raw materials and tools.
We ‘play’ with the materials, and that is how we get to know them and their properties.
From the first thought of “this could be something,” our work moves back and forth between us.
When one of us reaches a dead end, very often the other has a different point of view to see a way forward, and that is how the product refinement process happens.
Like drawing, the possibilities are endless, but there is a moment when you realize that adding any more will just take away and that the product is complete.”
The products of Studio Vayehi are inspired by organic forms: how does nature influence your design style and process?
Tzuri & Katharina: “First of all, we are both from rural backgrounds, and the everyday proximity with nature has linked us to it. Its beauty, its wisdom, the movement within it and how it changes.
This certainly influences our choices and the things we do, but there is no conscious decision to create organic shapes.
The other significant thing about the style and process is that we work with wood and we manipulate it quite gently, that the final product is not too far from its original, retaining the organic DNA in its form and character.”
What materials do you use to manufacture your products?
Tzuri & Katharina: “We work almost exclusively with veneer, thinly cut wood.
It’s a material with soul, easy to process, leaves a nice smell in the air in the studio and we enjoy the feeling of touching it.
No wood is identical, not in its hue, its fibers or its attributes, and when it is as thin as veneer it is also fragile. As a result, the lampshades need to be constructed in a way that protects its sensitive attributes.
Every fitting that we build demands special attention and careful treatment. Our challenge is not to force it to do something unnatural, but to keep it alive and breathing.”
Does Studio Vayehi take into account customers’ requests and desires when developing new products?
Tzuri & Katharina: “When we develop new models we work instinctively and intuitively with our individual desires.
However, we are attentive to the way our customers feel and their feedbacks, through which we learn a great deal about our products.
In cases of certain requests such as the need for a light fitting to go over a kitchen island, or the need for a certain size of a lampshade, we will do it.
We must remain open to the needs and desires of our customers because at the end of the day we are designing for them.
On the other hand, we do not create pure custom-made items, as this is a long process, which the customer does not always take into account.
We prefer to focus our time and energy on developing models in a process that allows us freedom and uncertainty.
We do not like to know in advance where we are going, this enables us to be open to discoveries made along the way.”
Who is the target consumer of Studio Vayehi products?
Tzuri & Katharina: “There is a wide variety of people who buy our light fittings, and we do not really know who they all are.
Although, the thing they commonly share is their love for products within the modern world, which says something about humanity in their creation process, products which show the signs of handwork, products which characterize a one-of-a-kind attitude.
People who feel connected to nature and want that presence in their home.
People who care about the environment.
People who are looking for something besides its basic functionalities, which also tells a story.”
What kind of marketing and promotion techniques do you rely on the most?
Tzuri & Katharina: “The channel we prefer is word-of-mouth because there is nothing like a recommendation between friends. It is the most authentic and reliable form of marketing.
Taking part in design exhibitions puts us in direct contact with people: there is nothing like seeing things with your own eyes and creating personal connections.
Relationships with architects and interior designers can lead to long-term collaborations.
Our light fittings can be found in a number of design galleries and lighting stores, which expose our work to a wider and varied audience.
And of course our social media presence, such as Facebook and Instagram.
There is no single channel in which we rely on more than any of the others, and as far as we are concerned they are all essential to the development of our business.”
What is the next step for Studio Vayehi?
Tzuri & Katharina: “The future is intriguing and unknown, and we like to keep it that way :)”