Design

How Mother Nature inspires this eclectic designer

Ayala Serfaty's bespoke furniture and lighting creations are anything but ordinary.

A Webs light sculpture designed by Ayala Serfaty for her Tel Aviv-based studio Soma. A Webs light sculpture designed by Ayala Serfaty for her Tel Aviv-based studio Soma. A Webs light sculpture designed by Ayala Serfaty for her Tel Aviv-based studio Soma. (Photo: Albi Serfaty)

Internationally acclaimed lighting and furniture designer Ayala Serfaty says her work exists in the space between functional design and art. Just don't try to define that space. The Israel-based designer has a style all her own. She's been profiled by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Her work, part of the permanent collection of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design, is nothing short of a show-stopper.

She recognized a strong desire to pursue art early on. After finishing her first painting at age 16 – an oil on canvas of a ceramic vase with a single red rose – Serfaty says she went into her living room where her parents were sitting and announced that art had chosen her for a calling and a profession. "Art was always present in our childhood," Serfaty tells From The Grapevine. "Both of my parents were enthusiastic art lovers, we had art books at home, and museums were always part of the family weekend hangouts."

The natural world has played a pivotal role for Serfaty, who graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Take Soma 2015, seen above, which is named after a Greek term that describes the human body. It's a piece she created for the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, and appears to be a lighting fixture. But it goes beyond that purpose into a conceptual, sculptural work that was inspired by landscape formations. "Making Soma is a manual, labor-intensive process in the sense that it is made of thin glass filaments that are manipulated with fire one by one, centimeter by centimeter, until the entire volume of the piece is developed," says Serfaty.

The designer says it took several months to create the single piece. "It is very slow, meditative work. The second stage of the process, which is spraying polymer over the glass filaments, is also meditative work."

Before establishing her studio, Serfaty co-founded the lighting and furniture atelier Aqua Creations. Her very first show as a designer featured furniture inspired by underwater life and included a chaise lounge chair covered in sea urchins and a floor lighting fixture, which took the tentacled shape of a jellyfish. Her discoveries snorkeling underwater on vacation at the Red Sea in Israel served as her muse.

A hand-dyed felt seat.A hand-dyed felt seat. (Photo: Ayala Serfaty)

Serfaty's studio is located in the coastal Israeli city of Tel Aviv, conveniently adjacent to her home. Every single piece is created by Serfaty there, along with her staff of four full-time artisans who have worked for the designer for many years. "We have good vibes and energy between us," says Serfaty. "This is important and inspires the work we do. We research and develop the best way to work together. My approach is interwoven with their attitude and skills, and with chance."

Glass aside, Serfaty doesn't shy away from experimenting with other materials, like bamboo and rich silk and wools that she hand-dyes and makes into felt, which she then uses to upholster sculptural chairs and sofas.

These 6-foot-tall floor lights from the Morning Glory collection are made of molded silk. These 6-foot-tall floor lights from the Morning Glory collection are made of molded silk. (Photo: Albi Serfaty)

Serfaty's privately commissioned pieces can run between $12,500 and $375,000. If that's a bit out of budget, her work can be enjoyed while perusing popular museums in New York City and is also available for browsing on her website.

While it's nearly impossible to predict what the designer will do next, we're willing to bet the natural world will remain inherent in her vision and work. "I used to spend many hours looking and studying natural elements, outdoors, in books, in museums, everywhere," Serfaty tells us. "I see myself doing that much less in recent years. It's as if I see nature now in everything."

One of Ayala Serfaty's bespoke lighting designs which are handmade in Italy, and fused and flameworked in Soma's Tel Aviv studio. One of Ayala Serfaty's bespoke lighting designs which are handmade in Italy, and fused and flameworked in Soma's Tel Aviv studio. (Photo: Ayala Serfaty)

Lindsay E. Brown is the managing editor of Eco-Chick, the web’s first ethical fashion, beauty and travel site for women. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, and Cottages & Gardens. Lindsay has been featured as a fashion and beauty expert on the Veria Living Network. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The opinions expressed in blogs and reader comments are those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of FromtheGrapevine.com. While we have reviewed the content to ensure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, From the Grapevine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information.

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