Bezalel Academy’s Annual “Dead Sea Seminar’ Brings Students Back to Basics to Hone their Crafts, Deepen Artistic Skills
For the 14th straight year, the Department of Industrial Design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem (www.bezalel.ac.il) hosted their annual departmental Dead Sea Seminar, entitled “Low-Tech Design at the Lowest Place on Earth,” which featured a series of hands-on workshops highlighting the beauty, functionality and social and cultural importance of “making,” creation via traditional, low-tech techniques.
From December 13-14, over 180 students, exchange students and alumni pitched tents at the Neve Midbar Beach on the northern shores of the Dead Sea to participate in an impressive selection of workshops, utilizing traditional craft techniques and natural elements – including wood, metal, aluminum, date branches, bamboo, fire, sand and organic dyes – to develop their skills and create beautiful and functional designs. The two-day, hands-on seminar was preceded by a lecture series at Bezalel Academy’s Mount Scopus campus that provided the students with the information and ‘food for thought’ necessary to prepare them for the unique creative experience.
“In the academic setting, it’s often difficult for designers to find opportunities to experiment with hands-on crafts, push the boundaries of their own creativity, and tap into their artistic intuition without the constraints of the formal design process,” said Galit Maoz, Coordinator of Bezalel Academy’s Industrial Design Department, as well as the organizer of the Dead Sea Seminar. “This annual seminar physically relocates our students to the shores of the Dead Sea, to a ‘sandbox’ where they can learn the importance of both careful planning and improvisation and allow their hands to lead the creative process. By bringing them back to the basics, we facilitate the highest form of creation at the lowest point on Earth.”
The annual seminar challenges Bezalel Academy’s Industrial Design students to expand their artistic repertoires and deepen their understanding of traditional craft techniques, including blacksmithing, basket weaving, sculpting wire into three-dimensional forms, casting aluminum in a sand mold, firing glass beads, carving spoons out of wood, painting fabrics with dyes from vegetables, roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood, and creating utensils, furniture and flutes from bamboo.
“Our modern world demands a reliance on digital technology, and our students spend much of their time mastering the creative process via computers. While this process is, of course, essential to their growth and success, it is important to us that our students are also afforded opportunities to become ‘makers,’ learning how to craft works of art via the traditional methods,” explained Safi Hefetz, Head of the Industrial Design Department. “We don’t expect them to become masters at everything, but they must have a basic understanding of the creation process in every discipline. Additionally, providing a historical perspective on the product design profession is a crucial part of our students’ education, as it is impossible to taken on the responsibility of creating objects for everyday use without a sense of history.”
Choni Beigel, a recent Industrial Design graduate from Bezalel Academy and member of the department’s praxis program, adds that the Dead Sea Seminar also provides an important break from the intensity of the academic year, an opportunity for stress-free creativity just prior to exams and presentations, and a platform for socialization and collaboration between students and between students and instructors.
“When we are at the Dead Sea, the artificial barriers that exist between students break down entirely. Our disciplines and year in school no longer matter, and we find it much easier to connect with one another,” says Beigel. “The beautiful surroundings and informal framework encourage us to work together and ask each other questions, the kind of questions that help us decide who we want to be as designer and how we want to redefine true Israeli design.”
Bezalel Academy’s annual Dead Sea Seminar was the brainchild of the late Prof. Ami Drach, former Head of the Industrial Design Department. Since Prof. Drach’s sudden passing in 2012, the seminar has been dedicated to his memory. “Low-Tech Design at the Lowest Place on Earth” is a requirement for all Industrial Design students, who participate for four straight years as part of their degree
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