Unspecified 2 2048x2048

Herringbone Paravent

Yael Mer on sprezzatura and ping-pong

So… reacting? I think really the first steps were just survival! You have this hunger and you need to find a route, find a way out, to create, do, produce as much as possible.

Yael Mer

After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2007, Yael and Shay set up a design studio where their imaginations could take flight: furniture, installations, and products began to develop with a strong accent on playfulness and childlike wonder. We displayed their Herringbones series at 10a Thurloe Place amidst Jacques Nimki's 'Florilegium SW7' until October 23rd.

Unspecified 1 grande

Herringbone chairs

Emily Watkins

So, am I right in thinking that 10 years ago you graduated from the RCA, and that was the first time you showed with Brompton Design District?

Yael Mer

That’s right! Although at that time Shay and I were actually showing our work separately, and it was the year after we graduated – 2006 – so we showed in 2007.

EW

When did 'Raw Edges’ begin, then?

YM

Everything kind of happened at the same time. It was when we came back from China, and we already had a studio name. We had the opportunity to participate in an exhibition organised by Martino Gamper; he had an amazing space not far from here, and the name of the show was ‘Gradual’. He wanted everyone to interpret what gradual might mean for them, in terms of design, and we did two projects.

Dsc 0555
EW

So Raw Edges was something that evolved naturally? And you and Shay were already working together?

YM

We met as students in Jerusalem, and then we studied together in London and as part of a team in China. Then we realised we worked quite well together, came back to London and started the conversation about opening a studio, and that’s how it began.

EW

It’s interesting to think about the beginning of partnerships like that. I hope it’s not a cheesy question, but were you looking at the design world at the beginning of your careers and reacting against what you saw? Or trying to emulate aspects of it?

YM

That’s not cheesy. I thought you were going ask what so many people do – ‘what’s it like to be a couple inside the studio, and outside too?’ – which really is cheesy. So… reacting? I think really the first steps were just survival! You have this hunger and you need to find a route, find a way out, to create, do, produce as much as possible. As Raw Edges we are still part of a bigger collective, OKAY Studio, and in the beginning that was a good platform for us. We have a lot of friends who graduated at the same time, and the power of this large group is really important

Dsc 0863
EW

Practically speaking, then, how does the studio function? I don’t mean in terms of you two as a couple! But I wonder if you take on different roles.

YM

So, we’ve worked together officially for nine years, let’s say – or even more. And I think it was sometime last year or maybe the year before that we really found out how we’re supposed to work. It took us a really long time to understand how we were supposed to do it! But there aren’t defined roles as such. I think the basic thing is that I find beginnings easy, and Shay is very good at endings.

EW

Well that’s perfect!

YM

It’s not quite so simple – it’s not like, this is the ‘beginnings department’ and this is the ‘finishing department’-

EW

No, that would be a strange way to run a studio!

YM

-but it’s always a dialogue. We never stop speaking, but it’s rare that we sit and sketch, for example, although we live together. It’s like ping-pong.

There aren’t defined roles as such. I think the basic thing is that I find beginnings easy, and Shay is very good at endings.

Yael Mer
1463666584144
EW

Well, it obviously works very well…

YM

Yes, I’d like to think so. And we very much respect each other’s opinions, although we often get upset.

EW

The Herringbones series, which we’re showing at Plinth, feels playful to me. And I wonder if that’s just the way it looks, like a kind of sprezzatura, or if designing comes as naturally as it appears to. What role does experimentation play in your work?

YM

The process took such a long time, because we switched and switched material until we decided to go back to staining with this almost translucent dye. So we tried a lot of materials, but we had such a strict deadline for the Milan show, 5VIE. Deadlines are so important for us, because otherwise we’d never stop experimenting! So that factored into the decision to return to the stain we were familiar with. But technically speaking, it’s much less complicated than other things we’ve done.

Dsc 0555

I tend to be proudest of the ‘next’ project! It’s like I have no respect for the old, you know? Which sounds terrible. When I was studying, I always thought the younger students were better than the older ones; they have a fresh frame of mind.

Yael Mer
EW

It feels elegant, simple and confident.

YM

It’s the result of layers and layers of research – into particular colours, into particular patterns, into certain qualities of wood and how it reacts to the dye. In a way the research wasn’t just for this project, but ongoing. It began in 2008, 2009…

EW

So like you say, this research has taken years and will feed into every project you ever make. Does this accumulation mean that each project is better than the last? What are you proudest of, over the course of your whole career?

YM

I tend to be proudest of the ‘next’ project! It’s like I have no respect for the old, you know? Which sounds terrible. When I was studying, I always thought the younger students were better than the older ones; they have a fresh frame of mind.

Dsc 0842
EW

Maybe they’re braver?

YM

Yes, it’s not always that way, and to some extent it’s nothing to do with age – it’s this open mindedness. But, having said that, the project before Herringbones, End grain, was so complex, and I think we’re both still very proud of that project. It was amazing to work on, to research, to collaborate on. And in a way, Herringbones came straight afterwards and it was such an easy going kind of project…

EW

I’m interested in who you picture when you’re making something, who you’re making it for… People say, you know, write what you want to read, paint what you want to see…

YM

It depends on the project. If we design a rug for a company, we have a certain idea of the person... The floor is such an important part of a space – somehow we’ve ended up designing lots of floors.

EW

Speaking of floors, where you’re showing at the moment, at Thurloe Place, has a very interesting floor, Jacques Nimki’s meadow. How does it feel to share space with another creative, and how do you feel that setting works for the furniture?

YM

I feel good about it, about group exhibitions. This is a very particular situation because we are displaying on top of someone else’s piece, and I was worried he wouldn’t feel positive about it. Luckily he did, and I think there is something about this combination - somehow it works very well. Although the furniture we made is not for outdoors, the meadow is not an outdoor meadow but an indoor meadow. The colour, the smell is amazing. I think Jacques’ project is fabulous.

Dsc 0898 2
EW

It’s amazing watching people walk past; they come in to take a photo and then they leave again saying, no, actually it’s better through the window because then you can see the context. There is this lovely interplay – Jacques Nimki is definitely thinking about real and aritifical, with the daylight lamps, the fake flowers next to the real ones, artificial turf – and then there’s the furniture pretending to be outside too. It’s like a little joke being shared between your work and his.

YM

Maybe it works because of that simplicity.