On a high school summer break, Orna and I took a trip to Tel Aviv, unchaperoned for the first time. (To the eyebrow raisers: yes, I skipped the Arad Music Festivals and the Kineret bonfires. I’m a late bloomer, what can I tell you.) We booked a hostel at HaYarkon St., and formed a plan to conquer all mandatory sights of the city. Early morning on designated day, excited with sudden independence, we took the 846 bus leaving Carmiel.
While the Walkman played The Joshua Tree, the mountains turned gradually to plain, and the olive and oak trees to billboards and gas stations. Near Glilot we could smell the sea, and admired the morning fog covering the fields. When Where the Streets Have No Name came to a third ending, we reached our destination. Our welcome at Tel Aviv’s old central station included two women, dressed in revealing rags, swaying without balance on the road. An agitated man was berating them from behind for being too slow. We sat on the already hot pavement, and drank some water. Orna mentioned that the bus would shortly be heading back to Carmiel.
On the outskirts of the same old central station in Tel Aviv, among garages and motorcycle shops, resides studio oh, the beautiful studio of Rinat Reuveni and Michal Kagen. This is where the two sisters, a decade between them, create dramatic, minimalistic jewelry. I paid them a visit, and heard their story:
Our journey : A few years ago, after having satisfying careers, we both craved for change, and took a course in Leather Design. After that, Michal learned from YouTube how to knit glass beads into bracelets. Friends started asking for them, and then friends of friends wanted them, and it just rolled from there.
What is it made of : Childhood experience with clay led us to experiment with polymeric clay. It is a relatively easy material to work with, and it can be dried using a domestic oven, so we made some rings and necklaces from it. At some point Rinat wanted to make silver earrings that would look like tattoos, so we approached Itzik, our goldsmith cousin, who gladly complied. To this day, most of our collections are made from these two materials.
Inspiration : As kids we used to collect plants and shards of glass emitted by the sea, so nature was and still is, an endless source of inspiration. Textures of old buildings, and details from architectural projects by Carlo Scarpa or Tadao Ando, excite us. The way artists such as Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth use natural materials, and the imperfect humanity of Egon Schiele’s paintings, keep finding their ways into our designs.
Those who have met Michal and Rinat, know that they are best suited for presenting their art. Their looks, the way they carry their clothes and jewelry, suggest very similar aesthetic. In their creative processes they are, however, quite different. Michal prefers a subtle, clean and accurate design, with a firm inclination towards symmetry. Rinat, on the other hand, appreciates the grander, wilder and more abstract side of things.
Yin & yang : Ultimately, we complement each other. The creative ping – pong defines us. Sometimes one of us will veto a design of the other. Other times we just let go.
Independence : We never imagined that our initial encounter with design would come to fruition as a full – grown business; especially, given that we were both undergoing substantial personal changes while in the midst of the process. Having the independence of self – employment demands creativity, and enables freedom. The freedom to research for new materials, and create jewelry that intrigues us, even at the cost of it turning out to be a commercial failure. Freedom to try, make mistakes, and possibly, at the end, succeed.
It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.
A quote by Madeleine Albright, embraced by Rinat and Michal.
On any given day you choose to visit studio oh, you are likely to hear a Van Morrison song:
When no one steps on my dreams there’ll be days like this
When people understand what I mean there’ll be days like this
When you ring out the changes of how everything is
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this