I grew up in Haifa at the time when the neighborhood was still surrounded by much nature; pine groves with carpets of cyclamens, anemones, and crocuses. I would spend hours roaming the slopes of Mount Carmel, observing animals and plants and unearthing new paths in the woods. Nature became my first muse, my main source of inspiration, connection and refuge.
Art was the second passion. From a young age I loved to draw and sculpt, handle materials, paints and adhesives. These two passions, to create and to be in nature, still inform my life and often coalesce.
It is out of this combination that the ornamental gourds art was born.
My life path took me to the faculty of art at Beit Berl College and to the faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University. It lead me to work with landscape architects and with film and TV productions.
The work on set designs proved an essential instructive experience. There I learned diverse techniques of painting, Styrofoam sculpturing and photo sets. I moved through the range of the art department positions, acquiring multitude skills and eventually becoming artistic director of productions..
A six months travel adventure in Brazil, including four on a yacht in the Amazon, was the basis of the life change I was to make. I decided to withdraw from production work and while continuing to do what I love, I would only do so outside the studios. . .
Another decision was to return to live in Brazil sometime in the future.
I returned to Israel, settled in Jaffa and began to paint. I painted everything; walls, doors, frames, old and new furniture.
As an autodidact I continued to learn, experiment with and master various techniques of painting, plaster textures and different materials such as gold leaf and copper.
Eventually this work evolved into a small business named “the Decoration Committee” which provided decorative painting services and consultation to architects, designers as well as individual clients.
In 2002 I closed the studio and went traveling again. I concentrated in particular on India and Brazil where I finally settled down in 2008. I bought a piece of land in Coité, a small settlement in the State of Ceará , the Northeast region of Brazil. I built a guesthouse that I named Aldeia Coité (the Coité village) which functioned as a small temporary “refuge from civilization” for travelers. All my previously learned skills were reflected in the planning, design, landscaping, gardening, painting, sculpture and product design of the place. In addition, these skills were augmented by newly learned “green” local practices of using wood, mud, straw, bottles and palm leaves for the construction of the living spaces and other buildings.
5 years later I moved to Arrial D’ajuda, a village on the shores of the Atlantic ocean in the Brazilian State of Bahia. A meeting with an Italian architect followed by my return to design and paint work. She gave me my first small project in the village, and consequently other projects materialized including designing a Mexican club/restaurant
In 2014 I returned to Israel and settled in Pardes Hana.
What are ornamental gourds?
Ornamental gourds are the dried fruit belonging to the Cucurbitacea plant family which is characterized by either trailing or climbing tendril-bearing vines. Native to Africa the gourd has been cultivated in multitude of places in the world (known as קרא in Hebrew, as نبات قرع in Arabic, cabaça in Portuguese, calabash in many African languages). There are several dozen varieties of this plant with different shapes and size. When the fruit dries up it becomes hollow and hardens like wood and is used for various purposes such as musical instruments, storage containers or fixtures.
How did it all began?
I came upon gourds when I was living in Northeastern Brazil. One day a local fellow came by on his way to work in the field carrying a gourd that served as a water canteen.
It dawned on my that the creative possibilities of gourds may be endless. At the time I was looking for an idea for making lampshades for my house and the solution was right in front of me. By the following day I already owned a few gourds into which I punctured hundreds of tiny holes following a pre-drawn design. That became my first series of ornamental gourd lighting fixtures. The work filled me with joy and enthusiasm that only increased when the fixtures were connected to electricity creating magical atmosphere in every corner where they hung.
Subsequently I also used coconut shells as well as coité gourds. Coité is a fruit native to tropical areas of South America who have traditionally been used in various ways; some Amazonian tribes use it as drinking and food vessels. .
Experimenting with different natural materials for my designs I also used the scales of the Pirarucu a giant fish of Amazonian rivers and lakes.
How to make a lampshade?
In my case observing a gourd for a while cases ideas, forms and images to arise. These are very individual and thus lead to the finish product to indeed be a unique art work. The process of making the lampshade includes cleaning of the gourd inside and out, drawing, cutting, drilling, grinding, painting, varnishing, and finally installation of electric power.
Are they fragile?
Like any other glass or porcelain house object, the gourds are durable and with adequate use will last for many years.
Amir finds inspiration in many different objects and in the mired sources of color in the environment such as markets, clothes in stores as well as blossom in nature.
What do we look at, what do we see when we travel, or when we simply arrive at a new place?
Amir’s eyes have a fixed “policy”: They always search for colours scanning them like an expert hunter.
Internalizing the colours endows him with the base from which to define and comprehend, in his personal way, the essence of the place and interpret it in terms of design, humanity and nature.
Indeed Amir’s love of and connection to nature and colours is reflected in all the work he creates, be it for architectural or interior designers.
In his travels, whether he goes for a spin to the local store or far away to the southernmost of the American continent, he does not allow himself to ignore or turn a blind eye to common, everyday the elements on his path: architecture, light and shade, texture, etc. He photographs these elements and studies his images, then assimilates and implements what he had observed into his artistic design.
An important aspect of Amir’s work is inspired by the process of aging, of decay. He succeeds in bringing to bear the beautiful and fascinating process of temporarily which is present in any object or environment. This inspiration leads him to create art that gives the impression of movement on a time plane, a design that gives an emotional expression to time moving toward extinction. The results are beautiful; Windows and doors with peeling paint, rust and iron coalescing in space, a faded wood piece resting calmly in a structure, these are just some examples of the time elements that inspired Amir.