Esther Rausenberg, Eastside Arts Society’s artistic and executive director. (photo by Adam P.W. Smith)
The Eastside Arts Society welcomes art enthusiasts to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Eastside Culture Crawl Visual Art, Design & Craft Festival in-person and online over two consecutive weekends, Nov. 12-14 (preview by appointment) and Nov. 18-21. The event’s landmark edition will offer arts patrons an enhanced opportunity to fully customize their experience and visit the studios of 400+ artists.
“As we look back on the past 25 years of the Eastside Culture Crawl, we are incredibly proud of the strong, resilient and inspiring visual arts community we have helped to support,” said Esther Rausenberg, artistic and executive director of the Eastside Arts Society, who is a member of the Jewish community.
“Through our annual Culture Crawl celebration,” she said, “we have not only boosted the careers and livelihoods of countless artists who enrich our city through creative vitality, but we have provided an essential outlet for the public to experience artistic expression and creative connection. The 25th annual Culture Crawl presents a special opportunity to acknowledge, pay tribute to and showcase the extraordinary talents and accomplishments of the visual arts community, while looking forward to an even brighter future ahead with the development of the Eastside Arts District.”
To maximize the Crawl experience and open accessibility for all patrons in Metro Vancouver and beyond, the Eastside Arts Society has created further improvements to its digital presence, including a newly designed and user-friendly website, an artist livestream schedule, appointment booking software and increased access to artists through 360° virtual studio tours.
For those visitors who wish to attend in-person, the Culture Crawl features two options. Based on overwhelmingly positive feedback from 2020, when studio appointment bookings were created for the first time, this year’s event will once again provide a preview weekend Nov. 12-14, reserved for appointments only, cultivating an intimate, interactive experience for both artists and guests. For those Culture Crawl enthusiasts wishing for a more traditional event experience, open studios will return for the event’s main weekend Nov. 18-21.
The Eastside Culture Crawl presents unparalleled access to visual artists practising a variety of different art forms, including painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, jewelry, glass art, furniture, and more. Visit culturecrawl.ca for all the festival details.
Albi Serfaty with the Lucky Lamp. (photo from Aqua Creations)
When Renee Switzer launched the SwitzerCultCreative showroom in 2016, she was adamant that they include pieces by Israeli furniture and lighting designers, giving them a Canadian stage exclusive to Vancouver.
“I visited the New York showroom of Aqua Creations in 2015, and their designs completely blew me away,” said Switzer of the Israeli brand. “The same with Hagit’s [Pincovici] furniture, that reflect beautiful craftsmanship made in Italy and have never been seen here before.”
Together with her son, Adam Bellas, and daughter, Jennifer Wosk, the third generation of a legacy begun by their grandfather in the 1960s, Switzer is delving into modern, high-end furniture collections for Vancouver interiors.
It’s impossible to look at Aqua Creations’ lamps, lighting installations and furniture without feeling a sense of wonderment. The urge to curl up in the enveloping Gladis Lounge Chair in the SwitzerCultCreative showroom is overpowering. When co-founder Albi Serfaty heard my confession, he laughed in agreement. “This is what art is all about,” he said, Skyping from his home in Tel Aviv. “There must be this emotional connection, both for me as a designer, because I’m passionate about my work, and hopefully from our pieces as interior décor in a home, a restaurant or hotel.”
What began in 1994 as a small atelier in Tel Aviv is now a global brand with an Aqua Creations showroom in New York and their lighting installations worldwide, including 1 Hotel, Brooklyn; Savoy Hotel, Seychelles; and Hotel Okura Fukuoka, Japan.
As a photographer and designer, Serfaty re-interprets organic forms and abstract sea life into lighting and furniture. Morning Glory Floor Lamps, in silk over metal, when illuminated, seem to take on an otherworldly beauty all their own. Collections since 1994 show a definite evolutionary progression, with current geometric shapes like the Simon Says Yes Pendant, part of Aqua Creations’ Mino Collection. Whether as a singular hanging pendant or grouped together as colourful wall mounts, as shown in the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, they add a sculptural yet functional addition to interiors.
If you can imagine thousands of magnified neurons under a microscope, you will see the genesis of the Mimosa Collection. Composed of laser-cut galvanized metal, sprayed with clear polymer, the hand-sculpted shades transmit a dreamy, calming light.
The Lucky Lamp wall fixtures are Serfaty’s newest iteration, using groundbreaking technology in which each sustainable and dimmable light is controlled by a micro-computer that alters colour, motion and intensity.
“I’d love to collaborate in the future with a fashion designer like Missoni,” confided Serfaty, “and, at some point, build a place that combines home, work and studio in one location.” He added, “I’m like a sheep dog in that way – I like everything together.”
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When Hagit Pincovici was a little girl in her grandparents’ atelier in Tel Aviv, she remembers the exhilaration of playing with and running between colourful sheets of Plexiglass that would eventually be moulded into trays, frames and furniture by her artisan grandparents.
“When my grandfather left Romania for Israel, he brought the recipe for making Plexiglass and I remember it was a kind of paradise looking through all the colourful pieces,” said Pincovici, now third-generation maker, in a Skype interview while she was visiting Tel Aviv.
It’s not entirely coincidental, then, that her multi-hued Art Deco-inspired furniture evokes a modern twist on a bygone era. Pincovici’s From Above Coffee Table from the Eclipse Collection is a geometric Carrara marble “moon” integrated into an abstract path of black shadow and coral sun in lacquered wood on a brushed brass base. Flamingo Storage Side Table, also from the Eclipse Collection, is a stunning sculptural platform perched atop stilt-like legs inspired by its namesake; a secret compartment rotates out to store jewelry, if placed in a bedroom, or becomes a handy bar for drinks, sure to spark conversation in the living room. The Metaphysics Sideboard is Pincovici’s take on elegance. The blue and black lacquered geometric wood console designed at multiple heights is mounted on brushed brass and immediately recalls the glamour of the 1920s and ’30s. “I love the thin minimalist lines just bordering on the decorative,” she explained.
After working her way up as head of product development for Aqua Creations in Israel and organizing their exhibition at the annual Salone del Mobile, in Milan, Pincovici decided to relocate to Italy, “where I fell in love with the Italian spirit of creativity,” not to mention her husband, Fabrizio Checchi.
She opened her own design studio in the furniture district of Brianza in 2014, where she sketches her designs by hand. The furniture is made with traditional craftsmanship and sold internationally. When not working on her first collection of lighting, Pincovici is also an instructor at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti) in Milan.
“You know, we [Israeli] designers are like chameleons,” said Pincovici. “I don’t think we share a common style but we do share that drive to create and, in Italy, they really appreciate that approach.”
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London-born Eli Chissick of Chissick Design is waxing poetic about wood. Skyping from his home-studio near Tel Aviv, the award-winning designer is concerned about the environment, recycling and products that will increase the mobility of people with disabilities.
Unlike the vast forests found in Canada, trees are not harvested for the lumber industry in Israel and wood is usually imported. That forces the industrial and product designer to be ingenious about scavenging off-cuts and repurposed wood from carpentry floors. “It’s a magical transformation when I sort what is usually thrown out, then press it into large sheets from which I create my furniture,” said Chissick.
The results are as sculptural as they are utilitarian. Mosaica, from Chissick’s Wood-Con-Fusion series, is a coffee table (or bench) composed of more than 2,000 intricate puzzle pieces of multi-coloured wood. The Marmelade coffee table is a mouth-watering compote of wood with inlaid lime-, raspberry- and white-striped Formica laminate. It’s built on wheels for easy manoeuvring in any space.
“I’m really excited about working with Renee at SwitzerCultCreative because I’m now able to send my furniture designs created on the computer to her and then have many pieces handmade in British Columbia with the same quality as in Israel,” said Chissick.
Those pieces include the Gradient Cocktail Table, handcrafted from eight types of veneer juxtaposed from light to dark in wenge, imbuia, American walnut, teak, African walnut, anigre, white oak and maple. Mirror 2012, from Chissick’s Wood-Con-Fusion series, is set in a painted and lacquered salvaged wood frame and can be customized in various colours. (It was a 2015 platinum winner at the U.S. ADEX Awards for Product and Project Design.)
He’s also a proponent of TOMS (Tikkun Olam Makers), a global movement of makers who donate their specialties to create solutions for people struggling with a debilitating problem. Over three days, 100 designers, engineers and techies meet with potential users personally then brainstorm in small groups and set to work making prototypes. Chissick has participated in these “Makeathons” in both Tel Aviv and San Francisco, resulting in a walker that allows a person to navigate stairs, a door opener for someone who has quadriplegia, and a digital hand and a high-tech go-cart for a child with disabilities, to name only a few.
Switzer, who has visited Israel several times, is planning a scouting trip there in 2018. “It gives me tremendous personal gratification to showcase such talented makers,” she said.
Laura Goldstein(lauragoldsteinwriter.com) was an arts publicist and writer in Toronto for 22 years before moving to Vancouver. She’s a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail’s design section, Westcoast Homes & Design, Canadian House & Home and Destination BC, among many others. A highlight of her career was covering the Royal Tour in Vancouver last year.
An Eli Chissick-designed mirror, which will exclusively be available from SwitzerCultCreative in November. (photo from SwitzerCultCreative)
You could say Renee Switzer got her love of the furniture business from her grandfather, who arrived in Canada from Poland in 1920 and opened a second-hand furniture store in Calgary. The tradition continued when her father entered the industry, too, with a company specializing in the manufacture of antique reproductions. Switzer worked in the family business until it was sold in 2010. A year later, she launched SwitzerCultCreative, motivated by a desire to create opportunities for Canadian designers.
“I love the furniture industry and the people involved in it, and I wanted to maintain the contacts I’d developed over the years,” she told the Jewish Independent. “After I moved from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast in 2006, I discovered there’s a tremendous amount of homegrown talent that’s hidden away and needed to be developed and promoted, so that’s what I decided to do.”
Switzer builds and maintains business relationships between furniture designers, the craftsmen who create those designs and the clients who purchase the finished product. Her focus is modern, luxurious and sustainable 21st-century designs and her emphasis is on knowing every detail about the products she represents. That includes how pieces are made and finished, what materials are used, who creates and builds those pieces and why they are environmentally sustainable.
Among the collections she promotes is the Coupland Collection by Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland, the Baumhaus Collection by Jess and Nicolas Meyer, the Barter Collection from Kenneth Torrance and the AHRPA Collection created by Umberto Asnago, an Italian furniture designer.
More recently, Switzer was also determined to find an Israeli designer whose work would fit in with the collections she already promotes. “I really believed it was important to try and do something to counteract all the anti-Israel boycotts going on right now, boycotts that are nonsense,” the Roberts Creek resident said.
In an effort to find the right fit, Switzer began reaching out to organizations in Israel, making inquiries about different designers. When she saw the work of Eli Chissick, its high quality and focus on sustainability resonated with her immediately. “His pieces are unique and made primarily from salvaged woods,” she said of the 30-something award-winning designer. “He’s interested in sustainability and, though it’s hard to reduce the carbon footprint of a designer based in Tel Aviv, we are able to do that by making his pieces in North America.”
Chissick is a designer, artist and carpenter who is passionate about environmental sustainability. His latest series of recycled art is called “Wood-Con-Fusion” and each piece within the series began its life as an off-cut on the floor of a carpentry studio, destined for the scrap heap. “Eli is able to see the potential in the most unassuming pieces of fibreboard, veneer and Formica, and nothing goes to waste as he collects and sorts these pieces and presses them into sheets, which he uses to create unique pieces of furniture,” Switzer explained.
Two of Chissick’s designs are presently being manufactured in Vancouver and will be ready in November, licensed exclusively to SwitzerCultCreative. His five-foot mirror will sell for $2,800 and Switzer is confident it will quickly find a home.
Her buyers are primarily interior designers and architects for residential and hospitality projects all over North America through sales representatives with whom she has exclusive relationships and who believe in the products she represents. With no physical showroom in Vancouver, most of Switzer’s pieces are exhibited on her website, switzercultcreative.com. Her company also sponsors an annual design competition for students, where the winner has their design built and marketed for a year by SwitzerCultCreative. “Our aim is to promote unknown talent by providing a launching point for new designers to build their own brands,” said Switzer.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.