Strange things are occupying my mind lately. For a couple of weeks at the start of September I was obsessing over wall sconces. Our new place is in a beautiful early 20th century building but somewhere along the way some seriously ugly wall sconces were installed. I was on the lookout for a suitable replacement, and I gotta say- the options are slim. Well, the options are actually vast, but I wasn’t finding anything even close to what I was looking for. Then, one day I stumbled across the work of Yael Erel and Avner Ben Natan at Lightexture  and fell in love.
The duo (an architect and lighting designer) design beautiful lighting fixtures using found/reappropriated objects as well as ceramics by Sharan Elran. The piece I was initially attracted to was a lamp made using a steamer basket. Their use of kitchen objects continued to things like tea balls and nutmeg graters. For those of us that spend a lot of time in the kitchen it is fascinating to see these objects used in new ways. Not only are they talented designers, they are lovely to deal with and very graciously agreed to answer some questions for me about food and light!
Kitchen objects have made their way into your work, what has attracted you to things like steamer baskets and nutmeg graters?
Avner: I started making lamps from graters and tea balls a long time ago. I like the clear light textures you can create with the perforated stainless steel and I like taking common objects, placed in the dusty back of the brain and using them for a completely different purpose. The steamer baskets have a fantastic iris shape mechanism that got me obsessed. They also cast an amazing array of reflections that change as you adjust the iris. The nutmeg graters are creature like and cute.
Yael: I find it magical to look at things in a new way, and expose unexpected opportunities and personalities. Kitchen objects are specific in their logic and design, which are driven from a set of constraints they need to adhere to. It is interesting to work with a ready-made that specific in use and find that these specificities can transform to new precise discoveries – like reflections, adjusting direct light aperture and pattern, these discoveries were not intended when the object was designed, but are an inherent part of it, waiting to be exposed.
How would you like to see people think about light in their living spaces?
Avner: Not only as a way to chase away darkness, but as a way to create an emotional atmosphere.
Yael: The Mexican architect Louis Baragan said that “Architects are forgetting the need of humans for half-light. A sort of light that imposes a tranquility, in their living rooms as well in their bedrooms. About half the glass that is used in so many buildings – homes and offices – would have to be removed in order to obtain the quality of light that enables one to live and work in a more concentrated manner.” Rather than seeing spaces lit in an even totalizing approach, I think we are looking for light zones as well as dark and semi dark (patterned) zones, to create a balanced and sculpted spatial experience.
Favorite object in your kitchen?
Avner: The tap that gives out hot and cold running water – a miracle.
Yael: A heavy sharp chopping knife.
Favorite restaurant in New York?
Avner: Punjab on Houston st. is not a fancy restaurant, but its the place I most frequently visit. Delicious vegetarian Indian food and excellent chai.
Yael: Mesa Coyoacan
Most memorable meal?
Avner: A simple restaurant in Karnataka, India served us rice with two bowls of sauce: okra and eggplants with tomatoes. It was delicious!
Yael: My most memorable meal was in the beach jungle in Columbia. I was traveling along the Coast and stayed in the house of a German woman, a house filled with pets ( monkeys, dogs, chickens etc) and was a hub for the towns kids. We cooked dinner from a fresh caught catfish cooked in fresh tomato and coconut. We made the coconut milk ourselves through grinding the coconut meat. It was one of the tastiest fish dishes I ever tasted.
If you could invite any five people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be?
Avner: Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Jaques Lecoq and a translator.
Yael: James Turrell, Luis Barragan, David Grossman, Lori Anderson, Constantin Brâncuşi
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
Sweet or salty?
Avner: More sweet than salty although I like a good salty Michilada
Yael: Generally salty. Exception – obsession with dark chocolate.
Thanks to Avner and Yael for solving my lighting dilema, and for making such beautiful and inspiring things! (and for the use of the photos in this post)
I am off to NYC for a bit. I’ll be updating Twitter on a regular basis and recipes will continue next week when I tell you all about a very delicious Gâteau Breton I made this week…