Raw in motion

Up and coming Stoke Newington design duo talk about having their work immortalised in a New York museum and their commission for fashion designer Stella McCartney

Under the name Raw Edges, they are emerging as leading designers and have been rushed off their feet over the last year.

Israeli pair, Shay Alkalay and Yael Mer, who live in Albion Road with a studio close by, launched a collection of seats for leading Italian manufacturer Cappellini at Milan’s design week in April – the most important week of the year for designers.

Their next project – ceramic floor tiles which look like paper – will launch at London Design Week in September for Italian company Muttina.

“The problem with this project is we made one tile, but it’s different to imagine how it will look like in a room with the repetition with 40 next to each other – but we really like the randomness, the folded lines you can never control,” said Yael.

“We take paper and fold it as if it was origami, and put plaster on top of it, we don’t think it will be mainstream but hope someone will ask to have it,” she added.

Indeed Stella McCartney snapped up their oak stained parquet flooring design, which replicates a knitting pattern, for her Milan store.

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“You can see the grains of the oak but you have the crazy colours,” said Yael.

Over the last three years the couple, pictured right, have snapped up The British Council Talented Award, iF Gold Award, Dutch Design Award, Wallpaper Design Award 2009, the Elle Decoration International Design Award for best furniture of 2008/09 and the 2009 Designer of the Future Award from Design Miami/ Basel.

They are honoured their designs have been placed in the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, as well as London’s Design Museum, and they are currently working in production with manufacturers Cappellini, Established & Sons and Arco.

The duo, both 34, found it hard to find jobs in Israel after finishing their BAs in art design, so decided to complete a masters at Kensington’s prestigious Royal College of Art – after getting married.

“It’s obvious Israel isn’t a design capital, you can only design shampoo bottles if you stay there,” said Shay.

Their official collaboration after graduating three years ago, therefore began after many years of sharing life, thoughts, ideas and everything in-between.

They found that during their time at college they were always very much involved in each other’s work, brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other, and claim they would get bored working alone.

“It’s always good when you are doing the design process to have someone from the outside to be involved, to look at it with fresh eyes and have comments about it,” said Yael.

“We like to push each other’s ideas as wide and deep as possible.”

It’s not a 9-5 kind of job, and some days they work through the night, while others they will just have a coffee and chat for hours.

They are always trying to invent something novel, and their ‘floating drawers’, called Stack – which is in the New York Museum – is indicative of this.

The idea behind Stack, pictured left, was to create an illusion of floating boxes where the drawers open both ways, and the structure is hidden.

Yael says their stool (pictured), called Tailored Wood, which launched at Milan’s design week, has linked two previously unconnected materials.

Usually veneer is used to cover solid wood surfaces, but they have used it as a structure itself, creating a 3D shape with the veneer then filling it with constructive foam, which expands.

First shown two years ago at Covent Garden’s Aram Gallery, it was seen in its early stages by Giulio Cappellini and has become a production piece within the pioneering manufacturer’s collection.

“I think when you see it, it looks like a solid piece of wood and people would imagine it’s been carved by a machine, but then you lift it and it’s light,” said Shay.

“In our work we are trying to be playful and simple and want to bring a smile to whoever’s going to use it, so they will be happy.”