High­light­ing Ate­lier S/Z'S de­signs

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS - An­nie Keropian-dil­sizian

What be­gan as a pas­sion for designer, Sibylle Tamer Abil­lama, has led to the cre­ation of the charm­ing Gem­mayze­hbased stu­dio, Ate­lier S/Z, and a se­ries of hand­crafted pieces rooted in Le­banese tra­di­tion

The ob­ject that launched Sibylle’s ca­reer, the "WHY-U...Y-ME" wa­ter pipe, has be­come her trade­mark. Although sev­eral orig­i­nal pieces have fol­lowed in­clud­ing the “Why... Not?” teapot ex­hib­ited in Italy and cur­rently dis­played at the In­ter­na­tional Mu­seum of the Ap­plied Arts (MIAO) in Torino, Italy, she is still iden­ti­fied by her wa­ter­pipe cre­ation.

Was the wa­ter pipe the an­swer to Gen­er­a­tion Y’s need for in­no­va­tion and in­di­vid­u­al­ism? Or, was it an ex­plo­ration of leisure, as re­lated to the in­di­vid­ual and so­ci­ety? In fact nei­ther is cor­rect; the an­swer is sur­pris­ingly un­ex­pected. This mod­ern adap­ta­tion of the tra­di­tional shisha was ac­tu­ally the re­sult of decades of con­flict­ing emo­tions over the af­ter­math of the Le­banese Civil War. Watch­ing the grim events un­fold from abroad, her frus­tra­tion and re­sent­ment led to the cre­ation of the "WHY-U...YMe" – de­sign as cathar­sis. “I wanted to rise above the ug­li­ness of war,” she said. “I needed to con­tinue living, con­tinue cre­at­ing.”

Her train­ing took her from Beirut (Académie Libanaise des Beaux-arts) to Paris (Ecole Na­tionale Supérieure des Beaux-arts) by way of New York (Par­sons School of De­sign). Af­ter mov­ing back to Le­banon, Sibylle was en­cour­aged to ex­plore her cre­ativ­ity us­ing what she re­ferred to as the ex­pert hand of the Le­banese ar­ti­san. “My pieces are made in Le­banon to en­cour­age Le­banese pro­duc­tion, even if it might cost more than man­u­fac­tur­ing abroad.”

With a fresh take on ev­ery­day ob­jects from can­dle­sticks and vases, to breath­ing new life into sec­ond hand items like the clutch cheese board and the tire rim ta­ble, Ate­lier S/Z is the per­fect union of mod­ern de­sign and her­itage.

How does your Le­banese her­itage in­spire you?

Be­fore my ca­reer in prod­uct de­sign, I was in­spired to paint the des­o­late build­ings of war in bright yel­lows and reds, so that I would be able to move on from the sad­ness. I wanted very much to re­turn to Le­banon and rebuild, the only way I knew how. Ob­jects like the Mas­tara backgam­mon board and the re­vis­ited rak­weh are a con­tem­po­rary take on a cher­ished tra­di­tion. With the wa­ter pipe, I was try­ing to cre­ate a new lan­guage that would help me get through my frus­tra­tions – the re­sult was clean lines, sharp right an­gles and red Plex­i­glas.

What is your de­sign process?

The ideas are in my head. I have to draw to ex­press my­self. Doors open up dur­ing the process that lead to other de­signs. It takes time to cre­ate, even when I have sev­eral ideas, be­cause I want to be sure of what I’m mak­ing. I’m al­ways search­ing for the best lo­cal ar­ti­sans who can ex­e­cute my draw­ings be­cause the fin­ish­ing is very im­por­tant to me.

How do you think the de­sign scene in Le­banon is evolv­ing?

There are so many de­sign­ers and so much va­ri­ety that we are free to pro­voke the con­sumer as we please. One of my fa­vorite pieces is the teapot, "Why... not?", shaped like a shoe. Peo­ple were shocked at first and un-ac­cept­ing. I was even called crazy. It was only af­ter the piece be­came a fix­ture at MIAO mu­seum in Torino that the public grew to ap­pre­ci­ate it. Some de­signs are still met with hes­i­ta­tion but sen­ti­ments are slowly chang­ing.

Ate­lier S/Z 01 587929, 03 727929 ate­lier-sz.com, Ate­lier-sz Gem­mayzeh, Charles Malek Av­enue, Beirut

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