Highlighting Atelier S/Z'S designs
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