words Johanna Agerman
Raw-Edges is filing its taxes. “Sometimes I wish we could just exhibit this, with the amount of time it takes us,” says Yael Mer, one half of the London-based design studio. She gestures towards the receipts and forms piled up on a desk in a corner of the bright and airy space the practice occupies as part of design collective OKAY Studio. The stacks of paper could almost be part of one of Raw-Edges’ projects. Pieces like Tailored Stools and Volume are made up of paper patterns stitched together to form a 3D structure, which is then filled with polyurethane that expands and sets to create a solid shape.
Raw-Edges, which consists of Mer and husband Shay Alkalay, has existed on paper for about a year, but the couple have been collaborating since they met at the Bezalel Art and Design Academy in Jerusalem in 1998. “We were always very involved in each other’s work and solving each other’s dilemmas with suggestions and ideas,” says Alkalay. After Bezalel they applied to the Design Products Masters at the Royal College of Art, from which they graduated in 2006.
Mer and Alkalay’s differing skills and interests complement each other well. While Mer is preoccupied with folding and creating 3D shapes from flat materials, Alkalay is interested in how their work functions technically and mechanically. It sounds like the cliche of what could be labelled feminine and masculine practices, something they are both aware of. “We like to keep those interests quite clear and push it as far as we can,” says Mer.
Raw-Edges has received a lot of attention since Alkalay’s Stack was produced by Established & Sons and presented in Milan earlier this year. This exceptionally tall set of drawers lacks an outer frame, giving the unit a shape that constantly varies as the drawers move. The piece is a more colourful and smooth-running version of one they presented in an exhibition with Martino Gamper during the London Design Festival last year.
“The surprising thing about the collaboration with Established was that it was a very simple process, because in a way it stayed almost exactly how it was although they made a better product out of it,” says Alkalay. The duo’s first taste of commercial success was followed by the small cabinet Pivot, now produced by Arco in the Netherlands. It also looks like the bent plywood stools they are currently developing for a show with the rest of OKAY Studio, for the Aram Gallery in September, will go into production shortly.
Despite Raw-Edges’ achievements, its course hasn’t always been straightforward. “It is not easy for designers who graduate from the RCA to find a job,” says Alkalay. “Ron Arad [head of Design Products at the RCA] is really proud of making unemployable designers, so it pushes you to survive and to develop your own projects.” But survival doesn’t feel like an appropriate word when describing the studio’s first year. Conquering seems a better choice.