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Creatives in Berlin - Itamar Yehiel

November 02, 2022

As I was walking from my car to the Cafe where the current exhibition of Itamar Yehiel was showcased, I realized that the last time that I interviewed anyone in person was before we moved to Berlin, meaning over 4 years ago. And boy, did I miss it! Sitting down with interesting people, talking about art, design, architecture, entrepreneurship, life in Berlin, and life in general, is really one of my favorite things.

As I told Itamar and his work and life partner Shir, his work spoke to me immediately. It is so delicate and relatable, thought-provoking and highly sensitive, artistic and yet could very easily fit in many different spaces. Itamar and Shir are travelers and entrepreneurs, and in Berlin they went on a journey to explore their passion for the craft of embroidery and make it their own

Ginkgo Branch in Autumn by Itamar Yehiel
Ginkgo Branch in Autumn by Itamar Yehiel

What do you do in 5 words or less?

Contemporary three-dimensional embroidery.

And in a little more detail -

I am a self-taught artist and my work combines thousands of years of embroidery traditions with different techniques, some of which I developed myself, all to create a new and contemporary language of three-dimensional embroidery pieces. Each piece tells a personal and cultural story, using natural objects as inspiration. I find that nature is global and relatable, and I use it as another form of vocabulary to create a representation that evokes different emotions and feelings.

Decay by Itamar Yehiel
Decay by Itamar Yehiel

My piece Decay, for example, depicts two sticks on different stages of the decay process. It’s small in scale but represents large concepts such as life and death, as new life is already emerging from the sticks in the form of fungi and mold. The entire natural cycle is represented by this specific snapshot. People find it very moving and see themselves in it. For instance, a couple who were expecting their first child saw it and immediately expressed their desire to add a third stick to the piece, because they could see their future family in it.

In general, I portray the aging, dismantling, decaying and rotting processes in nature, and not so much the blossoming and growing. I find it aesthetically appealing, and relate to the idea of accepting those difficult changes as a natural part of life. That said, I believe that every depiction of a part of this course, contains and represents the cycle as a whole.

Turkey-Tail Mushroom by Itamar Yehiel
Turkey-Tail Mushroom by Itamar Yehiel

Another aspect of my work concerns the common perception of embroidery as a craft, while I consider it art and treat my pieces as such. Traditionally, this was a craft carried out mostly by women, who created napkins, tablecloths and other objects for the home. I treat my pieces as fine art - I frame them behind glass, in white minimalistic picture frames, with passe-partout, and also create an illusion that the piece is hovering inside. All of that plays a role in the story that I am trying to tell.

Tell us a bit about your professional journey, what led you to do what you do?

Along with my partner Shir, I traveled the world and lived in different places for over a decade. We were always fascinated by traditional crafts and cultures and visited local markets and museums, but still haven't done it professionally ourselves. Embroidery was always a part of our lives. Both my mother and Shir's grandmother, who were and are very significant parts of our lives, did embroidery. During our travels, we noticed how global this craft is, and how different cultures have been using it for thousands of years as a storytelling platform. During our travels, we used to carry with us fabrics and threads so we could embroider our experiences, just like a journal.

Mossy Pebble by Itamar Yehiel
Mossy Pebble by Itamar Yehiel

Only when we arrived in Berlin three years ago, I started experimenting with it professionally. My first project was a combination of embroidery with 3D printing. It was at the beginning of the pandemic and it was a bit too innovative and different. It didn't really take off, but we learned a lot from that experience.

My current project emerged instantly while we were visiting Austria with friends. Beautiful pebbles by the river bank caught our attention, and as we were playing with them and creating different shapes and structures, the thought of making an embroidered pebble came to my mind.

Pebble by Itamar Yehiel
Pebble by Itamar Yehiel

When we got back to Berlin, I started learning, experimenting and exploring materials and techniques. Even though the first attempt wasn't yet polished or refined, it was clear that there was something there. The juxtaposition between the weight of the stone and the lightness of the threads, and the texture that formed, were very interesting to me. I spent hours on the sewing machine, using and developing different techniques to create the hovering effect and three-dimensional shapes. I was overwhelmed by how expressive and esthetically beautiful this technique and medium is, and people immediately responded to it. The pieces resonate with the viewers on different levels - emotional, conceptual and esthetical, and depict many contradictory aspects and principles that I find fascinating, such as traditional and contemporary, stiffness and softness, and beginnings and endings.

Could you share a bit about your relocation to Berlin? When, why, how was the experience?

After a decade in the Americas, we wanted to explore a country that is a bit closer to Israel, our home country. In 2019 we spent a week visiting friends in Berlin and experienced an amazingly vibrant summer. We don't consider ourselves urban people, but we love throwing ourselves into different and challenging situations. The same goes for the decision to pursue art professionally - we've never done it before, but why not give it a try? In both cases, we decided to go all in and see what happens. We reinvented ourselves in every place that we got to, and in Berlin we became artists.

Sandstone by Itamar Yehiel
Sandstone by Itamar Yehiel

Even though we are not big fans of city life, we do really love this city, and we fall in love with it even more the longer we are here.

Berlin itself is a part of my art. The natural objects that inspire my pieces may look like they came from the forest, but in fact I found them on the city streets, sidewalks and the backyard of our building. Except for the pebbles, all the elements originate from the city. My pieces tell the story of contradictions, and this adds another layer of that.

What do you do on your day off?

I take the time to read, study history and archaeology, travel and spend time with my friends.

Mossy Pebble by Itamar Yehiel
Mossy Pebble by Itamar Yehiel

What is an essential tool/instrument for your daily work?

My vintage-made-in-Germany sewing machine. I use a combination of hand stitching with freehand machine embroidery, which is similar to freehand drawing or painting, and is not limited only to straight lines like traditional use of a sewing machine.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently showing at Kunst im Raum until November 26th and participating in a group exhibition titled "the cup up" in Lite Haus Gallery between 3-19/11/2022. On top of that we are preparing for the Christmas art fairs and applying for various art competitions.

Kunst im Raum

Can you share one big dream or aspiration of yours?

To make a living through my art, which is no easy task. I would also like to go bigger in the scale of my pieces and take this technique further. It is already extremely expressive, but I believe there is always room for growth and improvement.

Anything to recommend to our community?

Travel. Always and for as much time as possible. Take a year to explore and really get to know another culture. No book on a country could ever compare to actually living in that place.

Decay by Itamar Yehiel
Decay by Itamar Yehiel

Visit Itamar's website and Instagram account to check out more of his incredible work.

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