Raphael Navot is a Paris-based designer who was born in Jerusalem in 1977. He graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands and moved to Paris afterward. For Navot, Paris is the city where he found limitless inspiration, and the city helped him a lot to shape and evolve his art. What distinguishes his works is the way he uses handed-down techniques on raw materials. Essence and the story of the raw material direct his creative process and shape the final product. Thus, products and projects with great uniqueness come to life by his hands. He defines himself as a non-industrial designer because of this creative process. His collaborations with venerable artisans from Europe made quite a name for himself, working as a creative director and interior designer for The Silencio, the private club of David Lynch and the Hôtel National des Arts et Métiers in Paris are some of the several projects that induced him to make a well-respected name for himself.
Settling in Paris was like a turning point in your life for you to evolve your art, what made you decide to settle in there at the first place?
Settling in Paris was a very natural eventuality. It seems that I’ve somehow aimed to live here since I was a child. Maybe because of the sensible urban scape that seems to be devoted to quality, or perhaps it was the opportunities the city offered in the field of ‘savoir-faire’. I have made my internship here with the trend forecasting agency of Li Edelkoort who was also the head of the design academy in Eindhoven where I graduated in 2003.Paris is for me still the capital of craftsmanship. The know-how is alive in its architecture. You can experience it everywhere inits carved Lutetia stone, the zinc and its patina, the oxidised copper sculptures and all these clay chimneys. The artisans are all around France and they preserve and transmit their knowledge. I find it exciting to imagine ways to keep it evolving.
You identify yourself as a non-industrial designer, can you flesh that out?
It is meant to include all other activities I cherish as a designer. I believe that the term ‘industrial’ insinuates a non personal approach or a more practical manner of thinking about design. I find industrial design an entirely different field to mine as its main objective is mostly alongside efficiency and aligning to certain demands.
This is not to say that I object by principle to any industrial manufacturing as I am in favour of democratisation, however I do believe that it is urgent for us to reduce in general the excessive production and ‘humanise’ our demands. I do participate sometimes in ‘grande series’ projects like furniture collections, though I will always try to embed as much as person to person interaction, essential craft and raw materials as I can.
Handed down techniques of craftsmanship constitute the basis of your designs, what is the reason for you to prefer old techniques?
I believe that we are at best when we are surrounded by craft. The industry is still looking for engineered wood, seamless resin marble, stable ceramic patterns and controlled glass in order to obtain uniformity which defines the general ideal of quality. It is perhaps practical.Personally I find it exciting to be able to see the hand of the craftsman or subtle variation between pieces. Errors that echo the true nature of the material behind the form. I do not believe in the term ‘old techniques’ just as much as stone, wood or metal in essence never changed. There is no time attached to a method of craft except the moment it was discovered (or lost). It is very much like any knowledge. It can never be old if it is still actual. The manner in which we treat or mistreat those materials, those assets to our use is what craft is all about, and it can go back or forwards to what we believe is essential to us or to the resources. There are wondrous new technologies and updated craft methods that It end to combine with what might be considered as ‘traditional craft’, however it is merely to suggest that at some point a real person touched that piece and spent attentive time with it.
You have achieved many collaborative works with venerable artists from Europe, who would be the one that made the greatest impact on you?
Despite collaborating with many artisans, I only had the pleasure to collaborate with one artist - David Lynch for whom I materialised and designed the celebrated member club Silencio.
You accept challenges as opportunities to promote creativity, how does this perspective influence your creative progress?
It is often that I take on a project due to some of its faults. I find it more exciting to transform the energy of a venue or revive a craft. There is a very liberating process in seeing the assets of a neglected space or looking deeper into the manufacturing aspect of a complex piece. The difference between a challenging opportunity or impossibility can be very deceiving sometimes. As I grow up I can see more precisely what is a great occasion and what is a waste of time. I try to enter each project with an open heart and tune into the positive aspects and encouraging voices.There are many clients and manufacturers who shelter in impossibility, but I believe that most of us secretly wish to change and give way to what seems sometimes as impossible.