When boxed into a silo, design – be it fashion, furniture, architecture or interiors – defies the very purpose of creativity, limiting itself to stringent definitions that constricts its expression. True art forms are ones in which the intermingling of disciplines roams freely, without constraint.
British-Lebanese jewelry designer Alexandra Hakim first launched her eponymous label Pyromania, a collection of handcrafted earrings and pendants in the form of matchsticks. Now, nearly five years on, the metal smith has debuted a series of oversized statement ashtrays inspired by the same concept, in collaboration with Beit Collective, an online platform selling limited-edition homeware items from international artists and designers who are using Lebanon as inspiration.
“I’ve always collected matchsticks from ashtrays around Lebanese homes,” Hakim explains of her inclination to preserve objects that are ephemeral and overlooked, by casting them into everlasting pieces. With the encouragement of Emilie Skaff, Founder of Beit Collective, the matchsticks have become quirky design elements in Hakim’s brass ashtrays.
“There’s always this debate about design, fashion and art – what is it and what it isn’t,” says Skaff, who has a background in architecture, decorative arts and design and previously worked at Paris’s contemporary design gallery Galerie Kreo. “I think homeware is the perfect balance between disciplines.”
Skaff called on sculptors, furniture designers, jewellers and fashion designers to reimagine their art form by applying it to bespoke items for the home, which she produces almost exclusively in Lebanon. Enlisting the country’s long-revered artisanal and manufacturing expertise, Skaff is working with nearly 60 people in different industries in Lebanon – from woodwork and glass to metal and terrazzo.
A collection of chairs by English furniture designer Adam Nathaniel Furman, being launched later this year, will highlight the traditional cane-weaving mastery of Lebanon, while a vase by the same designer will pay homage to Lebanon’s ancient city of Baalbek. At the same time, Lebanese fashion designer Salim Cherfane of Jeux de Mains will be launching dinner plates decorated in his signature playful patterns most famously worn by Beyoncé. “My brand manifesto is ‘All I want to do is play!’. And why not play with home accessories?”, asks Cherfane, who is also developing trays and playing cards with Beit Collective. “I don’t want to limit myself to one kind of design – why not on a shirt, on a plate or on a building façade?”
London-based sculptor and painter Kelly Halabi, who has sculpted and bronze-casted napkin holders and placemats for the collective, finds it exciting to be crossing from art to tableware. “I don’t like to be categorized,” she insists, “so my ‘Bijoux de Table’ collection allows me to place my art on a table as sculptural accessories, bringing my sculpture into the everyday life of the home so that people can react to it while enjoying important and non-important moments at the dinner table.”
Hakim feels the same way about her cross-over from jewellery: “I’ve always looked at jewellery as sculptural objects that adorn the body, so making ashtrays feels like a natural progression. It’s the same technique and material, but on a larger scale, using the table as a canvas for inspiration.”