If you're in the market for a set of beautiful, functional kitchen knives, consider Florentine Kitchen Knives, a project by Israeli designer Tomer Botner that mixes social advocacy with talented local craftsmanship. The knives were Botner's final project at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, and he designer and crafted them with help from 17 local craftsmen and suppliers in Florentine, an artsy neighborhood in Tel Aviv.
Botner talked to iDesign about how his background working professional kitchens played into the decision to launch Florentine Kitchen Knives and the broader societal message he hopes this project will convey.
Jacob Kleinman: What was the inspiration for this project?
Tomer Botner: My inspiration was the concept of the designer-craftsman. It started out that way. I became a student of the knife-making trade but after a few months I realized it would take me years to become a real craftsman in this area and i just didn't have the time. I had a project to present by June. However, I was resolved to make a real tool with the real materials and at the best quality possible. I had no other choice but to use what was around me: the materials, machines and craftsman in my neighborhood. At this point Florentine became my inspiration. I tried to convey the character of the neighborhood in the design: the curves, the colors, the finish and feel of the knife.
I was born as a son to a Egyptian-Polish-Jewish family. when I got older I started working in restaurants to pay my bills, I ended up working for the best chefs in the country for decade and learned allot about food, wine and atmosphere. this is my parting gift from this world and my first gift to my new life as a designer. Of course I have been doing both together for the last 5 years but now that I graduated it's official.
JK: How does Florentine Kitchen Knives represent your style and vision as a designer?
TB: I think my style is changing as I do and with the times and the city, but my vision was always about trying to do a better job. I know it sounds silly and simple but it's really about always challenging the why and how things are made and how it could be done better for all of us and our communities, both local and global.
JK: How have they been received by consumers and critics?
TB: The only critics I had was my final presentation at college and the 'like' of the web community. it's been amazing so far but I'm still not in full production so people like my knives and it's story but they don't yet know how good they are.
JK: How did you become interested in design?
TB: I was always painting and reading as a child. After my army service I roamed the globe and when I got back home I decided to become a teacher. One year of university made it clear for me that I should have gone with the painting and not the reading. It's not that I don't think teaching is the most important thing I could to for my community but the learning of it was too hard for me. I had an urge to do things with my hands. Somehow I got into Shenkar college without knowing anything about industrial design but I had so much fun to suffer there over five years that I guess I made the right choice.