Collecting vacation snow globes of favorite landmarks from popular cities and countries is a common pastime for kids and adults alike. But have a closer look at industrial designer Shaul Cohen’s snow globes and you’ll realize very quickly that something cheeky is going on.
A snow globe of a random lifeguard shack on a Tel Aviv beach. A snow globe of a cement bus shelter for soldiers. A snow globe of a building under construction.
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The snow globes are part of an ongoing project Cohen started as a graduate student in Industrial Design at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design four years ago.
“I chose to do my final project back then on Israeli humor,” he tells NoCamels. “I’ve continued adding new objects to the collection. Today, there are about 50 objects and I’m thinking of adding new ones all the time.”
There’s a plastic seashell model but instead of hearing the ocean, Cohen has added actual sound equipment with a beach scene recording of people talking, the sound of the waves and the pervasive thwack of Matkot paddle ball games in progress.
The collection also includes a slingshot for bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies. It is customary to throw candies to celebrate reading from the Torah but Cohen says, “not all grandmas are strong enough. So, I made a slingshot to launch candies in synagogue.”
Cohen’s designs are set to go on display at Berlin Design Week- BNDNWK. And in November, his works will go on exhibit at Benyamini Center in Tel Aviv.
On the one hand, Cohen’s collection is very Israeli. It offers hilarious solutions for local problems.
Like the pita band-aid he designed which includes a small piece of pita that wraps around the bottom of a first pita to keep it from dripping.
“Everyone has had to deal with a dripping pita sandwich at some point. It was obvious that a solution was needed,” the 38-year old father of two says jokingly. “It just came to me. And since no one has come up with a pita that doesn’t tear yet, this is a good solution.”
The neon green magnetic juice box is also an Israeli inside joke. While juice boxes exist, his design is specifically to help people poke a sharp-tipped straw into a typically Israeli grape-flavored drink that comes in a foil pouch. For the uninitiated, this sugary drink is known for confounding kids – and parents alike – in finding the correct angle to poke the straw in and avoid the risk of an inevitable stain upon failing to do so.
“The straw is meant to be inserted at the front of the pouch but almost no one can do it and most people just turn the pouch over and poke the straw into the bottom. My magnetic box holds the foil pouch in place and helps thirsty kids insert the straw into its intended place,” says Cohen, with a giggle.
“International audiences cannot understand the humor of all the products. I select my objects with a more universal tone when exhibiting abroad,” says Cohen, who lives in Tel Aviv not far from the Eretz Israel Museum.
“The ceramic tile that I converted into a piggy bank of sorts is something I’ll take to Berlin, for instance. I believe everyone can understand hiding money in floor tiles,” he says. “The snow globes require a short explanation but once I tell people that they are not traditional landmarks worthy of snow globe distinction, the humor is understood and makes them laugh.”
Cohen’s first object in the humor series was an inflatable soldier’s beret. He converted the traditional felt cap into a blow-up pillow so that soldiers, known to fall asleep wherever they can, will now be able to rest their heads more comfortably.
More ideas kept popping into his head. He explains that before moving forward to making a model, he first checks in with friends what they think. If they like it, he’ll sketch it, print a 3D model and set to work on creating the final artistic object.
“If the consensus wasn’t what it is, I would have added this collection to other art projects I’ve done that now reside in the drawer. People like these objects and it’s why I continue to create new ones,” he says.
Cohen wears two hats: he’s an industrial design artist and also co-runs a three-dimensional printing store in Jaffa.
To date, the models he has made were one-offs that can be seen in exhibits. But the snow globes have hit a major funny bone and people have requested that Cohen really make them into souvenirs.
Who doesn’t want a snow globe of a prison security tower? Or one of an IDF bus shelter? And who doesn’t want a snow globe of a beige lifeguard shack?
Cohen tells NoCamels that the crowd has spoken, and he is presently creating these art models of banal sights as real souvenirs for sale.
“The places I chose to put in the snow globes are not typical tourist landmarks and that’s what people like about them,” he says. “Even foreigners, who don’t know what a bus shelter for IDF soldiers is, still get the humor that this is something mundane and yet is commemorated in a snow globe. That’s what makes it desired.”
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com