WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Ceramicist Gur Inbar brings playful and optimistic objets d’art to the table.
Words by Elianna Bar-El
Photos by Dan Perez
Styling by Nurit Kariv
Past a towering WeWork building and the fruity-sweet clouds of hookah smoke wafting into the dilapidated enclave that has long been run by Haaretz journalists and lunchers at the plant-based restaurant Alla Rampa, lies a mythological maze of workshops inundated with photographers and artists.
This area of South Tel Aviv has long been where creatives go to hole up on their own, tucked just far enough away from the city to be removed from distraction. Riding up a rickety elevator and into Gur Inbar’s open-plan ceramics studio, I find him sitting amongst long, wide tables smattered with pots and vases of every size in every stage of his process. Packs upon packs of clay and porcelain are piled up in various areas for future use. Dried clay dust covers the floors and basically everything. A black and white photocopy of the Queen is haphazardly taped on the wall above one of his two pottery wheels, peering over his shoulder as he throws. Next to her is a collaged Hamsa with the faces of the whole Kardashian clan photoshopped into it. This space has been his second home for the last five years.
I catch Gur mid-conversation with his real estate agent, Meir, who is handing him keys to his new apartment in Neve Shaanan, an up-and-coming neighborhood, also in South Tel Aviv, where pristine condo developments and crumbling, makeshift buildings live side-by-side. The once neglected area has been targeted by urban planners and real estate developers as the new and next.
“The best thing about this deal is that Meir is going to let me pay half his agent fee in trade!” Gur’s eyes are lit behind his delicate gold frames and he is clearly as excited by the barter as he is by encountering an unexpected fan of his work. Thirty-two year-old Gur is naturally light-hearted and entirely uninhibited; thoughtful about his words and work, but not pretentious.
“When I was 21, my best friend at the time received a toy pottery wheel. I had never been so jealous in my life,” he says with semi-mocking vehemence. “I hated her.” For the record, they are no longer friends. But that burning envy is what propelled his application to study ceramics. After graduating from the department of glass and design at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, he was accepted into the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center graduate program, where he honed his craft and says he grew the most as a ceramicist, coming away from the experience especially inspired by the local ceramics industry, in particular Lapid pottery.
Unexpectedly, powder pink plates textured with child-like hand-drawn curls and scrawls in deep cobalt blue became fan-favorites of famed French chef Alain Ducasse. Three years ago, Gur received a DM from someone on Ducasse’s team via Instagram about ordering a set of plates for the prolific chef’s latest Mediterranean restaurant at the time in Monte Carlo, called Ômer. Then, a few months before Covid took over the world, another DM. This time for a whopping 1,500 piece tableware set of cups and plates in three different sizes for another Ducasse restaurant in Doha, named Jiwan, set within the iconic National Museum of Qatar. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” relays Gur, who cites the extreme shipping snafus that took place as a result of not only Covid delays, but also non-existent Israeli/Qatari relations.
With the world in lockdown, Gur got to work, taking stock of how he wanted to grow and truly seeing his online business expand exponentially. The Galilean-native has his personal sights set on creating a series of limited edition lamps. But in the meantime, he is in high collaborative demand, sweeping an assortment of industries: a joint project with confectionary connoisseur Alon Shabo and his Instagram-gorgeous pastries, a 40-piece commission of large-scale vases for a private art collector by way of Gal Gaon Gallery, where Gur has been represented for the last year and a half, and a just-launched series of table settings crafted from his designs for Arkhe, a new housewares brand helmed by power duo Orit Razili and Karen Oberson. And then there are his highly meditative wheel throwing and pottery painting IG videos - hypnotic content for ceramic lovers and visual ASMR seekers alike.
When asked about his color combos, mixes that find their unexpected match when swiggled on a signature plate or x and o’d on a vase, he simply says: “There is no special planning. I work with whatever I have on-hand.” Swift brush strokes are purposeful and methodic. Trained flicks of his hand send dashes or wisps of color across vases, mugs and plates, and there is no such thing as painting within the lines. The result is a visual explosion of print and texture; a striking cross between traditional African Ankara fabric and witnessing atoms bond and split in an artistic tug-of-war. Working in big batches, Gur’s signature woven aspect is untidy and familial. “I really look closely at stuff and it finds its way into what I do. The materials and process show through my strokes, seeing every movement of the brush.”