Avner Zabari did not grow up as a
woodworker during his childhood in Israel, and, as he traveled the
world after finishing his required military service, it was in
painting where he first practiced his artistic skills. After
traveling to South America, he landed in Miami, where he stayed.
The location has been a big influence
on his work, he said -- "definitely the colors, but not the
colors of Miami Vice. It's hot here, and very colorful. Miami is
very mixed: a mix of colors, a mix of people, a mix from everywhere.
It's something I wasn't open to before, but after I moved here, I
found it very interesting. 'Shorts with flip-flops' is how I like my
life to be."
He also discovered, "after I came
to the United States, I found out I have to do something more than
painting -- something people can use, and interact with." Since
Avner's arrival in Florida was shortly after Hurricane Andrew, there
was a need for furniture.
He makes a line of about 15 to 20
pieces a year of what he considers sculpture. "A piece I make, I
make it 360 degrees. Artwork is the way I see it; I don't see it as
Avner works in different materials,
including wood, metal and leathers, and will often combine them
together. The metal, he said, might be steel hinges, or handles,
shaped into different forms such as faces, leaves, butterflies and
more. A cabinet might open to reveal a metal or leather interior and,
"from time to time, I work a little bit heavily with metal,
maybe forge legs."
"Sometimes a different material
can give you different options for design. And sometimes you're
working on something and you make a mistake, and you think, 'oh,
well, this can work.'"
Avner finds his inspiration for his
designs, "everywhere," including travel. He just came back
from two months in Europe and the Middle East, where he noticed the
architecture in particular. "I'll see a building, and think 'I
can take this idea of a roof,' he said. Then the piece doesn't look
like a buildnig, but a corner of the piece" might incorporate
the design idea inspired by the roof shape.
He also notes that a typical element of
his designs is a top piece: "Most pieces, I like something on
the top. It seems like I like something like a hat."
In his next generation of work, Avner
said, he is combining his pieces with painting, although he is not
yet sure in what manner. Ninety-nine percent of his woodwork, he
noted, is painted -- "Some people come and knock on it and ask,
'Is this wood?' They don't think it's wood because it's painted."
The wood he was working with earlier in
his career, shortly after traveling to South America, was mostly
pine. "I was touched by the primitive look: cracks on pieces,
paint chips and all that. I used to buy damaged pine and create a
design where the wood split, or a design where the nail pops out.
Pine is a good wood for that style, very absorbing of paint."
These days, "I'm a little bit more
refined; I use plywood," Avner said. He also sometimes works
with a painting style he calls "organized mess," which
involves painting several layers of colors but leaving the shape of
the wood and grooves visible under them. "When I apply the
colors, you can see all the layers of colors. It's an organized mess
underneath all that," Avner said. For instance, his pieces
"Raising Love" and "Trying to be Good" have lines
and freehand scratches on parts like drawer faces, "but they're
organized scratches," Avner said.
Almost all of his pieces, he said, have
design incorporated into the back and the front. "It's very
important that you see the piece in person," he said.
"Everything in my pieces comes from my heart."