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Moran Trabelsi

Artist Spotlight

I love the sensual aspect of creating by touch. It's so earthy and primitive. I’m amazed by how I can build such complex forms with just my hands.

Moran Trabelsi is a multidisciplinary designer and artist. Her passion for ceramics started out as a hobby, but soon turned into a full-time profession when she opened her own studio in Tel Aviv. Enchanted and inspired by nature and its patterns, the artist has a special passion for the underwater creatures that are the product of an endless evolution. In her ceramic art she gives physical form to this lifelong fascination by creating magnified, almost otherworldly seashells.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST


Q. How did you come to go from an education in fashion design to being a ceramic artist? Are the two practices related for you or do you see them as entirely separate disciplines?

A. Indeed, my career path started in the fashion industry. However, after a few years of working as a designer, I started to get more interested in technology and soon transitioned to UX/UI - designing and the conceptualization of online user experiences. While working in tech for a few years, I started going to a weekly ceramic class and quickly it became the best two hours of my week.

When Covid hit, and the home quarantines started, I couldn’t attend classes so I began creating hand-built pieces from my home. Quickly, this hobby became my passion and after a few weeks it became clear to me that ceramics couldn't remain just a hobby. I left my job, turned my home office into a ceramic studio and became a full-time ceramic artist.

As far as the differences between the two practices, I believe there is a commonality to all design disciplines I've practiced. They all have a blend of self-expression, creativity, and aesthetics. There is also some level of direct dialogue with life experiences, that's true for fashion design, UX/UI design and for my work in ceramics.

Q. What drew you to clay as a medium in particular?

A. Clay is a fascinating material that sometimes feels to me like a living organism. It’s breathing, behaving, transforming, and - in my opinion - even feeling. I love the sensual aspect of creating by touch. It's so earthy and primitive. I’m amazed by how I can build such complex forms with just my hands. 

There's always more to learn about this craft, which is both ancient and ever developing. I love how it’s paving a never-ending road of learning for me. 

Q. Many of your pieces convey a sense of motion - how do you achieve this dynamic look to your work?

A. Clay is elastic when it’s moist and stiff when it's dry. By using focused touch while forming a piece, I can create different tilts and curves that convey motion. I love playing with this quality of clay, it’s like freezing a moment in time.

Q. Could you describe your artistic process?

A. As you can see in my work, nature is a big influence for me. Since I can remember, I have looked at the world with curious eyes, searching for beauty in my surroundings, finding interesting shapes, textures, or other visual elements that intrigue me. A lot of visual information is stored in my brain and fuels my creativity, transforming into new ideas. 

When I have a new idea, I’ll find myself sketching it often and reiterating some of the elements, curves, volumes, proportions etc. Once I've decided to work on a new piece, I’ll go through my sketch book and pick the one I crave bringing to life the most.

The execution stage is a total "in the flow zone" for me. Structuring a new shape is all about trial and error. Sometimes the clay will collapse, crack or warp. However, what I do know is that if I can sketch it, I can create it.

Q. Do you work from real life examples or are your pieces mostly fantasy based?

A. Mostly fantasy. I love to put my own spin on real life shell formations. Magnifying them, spinning, and twisting them, until the image in my mind transforms into a body of clay. Sometimes though, since nature is so magnificent, I’m so filled with admiration for the real-life form that I don’t want to change a thing. In those cases I just like to take on the challenge of capturing it in a sculpture using clay. 

Q. Would you say your work navigates a boundary between art and design or do you think this distinction is rather arbitrary?

A. I got to think a lot about this philosophical question. The lines are very blurred these days, some may say- obsolete, and the two spheres are overlapping. I believe my work can be seen as art and can be seen as design, depending on the context and the perspective of the viewer.

As for my own perspective on this: I think art is a form of communication, a channel between the artist and the audience. Hopefully, this communication drives an emotional response by either provoking a thought, whether it is humorous, or aesthetically pleasing. With this in mind, I define my work as art. Since I’ve practiced more "traditional" areas of design in the past, I find what I do today is a bit different. As a designer I was a problem solver guided by briefs and specs. Today, my main motivation is self-expression and having my voice heard and echoed. I follow my creative vision and hope my work will resonate with others. In that sense I feel art is a better description of my work.

Q. What would you still like to achieve as an artist?

A. Many, many things, but the one that is most relevant, is this vision I have of a solo exhibition. I’m in search of the perfect space. It needs to be close to the seashore, have a balcony facing the ocean and giant windows that will let in the ocean breeze. A wide space filled with my artworks, big enough to allow the visitors to experience them from all angles.

I know I’m very specific, but I like fantasizing, and sometimes when my dreams are supported by purpose and strong belief, they magically come true just the way I planned them.

Q. Would you prefer your collectors use (some of) your works in a both functional and decorative manner, as a vase for example, or are they rather meant to be stand alone objects?

A. The act of selling one of my artworks holds in it an element of departure (alongside a true feeling of joy and satisfaction). I guide myself to let go of the need to control them. That includes the way the artwork is displayed or used.

Having said that, since my artworks are these “statement pieces” I feel they have the greatest effect on the viewer when they are displayed as standalone sculptural objects.

I also feel that displaying a group of my works together has a dynamic and captivating effect. Since all my artworks have an expression of movement in them, they interact with each other in a way when grouped, creating an effect of interactive movement, almost a dance, while their curvy silhouettes create interesting shapes in the space between one piece and another.

Q. Could you describe your work in three words?

A. Rhythmic - Raw - Emotive

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