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Palestinian Design in the Context of Furniture Production

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 31.10.2008:

By Hani Mourad

Design is one of the most important elements that adds to the competitive advantage of any product, yet we see that this is an aspect almost totally marginalised in Palestinian society. We manufacture fewer and fewer goods, placing our confidence instead in someone else’s design abilities and quality production; weakening, in the process, our manufacturing sectors.

Furniture production in Palestine is no exception. Although it had some hope a few years back, once Gaza fell under siege, production facilities there stagnated, and in the West Bank, several producers turned into importers. What remains is the relatively insignificant office/school/public-institution-type of production that is desperately trying to hold on to a market that is being offered very little in the way of design despite the demand.

This, however, is not the whole picture; innovative thinkers tinker with creative ideas all the time, yet in general, very few muster the courage to turn them into reality. One little shining example is Crescent, a company founded by two designers: one in graphics and the other in fashion. These designers set about looking into the handicraft sector in general and found that there is room for hundreds of new items with viable marketing possibilities. As soon as they came up with the idea of hand-wrought iron – for garden furniture – they knew that they had a winner and decided not to look any further, at least for the time being.

When you are in the Middle East you tend to spend a good part of the year outdoors: on your terrace or balcony or in the garden. Garden furniture is a necessity. The market is saturated with plastic furniture as well as some wooden and, to a smaller extent, metal furniture. In Jerusalem, you also have one luxurious alternative: A table with the indigenous Jerusalem hand-painted ceramic tiles. These tables have nice tiles, but the metalwork that supports them is usually cheap, chunky, and badly produced.

Crescent designers set about rethinking that product and designed a whole range of tables of all sizes as well as chairs and armchairs complete with cushions and even weatherproof table covers. Through it all, though, they stayed focused on their priorities: the products should be beautiful, practical (e.g., folding tables and chairs for easy handling and transport), and competitive in price.

The following year was spent experimenting in factories and workshops – bending iron, testing rust-protection processes, and learning about special outdoor enamels. That was only a beginning, though; the designers at Crescent also tested tile grout, elastic adhesives, and upholstery fabrics for the cushions. When they thought that they were done, they remembered packaging: how should such precious items be protected during transport? How would one label them? It was like going through a mountain of challenges with a flowerpot’s spade.

All that is just a memory now. Two successful seasons in a row have given Crescent more confidence; work has continued on design improvement and product development, and two more collections were added during the summer of 2008: the Crystal collection – an engraved glass-top series, and the Mahogany collection – a luxurious version of wood-and-metal garden furniture with an incredibly competitive price.

More is certainly coming as creativity knows no boundaries, and we will probably see new products with every dawning of spring. Crescent is using a simple but effective formula: be creative in designing something that is aesthetically rewarding, and make sure that the product works and is of high quality so that people will want to buy it and be satisfied.

Overhead costs have been kept to a minimum as Crescent has made use of the abundance of available production facilities; all work is subcontracted and subject to stringent quality control at all times.

Three years after our humble beginnings, we are producing amazing, functional designs that have an unmistakable rich, yet simple beauty.

Hani Mourad is a multi-product designer who started out as the first-ever fashion designer in Palestine. He is currently working as an international expert in the textiles/garments and handicrafts sectors and can be reached at

This Week in Palestine

November 2008

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