Meet the Artist & Designer: Danielle Abel of Chai Modern

Photo: Courtesy of Chai Modern

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I started out to become a psychologist and landed up in the clothing industry, almost by mistake. I have always had a strong feeling for colours, materials and design, though more recently it has been mostly in terms of interiors and décor.

What inspired you to become an artist?

Once I had kids, I decided to try ceramics and was immediately drawn to the textural and design elements. I have been a ceramicist for many years now making a variety of homeware, vases and decorative items like my floral reindeer head. Over time this outlet has become very important in my life.

What is your speciality?

I have found it quite hard to narrow down to a single focus but I started making crockery for special occasions. One day when thinking about an upcoming religious holiday it sparked an idea that lead me to search for Judaica sites online and I was amazed to see how many there were and how popular they were. Nothing like that existed in SA. This really turned things around for me and challenged me to use all my production and design skills to produce a range of items for a number of special religious occasions and get them manufactured.

How and where do you work?

I currently have an outside office and studio at my home, but I am fast outgrowing the space.

What is the most indispensable item in your studio?

My cork board in front of my desk where I pin all my inspiration.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?

Inspiration comes for everything around me, in my daily life, smell, colour, food and art are all inspiring and spark the next range. But the Jewish traditions, holidays and events in my childhood memories were the real starting point – the embroidered cloths, old crockery and silver jugs all played a role in my mind and making them modern for today’s families was a key driver. You don’t just want to inherit Judaica you want to make it your own.

Do you do bespoke work?

Yes definitely – that is an exciting part of what we do at Chai Modern. Playing a pivotal role in other people’s simchas is so exciting and rewarding. We get immense nachas from seeing our bespoke custom items dressing a shabbat table for a wedding or bat/bar mitzvah, designed to match the décor and feel of the event.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are always working on the next holiday or event. Right now, its Pesach that’s occupying us. We can’t wait to launch our Pesach range early in 2022.

What is or are your favourite items in your current collection?

My favourite is always what I am working on at the time, right now, I am mad about our new Pesach seder & matzah plates and cannot wait for everyone to see what we have come up with.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

The pieces go through a number of iterations – they just speak to me, the samples, at their various stages, live in my home and once I feel the piece is complete enough to live in my home, on my table, I know it’s ready to be shared with the world.

What was the first artwork you ever sold?

The flowers hanging on the wall in my mom’s house – she was my first customer and my most avid supporter.

Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?

I always love seeing what I envisage in my head come to life, one of the greatest joys was seeing Chai Modern develop from an idea to reality. The brand identity & product design and development has far exceeded my wildest dreams.

What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?

I would love to see Chai Modern products in Jewish homes and on shabbat, simcha and holiday tables all over the world.

Where can we find your work?

Photos: Courtesy of Chai Modern

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