Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Israel, on the 3rd of March, 1980, to Marlene and Isaac Hemed. My mom made Aliyah in the ‘70’s, and my dad was born in Israel, though his family made Aliyah from Syria with the establishment of the state.
Art has always interested me. I loved drawing and building things even as a child, and this is something that has stayed with me over the course of the years. This passion is what led me to enrol in the Architectural Studies Department in high school.
At the age of 18, I enlisted into the Israeli Defence Forces and served as a combat soldier and commander in the Combat Engineering Corps. After finishing my army duties, I worked in a greenhouse for a year and a half while saving up money for a year of traveling in South America.
When I returned, I studied Animation at the Tel Hai Academic College, and had a good base for these studies because of my curriculum choice in high school. I found the lush green surroundings of northern Israel to be an inspiration for a lot of my work as a student. I continued to live in the after I finished my studies, working as a freelance illustrator for books, animation studios, and advertising companies.
I worked as an illustrator for 5 years, and during this time, I began dabbling in woodworking as a hobby. I became more and more interested in woodworking, and sitting in front of a computer for long hours became harder and harder.
At a certain point, I became more and more confident in my abilities as a woodworker and decided it was time for a change. I put down my pencils, picked up a hand plane, and opened my own woodworking business.
From here, the rest is history, and not a single day has gone by where I’ve regretted making this change.
How did you get into woodworking in the first place?
While I was living on a Kibbutz in the north, my father brought me recycled wooden boards in good condition. It took me a while to figure out what to do with them, and in the end, I decided to build a bench for my yard on the Kibbutz. I was very pleased with the result, but also with the process of building. It was very different from the work I was doing at the time, drawing in front of the computer, but it was still creative.
I began to learn more about woodworking in Israel and around the world, until I opened my own company to build custom ordered furniture.
The bench I built while on the Kibbutz is in my yard till this day.
What do you love the most about your chosen profession? What does working with wood mean to you?
Woodworking has a lot of facets. Some of the techniques and methods have been preserved to this day of this ancient art form.
In no particular order:
• The excitement of discovering the hidden properties and aspects of the wood. The first planning of the wood exposes the woods inner beauty. The texture tells the life-story of the tree. By looking at the wood grains I can tell from which part of the tree the particular piece is from, where the branches were, where the trunk split, and much more.
• I put a lot of time and energy into choosing the right pieces of wood for each specific piece of furniture I build. It’s like putting together a collage of abstract shapes, which are actually the wood grains.
• Next is the actual building of the furniture which in and of itself is a challenge. It is much more technical – which tool will I use for each task, which jointing techniques should I use. And of course there’s a lot of planning ahead of the different sizes, measurements, and amounts of wood needed.
This combination of abstract and logic creates the perfect piece of furniture to pass from generation to generation, and this holds great meaning in my eyes.
Do you have a favourite type of wood?
There are many different types of wood. Out of the woods I’ve had the pleasure of working with so far, I’ve liked working with American Walnut best. It’s a hard wood, yet is relatively easy to work with. The texture is dark, but has lighter features, which give the wood a nice contrast, and creates a greater interest in the piece.
How and where do you work?
I live on a Moshav, and across from my house there’s a small structure that in the 50’s and 60’s functioned as a small cowshed on a family farm. With a little work, I turned the building into my workshop just a few steps away from my house, which is surrounded by agricultural fields.
What’s the most indispensable item in your workshop?There are a lot of tools I love, and that make my work enjoyable, but I suppose the most versatile item with which I start every project is the table saw.
Looking at your work, you are clearly passionate about what it is you do. Where do you take your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes from a picture I saw online, sometimes from the wood itself, where the shape and texture of the wood give me an idea. For example, I once found a piece of pine that had a texture which reminded me of a drop. The idea was to build a clock where the texture would look as though it’s dripping out of the clock.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a wine cabinet. It’s made of White Oak and American Walnut. You can see photos of the process on my Instagram account.
What is your favourite piece you have ever created?
Probably the desk I built of American Walnut.
What was the first piece of furniture you ever sold?
It was a small TV stand built out of Pine.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
I’d have to say the project I enjoyed working on most was a modular media center that I built of oak. There was a lot of creativity that went into its design, and it was also challenging to build because of its large size.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
I would like to build furniture where people will admire the beauty of the wood, that will bring a warm and comfortable atmosphere into their homes, and will be passed down from generation to generation.
Where can we find your work?
© Oren Hemed