Adi Zaffran wasn’t kidding when he said bullets are a very Israeli experience. While looking for some used shells to use in his first jewelry collection, he stumbled across a firing range just one street away from his home in Jerusalem.
“Work with bullets is a very Israeli experience—the raw material is abundantly available, everyone has seen weapons and unused bullets, and most Israelis are familiar with bullets through their compulsory army service,” he says. “My work is clearly influenced by the country I work in. Although I did not express any political opinion through the bullet rings, they still attracted lots of political flak.”
You’re actually not a jewelry designer by trade. What led you to do the collection?
This is my first attempt at jewelry design. It was a completely new experience for me, designing objects that emphasize only aesthetics and beauty, with no added practical value. I tried to understand what makes a piece of jewelry valuable. What sets its worth—production time? Rarity and desirability?
All bullets start out as identical. As they are fired, their trajectory and contact with hard or soft surfaces create unique objects. But this does not diminish their worth in my eyes. On the contrary, the individuality of every single piece adds to their value. No two pieces will ever be the same. What mainly piqued my interest was taking an object created completely randomly, and making it into a desirable product. I am currently considering setting the bullets on necklaces, bracelets, tiepins, and cufflinks.
As someone with no jewelry background, tell us the process you went through.
I was looking for a firing range near my residence in Jerusalem, where I was studying at the time in the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. I discovered one in the street just next to mine. I took hundreds of bullets and selected the most interesting, beautiful, and jewelry-prone amongst these. I went to the jewelry department at Bezalel, and after a short training period, I began to try out various materials myself.
I am a strong believer in hands-on design, so it was important for me to experiment and discover what happened. I created a few rings using copper and brass. As I had no previous experience in jewelry crafting, every small discovery was very exciting in my eyes.
For example, finding out that lead melts at a very low temperature, before the fusing material does, led me to bond the ring to the bullet using lead. And since lead already existed in the bullet, there was no need for additional materials. I finished creating the first collection of rings, which served as a conceptual demonstration within a week of collecting the bullets.
Do you personally wear them, and which is your favorite piece?
I wear one of my bullet rings, but it is not my favorite per se. My favorite ring is more suitable to be worn by a woman and has already been sold.
Were you raised in a creative environment?
It is difficult to say, none of my parents are artists or designers, but my grandfather and the whole side of my mother’s family are very creative people: painters, musicians, tailors, and artisans. My grandfather used to build and create everything himself. He would draw pictures and sew costumes for me, build tables and bookcases, and upholster chairs—he had golden hands.
In high school, I did play the guitar and flamenco is still one of my great loves. But I always liked working with my hands, making my own items. My good friend, who was studying graphic design, led me to discover and pushed me into the design field. In the end, this is what I went to study.
You actually just graduated not too long ago. How were your years as a design student?
I was exposed to many stimuli in the different departments at Bezalel—fine arts, photography, visual communication, industrial design, jewelry and fashion design, architecture, ceramic and glass design, animation… it was a place I could do conceptual creations and not just hardcore industrial design.
One of the most memorable experiences in Bezalel was a pottery class in the Ceramics Department. I was amazed at the feeling of working with clay—the ability to shape and use the substance through direct contact is a wonderful feeling. There is no need for any intermediaries.
But the course that influenced me most was during my first year: “Structure, Function, Shape”, or as it is called at Bezalel, “Sfinati”, named after its two lecturer, Safi and Naty. This is a basics course of three-dimensional design and the way it expresses itself morphologically, materially, and functionally.
How do you spend a typical work day?
I currently live in Yafo, and my flat is a three-minute bicycle ride from the studio. I usually get to the studio by 9 in the morning and work on projects there until seven or eight in the evening.
And what do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love watching movies; I could watch them all day long. I like going to the sea in the afternoon and I enjoy cooking my own meals and baking—I have a weakness for pastries. My main problem is that there are lots of things I want to do, but not enough hours in the day to do them all.