• Issue
  • #
  • 3
  • The Ethics of Doing

Rotational – International Contemporary Craft Course

A contemporary craft course led by Prof. Dov Ganchrow and Nitzan Debbi, in collaboration with students from the school of craft in the China Academy of Art (CCA).

The course explored different aspects of the rotational motion – from the mechanical to the spiritual and the cultural. Rotary motion has been an integral part of technological processes for thousands of years: spinning yarn, wood or stone turning, drilling, centrifugal precious metal casting, spring coiling, throwing pottery, 360° scanning, and more.

The course offered an opportunity to develop unique processes and products within a context. The accumulative assignments and peer projects, many views of a common topic, allowed for a mapping and better understanding of the rotational phenomena.

Where is your axis?

During the course, students examined and developed works revolving around this topic, projects such as a rotational moulded grilled-chicken lollypop, a plant seed-collecting shoe sole inspired tool, coiled-pasta manufactured on balloons, a custom spun dress concept, and even an installation of readymade fans struggling with life.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel. Industrial Design MDes.program

Tutors: Nitsan Debbi, prof. Dov Ganchrow

Teaching Assistant: Daphna Kaplan


Ira Goldman, Yuval Margalit, David Shatz, Radka Krajickova, Hadar Mitz, Julia Rhein, Roni Yeheskel, Avi Adi, Yael Korenstein, Adi Anna Telezhynski.

CAA – China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China. School of Craft

Tutors: Fiona Peng, Leandre Burkhard

Teaching Assistant: Yiyang Zhang, Haimi Tang


UU You, Vicky Zhai, Sheryl Wang, Selina Si, Yuna Lin, Tiange Zhang, Liping Wang, Chain Xu, Heather Gao, Phoebe Wei.


The course is a celebration of hands-on making, focusing on the idea of Rotational within the context of contemporary craft.

Even before humans became part of the equation, physical laws had established relations between matter and forces such as gravity, often including rotational movement. Expressions of this can be identified in the movement of planets, tornados, and the waterfunnel created when water is drained from a sink.

Rotation comes into play in various ways when contemplating the relevance and possibilities proposed by making today. To begin with, it must be pointed out that rotational movement has been integral to craft technologies for millenia; wood and marble turning, drilling, centrifugal precious-metals casting, yarn-spinning, pottery throwing and so forth. Contemporary attitudes at times manipulate these traditional making technologies, replacing materials, upgrading driving forces, rethinking outcomes and integrating digital tools in the process.

The rotational experience for people is also associated with alternative states of consciousness often brought-on during the manual tactile action of making things, as well connected to spiritual and even religious well-being. Repetitive actions taken while crafting an object create a meditative state, some craftspersons describe being in what they are making. At the same time religious beliefs drive pilgrims rotationally around the Kaaba in Mecca and around mt. Kailash in Tibet, Sufi Dervishes whirl, Jews spin Dreidels – and celebrate the “hag” (Heb: holiday/circumvent) and Buddhist monks turn prayer wheels.

The passing-down of a craft tradition, like our measurement of time, is rotational with mother being replaced by daughter, being replaced by mother…while craft, like time, changes as it travels. In what way does big data, digital fabrication and AI, touch craft as it comes around again? How is craft passed-on in an age of social media, accelerated multi-layered communication and information transfer?

A discussion of rotational will inevitably also include an identification of the axis around which rotation occurs, whether mechanical or conceptual, a relationship will have been established. In a merging of the spiritual and physical, an experienced ceramicist will tell you when you sit by the potters-wheel for the first time: “find your center!”.


The course was held as a collaboration between the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and the CAA – China Academy of Art, proposing an experimental approach to both content as well as to pedagogique and cultural interaction.

The course was run in parallel at both schools, with an identical number of students (all with a variety of applied-arts backgrounds) in each class , and in real-time synchrony. This mirroring allowed for bridging of activities, such as common lectures/critiques, group discussions and crossover assignments.

The first part of the course was executed as a series of short assignments, designed to map-out and expand on the rotational topic as well as to establish common ground within the individual classes and between both school classes.

Students began by creating a rotational “skill-share” video, after which they were required to create a work in response to the commonly pooled “skill-share” videos.

This was followed by the design of a “set of drill bits” – a series of several tools that when fastened to an electric screwdriver could be used as means for making artworks (things such as painting, sculpting, animation etc.). After the tools (and the exemplification of their use) were presented separately in both schools, they were packaged and mailed to the counter school. Upon receiving the overseas gift-package, all the tools were distributed between the students and used in the creation of new works. Students were granted freedom to decide how they wished to communicate the intended use of their tools, and what degree of use was allowed to be “lost in translation”.

The final short assignment in this section of the course was the creation of a “rotational food”. In preparation for this assignment students from both schools worked on-line in a joint workspace and in real-time racing to map out existing rotational foods under topics such as: sweets, industrially produced, traditional holiday dishes, kitchen accessories and more.

The latter part of the course was dedicated to the development of a project based on a promising discovery, or hybrid of several ideas, singled-out from the earlier series of mini-assignment outcomes. Project focus ranged on topics and included performance with food, food packaging design concept, mechanical installation, on-site outdoor installation, infographics, fashion, conceptual product design, to name a few.

Throughout the course, students received critiques coming from three different continents (one of the CAA lecturers resides in Switzerland) and from individuals with different cultural and professional backgrounds.

A byproduct of the collaboration was the challenge of communication by all parties involved: spoken critiques and summarized texts read aloud in the English language, finding digital internet platforms accessible to all, GIF friendly cell apps, video tutorials, illustrated instructions, and designing legible forms and projects.

As can be expected from any experimental format, some things in the course structure and content worked better than others, and sticking with rotational analogy, as this wheel continues to roll on its path forward, any bumpiness in its shape will be worn away until it eventually runs smoothly.

Video key:

(“Skill Share”) Skill sharing 

— Yael Korenstein; Yael chose to share the skill of folding and twisting of a rag used in the common israeli household chore of “sponja” – mopping the floor.


— Yiyang Zhang; the skill shared here is a elaboration on guitar-playing tutorials, by using a micro-fan to reverberate in proximity to the pickups of an electric guitar, unanticipated sound distortions with a post-rock edge are obtained.


— Selina Si; the traditional Chinese skill of top-spinning with the use of a whip for momentum upkeep, is often practiced outdoors especially in parks.


(“Skill performance”) a skill share video interpretation

— Roni Yeheskel; Roni plays with her childrens toys – but not in the manner they were designed to be used, instead she creates colorful patterns by dipping the wheels of the toys in paint and leaving decorative treadmarks on her canvas. Roni responds to a skill-share video of a brush-painted coin spinning and drawing on a paper.


— Haimi Tang; a colorful swirling color elaboration on the performance art of textile twirling is ignited by a skill-share video of animation-making using a zoetrope.


— Hadar Mitz; Hadar responds to a wine glass  sound-sampling video, by assembling an atmospheric seance still life like setting, with the wine glass rub now a ritualistic initiator.


(“drill bit set”) A set of drill bits for creating works

— Yael Korenstein; a set of wood twig based “drill bits” representing and assisting in the chronological stages of preparing fire, tending the fire, cooking marshmallows – and finally consuming them.

— Wang Liping; after receiving a set of wire-and-wood bead kinetic sculptures, Wang decided to rework the set into a fashion accessory. She then challenged herself to wear the adapted sculptural jewelry in public and see peoples reactions.

— Vicky Zhai; what began as a set of stage makeup “drill bits”, became an encapsulated sound-and-light event, when Vicky used an eyelash brush “drill bit” attached to a music box, to slowly drawout black swirls of ink in a glass of water, an abstract merry-go-round.

Back to Top