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So That “the Golem Does Not Rise Against Its Creator”

A Conceptual Workshop for Developing Value Thinking


Design processes generate change and they have a direct impact on the physical and social environment as well as on the world of cultural concepts. In order that “the golem not rise against its creator” and that design practitioners be aware of the multidimensional impact of their work, the indissoluble link between visual expression and the sense of value must be part of the training process at the art and design academies. This paper presents a first-year course at the Department of Ceramics and Glass Design, which introduces the students to a natural method of translating raw concepts, which they hold when they arrive at academia, of plastic representations, which are value-laden. The course process is based on two main assumptions: the first, that in the field of art and design, the preoccupation with the visual is not purely formal, but is charged with value meanings; the second is that dealing with value issues and professional responsibility is an integral part of dealing with material and technological processes. This text presents an analysis of course products as examples of an active learning process that encourages learners to experience the multidimensional interplay between, on the one hand, their actions and their being entrepreneurs, developers and creators, and, on the other hand, their impact on society and civil reality.



The curriculum in the Department of Ceramics and Glass Design11 The study program ... includes, since 2014, a course that is a Conceptual Workshop. This course was set up to implement the department’s approach that seeks to train design graduates and artists with the skills to act in the context of their social and cultural environment. The curriculum reflects the role of design and art academies as it is perceived today, and to foster a generation of actors who will know how to act in an environmentally, socially and occupationally unstable reality. In order to realize the vision and to ensure that “the golem does not rise against its creator”22 The expression ... , the workshop aims to instill values ​​of professional responsibility in the graduates, so that they will carefully consider the impact of their work on civil, cultural and environmental reality. The course is taught in the first year of studies in parallel with courses that focus on skills, materials and technologies to promote value thinking33 What is meant here ... and conceptions of social and cultural involvement, as part of a professional infrastructure for action.

The Conceptual Workshop is an annual practical course in which, during one semester, the emphasis is on art practices and in the following semester, the emphasis is on design decision-making processes. This paper describes the process that has evolved in the conceptual design workshop, combining professional skills with pro-social, cultural and environmental approaches and introducing learning results that have developed during the course. The workshop aims to encourage students to take a value-based approach that means professional responsibility, early in their professional career. The workshop learning experience reflects for the participants their own motives for action and exposes the meanings that accompany their practical choices. The workshop workflows allow them to transform their life experience from a raw set of concepts44 Raw in the sense of ... into a foundation of value perceptions, presenting them with a view that action equals taking a stance and directing them to look for practical ways to turn their ideas into visual representations. The second part of the article presents a visual and qualitative analysis of the projects from the workshop in the context of the learning processes it offers, to examine the argument that the learning model is projected on the practical and technological processes that are being studied simultaneously and that it gives students the skills to embed value in plastic products. The discussion revolves around the question of how the learning process in the workshop influences the perception of action of the participants of the projects that are part of courses in the remainder of their studies.

An example of a project that suits the vision of the department’s graduates, excels in professional quality, represents a personal position and reflects civic responsibility is the graduation project of Adam Salvi (2016), “Existence” 55 ... . In his statement of intent, Salvi points out that the fact that humans are likely to witness an ecological process that will change the nature of life on Earth spurred him to present natural processes from a new perspective – as an expression of the idea that humans depend on the life-sustaining environment on earth, and to present designers and craftsmen as bearers of responsibility to the environment and to human society.

Figure no. 1: Adam Salvi, “Existence”, details from a graduation project. Right to Left: Interactive Sandstorm, Surface Tension, Moss and Lichen, sealed growth system.

Photo no. 1 shows four objects from the project, representing natural phenomena that Salvi chose to focus on: Interactive Sandstorm, Surface Tension (water), Moss and Lichens, and Controlled Growth. Salvi isolated seemingly elemental phenomena so that the viewers will experience wonder and become aware of the necessary balance between the components of the biosphere.

Background – the Art and Design Academy’s Role in Educating Graduates Toward an Age of Unstable Reality

The academy is seen in the world of education and employment66 Baldry Chris, ... as a significant factor in the future of students, because it is the first sphere that provides professional identity. In addition, social engagement and academic service approaches77 Crump Jeff R. ... emphasize the role of academia in promoting the involvement of graduates in the environment in which they operate and in imparting action skills to promote values ​​in the public sphere. Traditionally, knowledge in the art and design academies is taught in two separate channels in parallel: theoretical, scientific (history, theory and critical concepts) and practical, professional knowledge (material-based practices, technologies) that depends on conception and approach88 Brent Wilson ... . Teaching and learning methods aim to inculcate the links between theoretical and practical knowledge and promote conceptions of value in the application of practical knowledge, so that graduates can work flexibly in a reality where employment and personal and civic modes of expression are unstable. Developing actionable skills in such contexts is seen in the literature as based on learning related to equality and heterogeneity, customizing learning and personal skills development, exploring reality across a variety of social and economic sectors, making alternative approaches to the dominant culture accessible, and acquiring value knowledge and supporting its implementation99 Hativa, N., & ... .Creating new connections between the learned representational knowledge and other types of knowledge serves as a tool to deepen understanding1010 Park, P. (1999). ... . In order to encourage learners to make the value layer embodied in practice an active motive out of professional responsibility, it is necessary to combine the value layer and professional practice and direct learners to create new aesthetic patterns that will also incorporate value change. Grindon argues1111 Grindon, G. (2012). ... . that the aesthetic expression of actions in the social, cultural, and environmental contexts is not separate from thinking about the ideas themselves and planning the means for disseminating them. The elements of discourse need to be visually identified because they harbor general cultural approaches and local visual and aesthetic conventions1212 See f.n. 9.. Therefore, academic education in art and design should be at the forefront in encouraging students to assume civic engagement and personal-action affinity1313 Michaels, S., ... . The learning model in the conceptual design workshop is based on the notion that experiencing processes that combine professional values ​​with value attitudes instills perceptions of personal-action affinity and civic awareness and is pedagogically based on an explicit and direct instruction approach. Incorporating the workshop into the first-year curriculum highlights the relevance of practical knowledge and its theoretical contexts as a principled “raw material”, learned as a basis for action in design and art practice.

Choosing Direct and Explicit instruction as a Way of Promoting Significant Studying

In the direct-instruction approach, as opposed to indirect instruction, the instructor points for the students the goals of instruction and study, describes the concepts and skills expected to be developed in the course of studies, and examines, with the students, to what extent they implement the defined goals. Prof. John Hattie found1414 Hattie, J. (2009). ... in his studies that direct instruction is one of the most effective instruction methods1515 Hattie, ibid., pp. ... . The sociologist Basil Bernstein argued1616 Bernstein, B. ... that direct instruction gives an equal opportunity for significant learning to participants of diverse social, economic and practical backgrounds, in contrast to hidden pedagogy that vaguely presents the criteria of evaluation and the concepts of learning, and it is appropriate for learners of well-heeled social groups. Direct instruction does not base the ability to decode processes on cultural capital but rather on an open and concrete discourse on ideas, concepts and skills. Therefore, direct instruction is effective also in reducing cultural and social gaps alongside professional training, without compromising the ideas of significant learning. Direct instruction in limited-sized groups (up to about 15 participants) also enables to fine-tune continually the personal process of each participant, to track the efficacy of knowledge acquisition and thinking skills and to identify specific states that prevent significant learning.

The critiques of direct instruction deny the learning’s dependency on the functioning and skill of the instructor that relays knowledge and content, compared to indirect instruction in which the participants structure knowledge themselves through studying that is implemented in the time they require. The opposers maintain that in significant learning, the instructor should operate in the background in a predefined way. Therefore, the choice of pedagogical strategies applied in the conceptual design workshop depends on a group’s makeup, on the situations formed between the learners and on its cultural and social diversity. The significant learning model of the workshop depends on the instruction’s discretion and on the implementation of diverse instruction principles (elaborated below) that take notice of the group’s complexity. The responsibility of using judgement and selection with regard to a specific principle of action require the instructor to keep training professionally in a continuous way, to refresh his or her practical and pedagogical knowledge and to be flexible.

The Conceptual Design Workshop – From Raw Material to Visual Aesthetics

The workshop’s key goal is to develop strategies of value thinking1717 See f.n. 3., and it is based on a learning model defined to encourage students to accept responsibility of the relation between aesthetics and meaning. The model developed as a method combining professional, social and civic values and establishing a personal action strategy embedded with critical thinking1818 Brown P.H., ... . In the learning space that develops during the course, different narratives come up, reflecting, on the one hand, global experience and contemporary ideas in the context of all dimensions of reality, and on the other, personal narratives from local perspectives. The sessions are based on Kolb and Perry’s learning cycle1919 Smith, M. K. (2001, ... (Smith 2001, 2010) and involve new experiences, exploration and reflection, abstraction, analysis of new situations and repetition. To promote critical thinking and the structuring of meaning, learners are tasked with actions and are required to respond with high-order thinking: open-ended questions, dilemma discussions, developing solution strategies, metacognitive thinking exercise, and exposing personal action affinity2020 Buehl, M. M. & ... . The discussions encourage students to collaborate as a communication strategy and train them to take a stand, argue based on contextual theories and organize new knowledge. The practical aspect of the assignments presents them with visual challenges and they are required to formulate solutions while transforming interdisciplinary knowledge and using disciplinary tools. Learning is based on three main assumptions:

  • – Engaging in issues of value and professional responsibility is an integral part of dealing with material and technological processes.
  • – The relationship between value meaning and visual meaning in professional products cannot be unraveled.
  • – Professional activism is a minor course of action2121 Gilles Deleuze, ... that seeks to find a bridging solution and create a common space of ​​action among the constituents, unlike an approach that advocates hierarchical decision making and ranking of constituents according to priorities.

Principles of Learning and Instruction in the Conceptual Workshop

The learning principles applied in the workshop, the timing and the order of their implementation are selected by the instructor and depend on the participants’ mix, abilities and social climate created among them. The analysis of the examples in the context of learning and instruction principles used in the workshop is visual and qualitative. The examination of the effect of the moves on the design results is based on three sources: student works (their images are presented here), conversation transcripts during works’ submission (presented as a general impression) and in-depth interviews with the participants (cited in this article).

“Flipped Framework”

The main principle of the workshop is the personal experience that occurs in life outside the academy as a significant learning process2222 Shamir-Inbal, T. ... and it utilizes the meetings to discuss dilemmas and reflect the meanings to which they give rise. Such an experience enables participants to observe their raw experiences outside the academy, to examine them in a value-based manner and to use them to formulate a conscious conceptual infrastructure. The interaction among the students and the facilitator becomes personalized, and promotes active learning, because the space of the sessions is independent of time and place. The participants’ experience of also active, as they lead discussions, bring up meanings and participate in learning while evoking values in countless opportunities. In such conception, learners acquire self-direction skills and develop critical thinking capacities while learning lessons. Instead of knowledge-oriented learning, the study group serves as a pool of experts, and the process strives towards a re-ordering of extant knowledge, dynamic knowledge management and real-time thinking.

About the work presented in image no. 3, Anatnesh Yallow said2323 Anatnesh Yallow, ... :

Figure no. 2: Anatnesh Yallow, 2017, Dilemma, metal wires, rope

“This is a performance that is about my identity. From the start of my studies in high middle school to the end of high school, I was called Anat, which was not my choosing. One of the elementary school teachers I attended convinced me to Hebrew-ize my name and change it to Anat instead of Anatnesh, even without my parents’ permission. She thought my name was long and difficult to pronounce and changing it would help me to assimilate into Israeli society. Changing the name was a difficult and even confusing decision for me because my family and uncles called me Anatnesh and at school, my teachers and friends called me Anat. I felt that the name Anat did not characterize me in any way and it was not close to the meaning of my name in Amharic. When I finished high school, I gradually began to return to my Amharic name and introduced myself as Anatnesh, realizing that I should not try to please Israeli society but that society should contain the different and educate for acceptance. Hebrew-izing names is common especially among children who are less aware of their identity. In my performance, I chose to convey the feeling that you can belong to the society you came to without erasing your identity and disconnecting from the tradition and culture you came from”.

Video no. 1: Anatnesh Yallow, 2017, Self Portrait, metal wires, colored letters

Yallow’s work evolved in two stages. In the first stage, which appears in the background of Video no. 1, the guideline was to depict a dilemma in plastic medium, and in the second stage (see Video no. 1) the guideline was to develop a visual element from the first stage into self-portrait. The decision to develop the exercise from the first stage to another stage was made only after the first stage was submitted, in which the participants mostly presented works that were charged with personal dilemmas concerning critical issues for them. The first stage was the fourth assignment in the semester, and it was given in the sixth week out of the 13 weeks of the entire semester. In the group to which Yallow belonged in the conceptual design workshop, an atmosphere of sharing, openness and commitment was created among the students already at this stage. In the self-reflective conversation initiated by the facilitator in the last section, following all the personal submissions, two main conclusions emerged: participants felt compelled to take assignments seriously and contribute meaningful content to the discussion, and they appreciated each other and hence their curiosity to get opinions on topics that concern them. In the first stage, in response to the subject of dilemma, Yallow created a carousel of the letters that make up her name in Amharic and Hebrew. The letters were hung in different heights, in different sizes and in different colors on a wheel and were moving constantly. Because of the incessant movement and disarray of the letter sequence in both languages, it was impossible to discern whether they represented a meaningful word. The literacy that dominates the gaze in the present era has created a desire in the viewers to find order among the letters according to different parameters, or at least among the recognizable Hebrew letters. The impression was that the chaos and the failure to identify ensued from the incessant movement that shakes the letters making them seemingly unrelated. After a few minutes of observing the work, Yallow said that as much as she thought about the topic of dilemma, she could not “escape” the desire to bring back the hard memory of the name change she experienced and the reeling of emotions that it caused her. After receiving the opinions from the other participants and the facilitator, she added that, following her work on the subject, she realized that the injustice she felt was created because they expected her to change rather than accept her as different, and she felt that her decision to engage in the issue helped her to form a social agenda for herself. The portrait she designed in the second stage was split in half, like two merging portraits displayed against a video of the turning carousel from the first stage. Speaking about the portrait, she said:

“The portrait I designed is made of metal wires that simulate the complexity of my identity”2424 See f.n. 17..

To sum this process and the advantage of such assignments that give rise to an experience of “flipped framework”, it can be said that the two works provoke a discussion starting with general questions on immigration and immigrant absorption, moving to the issue of migrant workers and asylum seekers in Israel and finally reaching directly the absorption of Ethiopian immigration by Israeli society. The conversation was complex and multifaceted but because the message was personal and presented directly, the utterances were restrained. The student’s personal move as well as those of the rest of the participants were developed in two stages: from an exercise to describe dilemma as a real-life experience to the description of a personal experience, and the time that elapsed between the stages allowed them to internalize the complexity of the situation and to comment on it openly. Yallow’s personal process began with an intuitive move, in which she brought up a personal experience from her past, analogous to experiential raw material. Processing that experience later on allowed her to formulate, plastically and professionally, a value infrastructure that represents her.

Learning by Experiencing

Experiencing in the learning process is a tactic for developing2525 Kolb, D. A. (1984). ... a personal-action affinity that encourages the incorporation, in addition to professional knowledge, personal skills and cultural preferences into learning products. Experiential learning also includes in-game learning, project definition (PBL) and design (UBD)2626 PBL-Project Based ... , simulations2727 Beard, C. and ... and reflection processes. Experiential learning is a natural process2828 See f.n. 20. and occurs in a direct encounter with a phenomenon, subsequently to apply professional knowledge and material and technical skills2929 Brookfield, S. D. ... , or in an encounter that reflects direct everyday experience to stimulate value and conceptual learning3030 Houle, C. (1980). ... .The reflection of the everyday in the workshop sessions directs learners to formulate a conscious way of action for themselves as professionals.

The work in Video no. 2 is a performance designed following the instruction to select three words from a particular page of a book. Aviv La Oz Kalif chose words from Gabi Nitzan’s Badulina, which prompted her to write and compose a song. In her performance in front of the study group, she inflated a blue balloon3131 Kalif chose a blue ... , played and sang her personal materials and concluded by blowing up the balloon. The indirect act, as well as the extra layer of designating the beginning and the end as a literal image of an exploding balloon, have given the study group both a direct experience and a long-lasting memory as an experience of an action within the safe space created in the workshop. For that work, La Oz Kalif drew on her personal skills and set herself a challenge on several levels: writing, composing and performing.

Video no. 2: Aviv La Oz Kalif, 2019, “Three Words from page 100 of Badulina – fear, inside, relieve”, music, words, singing and playing: Aviv La Oz Kalif, blue balloon

Processes of “Unknowing”

Learning is a process of seeking, discovering, and personal satisfaction3232 Yaakov Hecht, ... . Student empowerment following learning occurs in the present, more than anywhere else. The course has the learners assigned with tasks following which they experience a transition from unknowing to knowing: from a state of unknowing in what direction one can move forward in the process, to a state of discovering new worlds. Within a protected framework of rules, the learning process simulates a reality that provides space for practice and training in a game approach (Play). The advantage of this method is the opportunity to experiment and participate actively, to dare and to face challenges without risk3333 John Dewey (2011). ... . The main goal of applying unknowing methods is dealing with situations in everyday life, revealing paradoxes and practicing solutions beyond the threshold.

Figure no. 3: Noa Lamdan, 2017, 1,2,3,4, cake and white-chocolate figures

The work in figure no. 3 is an interpretation of the “1,2,3,4” assignment and is a figurative depiction of four mountaineers sculpted out of white chocolate against a video of a student group singing. The assignment’s “cryptic” title was intended to obviate the participants’ routine action strategies, to eliminate familiar thought paths and to spur looking for new sources of inspiration. Creator Noa Lamdan said that since she struggled for no apparent “lead to hold on to “, she decided to represent another difficulty she experienced on a trip after her military service, on the background of a video describing the enjoyable experience of the service itself. The literal translation of the title became secondary (one central volume, two types of chocolate, three states and four climbers) versus the gradual resourcefulness that led Lamdan to creatively resolve a state of unknowing. The desire to solve a processive challenge is also reflected in the choice of theme, with Lamdan describing the challenge that involved climbing during the trip she presents. Engaging with the challenge as a raw experience has allowed her to make it a visual value in professional practice.

Active Learning

Figure no. 4: Yakut Abu Kaf, 2018, Object Following “Corruption, Conflict, Rebellion”, plant

In this type of learning the learners base their action on a personal initiative that enables them to experience the multidimensional relationship between the design/art action and entrepreneurship, development, creation and influence on civil reality. In the workshop, students are asked to work in an open space where there are no practical constraints (materials, technologies, target audience…). Getting started requires them to set a frame of reference and, in the absence of specific guidelines, they choose operating conditions stemming from their own personal priorities and depending on their worldview. In terms of the process, the worldview that the participants bring to the process is the basic raw material. The learning process is aimed at allowing them to process and transform the personal raw material into values ​​and to give them ways to use it consciously.

Figure no. 5: Aviv La Oz Kalif, 2018, Fusion, digital printing

Figure no. 4 also depicts a work created following three words from a particular page in a book. Yakut Abu Kaf chose an Arabic language book on contemporary feminism, and she chose these words from a certain page: “corruption, conflict, rebellion”. The first phase of the work was choosing a book that deals with a topic that interests her. The second phase was to select three words from page 16 of the book. This phase was an opportunity to step out of the theoretical and academic framework of the book. The words were chosen from the book with whose subject Abu Kaf identified, but the requirement to choose them from one arbitrary page made her feel freedom of action with regard to the subject. Feeling noncommitted to the perspectives proposed by the book, she constructed an idea from the words, that is, she turned the raw materials she collected from the text into a principled position, and later also selected visual elements that represent the idea. Conceptualizing the idea is a process of active initiative and the selection of visual elements is a process of active learning.

Video no. 3: Aviv La Oz Kalif, Antithesis, filming and editing: Aviv La Oz Kalif

The guided process first allowed her to define a position within the general subject and to transform this raw position to a plastic artwork. In the final work, Abu Kaf planted a sapling inside a crack in the central space of the Department of Ceramics and Glass Design and explained its connection to the words. Visually, she presented the group with her personal position that advocates a rebellious approach, which promotes the recognition that an independent (independence) identity (I) is related to roots, to the ground from which it grew. In this exercise, she found the opportunity to express the personal visual interpretation of the political agenda that she had formulated.

Pro-Social and Value Learning

Developing a meaningful and value-based infrastructure enables students to assimilate critical thinking immanently in their creative processes in a wide range of aspects, from the technical level (issues of production cost, energy costs and sustainability) to the significance of the design action in a particular cultural and social context. Value-based and critical learning deepens the relationship between knowledge fields and pro-social action3434 Brown P.H., ... , making holistic methods for integrating multifaceted elements3535 Nerstrom Norma ... and complexity of values accessible.

Figure no. 6: Ella Fisher Leventon, 2017, Outburst, scrubbing sponge and sculpted soap

The work Fusion (see figure no. 5) evolved from a series of photographs for a video work (see video no. 3). Aviv La Oz Caliph challenges the obvious with the concept of “fusion” and brings up contemporary gender conceptions. The photo series dealt with classic imagery of femininity and, as La Oz Kalif proposes, it is impossible to blur them and any attempt to evade them and wash them away achieves the opposite result in refining them. The video work that evolved out of these images advances, with the thinking, one step towards a possible solution in her opinion, presenting a state of gender fluidity, blurring the boundary between intimacy and publicity and visually and auditorily presenting an almost imperceptible rite of passage from one gender to another.

Video no. 4: Ella Fisher Leventon, 2017, Object for an Unexpected Gain

Direct Instruction

Direct instruction refers to learners as partners in the learning process. For learning to be meaningful, the workshop goals and the skills that the process intends to impart are openly outlined in the syllabus3636 Hattie, J. (2009). ... . In contrast, the definition of the assignments is abstract and is not accompanied by interpretation and explanations. The examples in figure no. 6 and video no. 4 describe a personal interpretation of a “cryptic” assignment, such as a plastic expression of “outburst” or “object for an unexpected gain”.

Figure no. 7: Noam Yizraeli and Dana Ta’ir, 2018, “Shaking Off Ritual”, performance and ceramic material

The Four Types of Instruction-Learning Interaction

Of the types of interaction known in the literature3737 Bernard, R. M., ... , the Conceptual Workshop employs four styles of instruction-learning interaction:

(1) The student as a facilitator – The student raises an issue, takes a stand and explains his/her considerations (see video no. 5). Noam Yizraeli’s video work refers to the assignment “I Am in the Space”, in which he takes pictures of himself learning to dance from a music video and addressing the challenge he chose to face – to resolve the sense of strangeness he experienced at dance events. The process in the workshop allowed Yizraeli to transform an experience, raw and conscious in his case, into a visually articulated principled conception. The very choice of visual elements that represented his idea made the experiential raw material a value conception.

Video no. 5: Noam Yizraeli, 2018, I Am in the Space, video work

(2) Facilitator-students – The facilitator presents a dilemma around which learning develops through discussion (see figure no. 7). Collaboration between Noam Yizraeli and Dana Ta’ir in response to the “playing ‘catch’ [also, devotion in Hebrew]” assignment gave rise to the performance work “Shaking Off [also, disavowal in Hebrew] Ritual”. The definition of “playing ‘catch’” has become the modus operandi of the work. At their request, those in attendance participated in the ceremony, passing Noam among themselves and shaking him, to shake off the ceramic material that covers him.

(3) Students-initiators – directing content to the facilitator. In the work presented in Figure no. 9, Shaked Cohen sought to explore the possibility of breaking boundaries within the learning done at the workshop.

Figure no. 8: Katherina Sommer, 2016, Smile Container, stills, cardboard

(4) Student interaction – collaborative thinking, working and producing (see figure no. 8). Studies indicate3838 See f.n. 29. the importance of combining different types of instruction-learning to build the student’s capacity as a creator of principled consciousness and an ethical professional code. Katherina Sommer, an exchange student from Köln, has taken into account that the group’s participants are part of the assignment submission and so she has adapted the products to them personally.

From Raw to Golem

Figure no. 9: Shaked Cohen, 2017, Leaving the Bubble

The Conceptual Workshop offers a teaching concept that promotes active and pro-social thinking as professional “raw material” that is integral to the basic studies. Collecting and analyzing the workshop participants’ works enable the improvement and refinement of the interface between the participants’ conceptual raw materials and intuitive knowledge and individual action trends that emerge in the process. The observation and analysis of the participants’ works in the Conceptual Workshop during the five years of its running indicate that students choose to use, not always consciously, visual expressions that reflect personal ideas and content and that represent the former’s worldviews. As a basis for discussing the contribution of the conceptual design workshop to the formation of the learning process, three examples (the last of which is given in detail) are presented that examine what can be learned from the comparison between the fourth-year graduation project and the first-year conceptual work for students from the Department of Ceramics and Glass Design.

Figure no. 10: Zofnat Bohadana, 2016, Graduation Project, Conceptual Workshop

Zofnat Bohadana, a graduate of 2019, self-proclaims that engaging in texts is an integral part of her life even before she started studying at Bezalel. According to the instruction method in the Conceptual Workshop, assignments are given to students as a verbal definition that is meant to be obscure so that the students extract an idea from it and translate it into a visual expression. By viewing the works of Zofnat, you can see that the workshop was an opportunity for her to examine the possible system of transformations between literal, visual and material representation of text, which in retrospect continued until her graduation project.

Figure no. 11: Zofnat Bohadana, 2016, Spine and Cover

In the works that appear in figures nos. 10 and 11, Bohadana used, during the Conceptual Workshop in 2016, representations of handwriting in formative as well as personal texts. She wrote on leaves (see figure no. 10) and traced the symbolic relationship between the representation of the written text and the conceptual representation. In figure no. 11, she presents a photograph of a Talmudic page as raw material that mediates, filters and forces the view into a new, additional space. In her later studies, Bohadana trained in writing Torah scrolls in different styles (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) and used her newly-acquired skill of writing on a substrate of ceramic and porcelain in several projects. In her final project in 2019 (see figure no. 12), Bohadana returns to formative, personal, traditional texts and expands the visual representation of the text to vocal representation, as she processes and records in her own voice traditional poetry in an autobiographical context. In the statement of intent of her graduation project she refers to “the theory of longing”, coined by Avot Yeshurun in a poem related to the text of Ecclesiastes:

Figure no. 12: Zofnat Bohadana, If Your Heart Rushes, Graduation Project, glass, stone and transparent slide, script on manually-felted wool

“All streams flow into the sea, Yet the sea is never full; To the place [from] which they flow The streams flow back again. All such things are wearisome: No man can ever state them; The eye never has enough of seeing, Nor the ear enough of hearing”3939 Ecclesiastes I, 7-8.

One can understand that the graduation project is an opportunity for her to re-examine meanings that can be reflected in the text, and she chooses to incorporate insights and wonderings into it, which have emerged from a material research during four years of study.

Figure no. 13: Avigail Segal, 2015, Processed Raw Material, Graduation Project, Conceptual Workshop, wooden disks and rope

Avigail Segal4040 Avigail Segal, ... , a 2018 graduate, submitted the graduation project “132”, which included an installation and a video work (see figure no. 14). Segal writes of the idea she chose to express as a present/absent figure in the installation and in the video: “… a woman as a subject operating in space with the help of symbolic ceramic objects… The estrangement of the components’ visibility creates a sterile-imaginary situation designed to undermine social conventions”. In retrospect, it can be seen that already in Segal’s work at the Conceptual Workshop in 2015 (see figure no. 13), a generic and monochromatic woman figure, also represented without personality traits, is made of charged materials associated with women’s traditional roles in ancient societies. In fulfilling the “Processed Raw Material” assignment, Avigail presented a figure made of compact sawdust discs (MDF) and crude rope. In her submission, Segal referred to the idea that guided her in the assignment’s conception, explaining that she intended to examine how images discerned by viewers can be influenced by using processed material or by using authentic material, and at the same time to raise the question, what are the social dictates that make us recognize an object as a woman’s figure?

Figure no. 14: Avigail Segal, 2018, still from video

Dror Shoval – Approximately Distant

Figures nos. 15A and 15B show two works designed by Dror Shoval, a 2019 graduate, in his first year in the Design Conceptual Workshop. The visual characteristics in both are similar: Shoval uses in both of them cultural raw materials and uses symbolic objects that are ready-made – skullcap (kippah), keffiyeh and newspaper in one, and bags of construction materials in the other. In both works, the focus is on object relationships and the use of distancing/approximating to define the relationships between the components of the system. Shoval’s design choices are not self-evident. The decision to use raw materials and symbolic objects rather than designing new object suggests that Shoval prefers to engage in meaning over skill learning. He challenges himself in learning while playing with everyday thought materials, even though in a learning environment of design skills, the natural, expected occupation is visual manipulation of actual materials. The conception of a solution or project as a set of components is also an independent action that does not stem from the assignment’s definition and it indicates Shoval’s tendency to introduce his personal interpretations of the process to the study group. At the same time, while the mindset accompanying the occupation with design promotes principles of popular aesthetic and visual consensus, the choice of used sacks of construction materials or to bring closer/farther away a skullcap (personal), a keffiyeh and a newspaper op-ed suggests that Shoval sees the assignment as an opportunity to use his studies as symbolic layers from his own world.

Right to left:
Figure no. 15A: Dror Shoval, 2016, Personal Series, skullcap, keffiyeh, newspaper, nylon thread
Figure no. 15B: Dror Shoval, 2016, Body Posture Support, two construction material bags and nails

It can be seen that in his two works in the Conceptual Workshop, Shoval presents his worldview that favors looking at a relationship that takes form between components over the concept of unification into a single monolithic entity. Even later in his studies, the observation of the community and the affiliation group is interpreted in his works as the observation of components, of individuals, of the gaps between them, of the differences they represent is translated into the relationship forming between them. The definition of the “Body Posture Support” assignment can be seen as reasonably feasible, but in fact it lacks a real context, meaning that it is not related to an object that exists in reality and has no objective characteristics that can be grasped in order to design a solution. The only definitive fact that is implied by the assignment’s definition is an allusion to the perception of an object that supports a body posture. Even in such a case, where the only thing that can be relied upon in the solution is a central object, Shoval prefers to provide a personal interpretation and to break up the solution into two objects. The lack of a data for reaching a solution prompted Shoval to operate with complete freedom of action. He does not feel obligated to the assignment’s definition and does not feel the need to adhere to the literal concept, but rather fills the work with his own content. Shoval uses the workshop as an opportunity, even if unconscious, to present a personal stance and issues that engage him outside the curriculum. In accordance with the workshop’s learning principles, learning takes place in an “flipped framework”, i.e. learning from the world of personal content outside the classroom instead of absorbing content imparted by the facilitator.

Figures nos. 16A,: Dror Shoval, 2019, Two Thoughts on Bread, Graduation Project, glass powder on bread dough and on metal mesh in Pâte de verre technique

Shoval’s solution to assignments is to translate his worldview into plastic expression, thus he presents the body posture support as a set of components whose relationship dictates the set’s function and makes it a smart object suitable for different users. The ability to express personal content intuitively without relying on a predetermined data specification (i.e., to display a set of two raw sacks located at a certain distance/proximity), develops in a learning atmosphere that relieves those who operate within it from commitment to dictated constraints and evokes a learning environment that encourages a modus operandi that is based on personal knowledge and perception.

Figures nos. 16B: Dror Shoval, 2019, Two Thoughts on Bread, Graduation Project, glass powder on bread dough and on metal mesh in Pâte de verre technique

Shoval’s preoccupation with distance and proximity is reflected in hanging the sacks at a measured distance from one another and in his interpretation of the forced proximity of the sacks to the wall by the nails fixing them to it, and in his second work it is reflected in the visual connection between the skullcap, the newspaper and the keffiyeh by removing them from their practical context and hanging them at the same height. The nature of the assignments that resulted in Shoval’s works in the Workshop and their definition (a series of a personal object and body posture support) as devoid of any affinity with design, aesthetics, form or materiality affinity are intended to empty the world of visual concepts to which the participants are committed and to encourage them to present the world of images, meanings and interpretations occupying them and represent their worldviews in the process. Using the principles of “unknowing”, as in the workshop, the participants are not forced to adhere to existing parameters, and the instruction encourages them to trust their tendency and directs them to develop personal modes of action. Therefore, they encounter content worlds close to them, and use intuitive knowledge.

Figure no. 17: Dror Shoval, 2019, sketch

Figure no. 17 is a sketch for Shoval’s graduation project of 2019, starting at the project’s spatial planning phase. The sketch reflects how he uses again similar strategies to those he used in the Conceptual Workshop: isolating the objects by placing them in a “flattened” space, examining the distance between objects to encourage thinking about essence and the possible degree of connection between them, and using the aesthetic of symbolic raw materials. The use of a set of objects, symbolic raw materials and personal aesthetics also characterizes the final work, as can be seen in Figures 16a and 16b. In Shoval’s initial idea of placing the graduation project, he referred to the name “Two Thoughts on Bread”. The second temporary title was ManBreadBird (Bread, Man, Bird). The transformations of the project’s title and the spatial layout of the components in the sketch indicate his preoccupation with their connection or, alternatively, with blurring the separation between them, ideas that Shoval is busy deciphering in the first-year Conceptual Workshop, returning to them in his fourth-year graduation project. On this project, Shoval wrote: “My point of departure was a desire to formulate a relationship that is made of man, bread and bird: the bird is inaccessible, and bread is a possibility to mediate between it and the man. Once the man gives it bread, and in a role reversal as in the story Elijah the crows give bread to the man. Both the bread and the crows are packed with many contexts, which is why I looked for personal contexts: the bread appeared to me as scraps and an image of poverty (dry bread), and the crows appeared to me as smart birds on ‘whose side’ I would like to be. Over time, each of the images has crumbled away and what remained was the memory of all those things. The relationship that I articulated has also taken on and still takes on new forms. All that remained of the bread was burnt dough and shells of glass, which are eaten by bird beaks, or just being watched by them. Nearby, three characters are playing in a golden field”. In the text, Shoval describes his preoccupation with the relationship between the three symbolic elements in the same system. In designing and placing the project, he goes from consciously engaging in charged imagery to spatial interpretation in which images become artifacts and are separated by measured intervals, which themselves become plastic elements.

The direct instruction conception of the Conceptual Design Workshop offers a process that allows participants to begin developing a personal workflow in their first year as one of the professional skills being taught in parallel, even during unconscious learning. Another prominent visual theme in his works from those two years is the use of “peels”, visual representations that aim to focus the gaze and the mind on the relation between vacuum and plenum: newspaper, skullcap, sacks and in the graduation project – meshes that have been coated with molten glass powder, placed alongside peels of flour and air baked into bread.

Following the analysis of the connection between the Conceptual Design Workshop and the graduation project, it is too early to develop thoughts on autobiographical contexts that may exist in the works, but this is a path of research that can be combined later.


Traditionally, art and design academies impart two types of knowledge, theoretical and practical. Instruction and learning methods are interconnected and aim to promote value-based conceptions in the application of practical knowledge. In the current curriculum in the Department of Ceramics and Glass Design, the Conceptual Workshop has been defined to inherently integrate value-based and practical approaches and emphasize the unbreakable bond between value and visual meaning. The Conceptual Design Workshop has emerged as a method for imparting skill and working methods in parallel with a method of value-based thinking and developing professional and civic responsibility. The contribution of the Workshop is in creating the awareness that professional skills are not merely practical tools, and in drawing attention to the value of the professional products. During the Workshop, participants are instructed to derive values ​​from raw materials and to identify interfaces between, on the one hand, the personal meanings they embed into their learning products, and, on the other hand, social and cultural meanings, in order to emphasize the ideational impact their actions as professionals have on the creation of a just and egalitarian living space. At a time when knowledge pools and learning resources are accessible to all, the uniqueness of institutionalized learning is the possibility to hone the added value of group learning under guidance. The learning process in the Conceptual Design Workshop course is based on a group of regular participants among whom the instruction works to define a safe space of action. The benefit of the collaborative learning process in an age of unlimited media is the possibility of eliciting a multi-participant discussion committed to a direct encounter with the “other”. Future research on the Conceptual Workshop will examine whether a link or some leading principles can be found with students whose graduation project presents a position of value, between their four-year projects including their graduation projects and their work in the Conceptual Workshop, in order to quantify the effectiveness of the Workshop’s learning principles.

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1. The study program created by the Department’s head, Dr. Eran Ehrlich.
2. The expression originates in the story The Golem by Isaac Bashevis Singer, based on a popular Jewish legend from the 16th century.
3. What is meant here is a conception of professional responsibility that takes into account the influence a professional action has on the various layers of reality. Freedom and cultural diversity, social equality of opportunities and the preservation of environmental balance.
4. Raw in the sense of a natural concept system, lacking deliberate intervention of an academic professional practice.
5. http://2016.bezalel.ac.il/ceramics-glass/%D7%90%D7%93%D7%9D-%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%99.
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15. Hattie, ibid., pp. 204-207; index 0.59, compared to mainly research-based instruction with 0.31 and project-based instruction with 0.20.
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24. See f.n. 17.
25. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, p. 26.
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32. Yaakov Hecht, Pluralist Learning (Hebrew).
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39. Ecclesiastes I, 7-8.
40. Avigail Segal, 2019, graduation project: http://2018.bezalel.ac.il/ceramics-glass/%D7%90%D7%91%D7%99%D7%92%D7%99%D7%9C-%D7%A1%D7%92%D7%9C/#&gid=1&pid=5
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