This man is singular. Despite the challenges in life, he turns his flaws into a unique system that goes beyond a single comprehension. In his dyslexic and complex mind, he imagines the unimaginable through his creative visions. He is a force to be reckoned with and his name is Arik Levy.
Born and raised in Israel, Arik Levy has always been a hard worker in all aspects of life. As a young child, he was a very bad student and never finished school. Back in the 70s, the term ‘dyslexia’ was not developed and for Arik, his way of learning had to be unconventional. From selling flowers when he was eight to losing a finger, the former champion of Israel in classic roller-skating was forced to invent his own systems of learning, understanding and memory.
“I’m totally dyslexic! Because of that, I have an incoordination between the eye, the brain and the hand. In many cases, creative people in the creative community including artists, architects, designers are more dyslexic people because the brain is compensated by 3D vision; being able to see things within really seeing them and so on,” confesses Arik.
Not being able to do the normal stuff, Arik was put into a situation where he had to create his own methods of learning. He learnt typing as a mechanism and because he couldn't spell, he had to come out with a system to figure out the letters through typing. (And yes, we’re talking about the traditional typewriters before electric ones were created.)
“When I lost a finger from an accident in the workshop, I lost one letter,” he recalls of the incident in 1992. “So I had to relearn completely how to type with nine fingers, not with ten. So it’s like going back to ground zero. And again, it’s survival because if you can’t type, you cannot communicate; and if you cannot communicate, you don’t exist.”
Arik reveals that the relearning process has brought him to a state of mind that cultivates the passion and interest to invent, innovate and do things differently. “So in my repertoire, you can see I hardly do the same things. I design jewelries and bathtubs, and I create a chair and also a watch for Samsung!” he elaborates.
As he speaks of his first bathroom collection for renowned German brand KALDEWEI, Arik remains excited.
You’re a trained surfer and the feeling of being carried by the waves brings you into the design of the Emerso collection that you’ve designed for KALDEWEI. Can you tell us when did this idea or concept actually come about to mind?
When you’re surfing, you are constantly in this situation of balance and being in and out. It’s all about this push and pull factor; the pursuit to remain steady. It’s how much you need to push to be in the water, to create the need to ski over the water and so on and this is something which—if you surf, (and I surf all year round, so everything on the water is perfect)—is everything.
When you put yourself in the water, you immerse physically and you immediately create that ‘element’. It is about an action to a reaction.
Why is this first bathroom collection for KALDEWEI is so important for you?
Firstly, it’s important for me because it’s my first bathtub collection. The second thing is that the sensation of being in water is something for me is essential to every human because we come from water. So it’s something that we know, without knowing that we know. It’s something like an uncontrolled muscle.
In this collection, there is a strong sense of imagination and fluidity and in terms of the bathtub design. It’s a very beautiful sculptural statement piece. But in your own words, can you summarize the final outcome of the collection, which was conceived two years ago?
Two years and counting, I can proudly say is that there is nothing like this in the market still. So it had a place and had a vision and you need the right company to be able to realize it in such a perfect way. The precision of steel enamel is absolutely revolutionary. To see that it stays unique and it feels more like a piece of art itself rather than a magnification of a trendy idea is humbling.
The second thing is the reward to see the vision that you have is something that sustains through time. So whether it is successful or not, we will know maybe in 3 to 5 years. It takes time to establish a new product.
In your works, we see multiple layers of design and details when it comes to the conceptualization of the design. How particular are you in terms of getting the details right and why?
Details is a necessity to my work and like the Emerso Collection, it is very important because it’s the details that create the highlight. And the highlight is the only way you can see the form. So when you make the form in a matte material, it behaves differently than in a shiny material. So you’ll have to put yourself in a situation where you are designing optics. It’s the form through people’s vision and not just a form for my liking.
I studied car design as part of my education because car design was the closest to sculpture and for me, I had the idea that car design will be interesting for me to learn about materials and technology. When you make a car, you make the first prototype, you drive it into a room with fluorescent lights and you see how the light is running on the form and that is what describes the car. It’s not what you see. It is what you see in the reflection.
It is like typography. It’s not about the letters but its about the space around each alphabet. And that builds the composition—the space around the letters. And that’s what interests me; that the space around—and its only with through details.
How do you cultivate the culture of creating details?
When you see a person you say: “Wow, you have such beautiful eyelashes.” But the person is so big, there is so much to say about the person and the first thing you look at are the eyelashes. You know that the eyelashes are amazing. But it is not just about that. When something is too good to be true, you’d pause for a second and ask yourself if that is really right.
I always ask the question to my team in the studio. When they present something new, I’ll ask them what’s wrong. I want to know what’s wrong. And if they can’t find anything wrong with the design, it is because they didn’t work enough. They didn’t criticize themselves enough. You need to continuously ask questions time (after time) after time.
There’s never a moment where I’d stop. Even after a product is finished and I look at it; perhaps there are a few things I would do differently.
If you’re going to design another collection of bathtubs, what would you do different this time?
It’s a big question. I’m walking around and asking myself the same question: “what would I have done differently?” For me, it would not be about the matter, but it would be the mind. So if you do mind over matter, you’re able to go that way. You see, my mind works different than others. One person may think it’s big, I don’t think it’s small. These two are two separate arguments.
Do you have any morning routine?
Yes, I wake up early simply because I am a morning person. I wake up and I only drink tea, and then I start making breakfast for my family. For the kids, I’d prepare some fruits and make sure everything is fresh. The kids like it cause it also looks good and then I take my girls to school. After that, I go to a café and I sit alone. I have 30 minutes to plan my entire day. Then, I’ll head to the office and start working.
If you are going to retire to a city, where would it be?
Ah, which city? I think it’s going to be on a different planet I think.
Photos courtesy of Kaldewei