BARRY DAVIS meets a design icon whose collections are architectural with sharp angles and geometric shapes
DESIGNER Judit Blumenfrucht took decades to find her career path, but now her innovative pieces and square rings enjoy widespread success.
Judit Blumenfrucht could probably have been anything she wanted and, it seems, she wanted to do lots of things.
Not that she hasn't managed quite a few lines of work thus far but, for now at least, she is settled on furthering her development as a jewellery designer.
Judging by her record in the last couple of years, she isn't doing too badly with that.
Next week, some of her latest designs will be on display at the Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Fair at Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem - her second appearance there in three years, following shows at Earl's Court in London and in Hong Kong.
A run through 57-year-old Judit's CV makes fascinating reading. She was born in Hungary, but fled to England with her family in 1956 when the Soviet army invaded the country.
As a teenager, she thought of studying to become an interpreter and went on to take a BA and MA in languages and language-related subjects - and is halfway through a doctorate.
Today she speaks seven languages.
"Actually I studied Arabic, too," she said. "I think that's a very important language to know in Israel. I took classes at the YMCA, but I have forgotten everything."
A linguistic foray into Russian came to nothing, although she retains a good command of the language.
"I wanted to study Russian and I dreamed of becoming a Hebrew-Russian interpreter in the Knesset," she continued. "That was in 1974 and I thought I was coming on aliya, but people said there are no Russians in Israel. Now there are plenty of Russians here and they don't need my services."
Judit eventually made it to Israel with her husband and four children in 1997. She lives in Ramot in a house the interior of which she designed herself.
"I could have been an architect," she mused. "I might have been good at that. I have designed friends' homes and I finally got around to doing my own."
She said that she has also devised a highly efficient and rapid system for getting everything ready for Shabbat.
"I want to put up a website called Shabbat in an Hour. I am very unfocused, which is part of my problem, so I try to be organised."
Judit's jewellery designs are deceptively simple, with clear lines and shapes.
"All my collections are architectural, with sharp angles and geometric shapes," she observes.
When we met she was wearing a silver ring comprising two squares, with a triangular stone setting on top.
Interestingly, all her rings are square with stone settings of all sorts of geometric shapes, including rectangles, triangles, ovals and circles.
"I think I started making square rings because they are easier than making round ones," she stated simply.
"I took a piece of tube, cut it into four pieces and put the ring together."
Judit had never seen a square ring before and, evidently, is an adherent of the square-peg-in-a-round- hole mindset.
"Anyway, anyone can make a round ring," she said. "It's not worth bothering with."
Besides the pristine lines of her designs, there often appears to be some subliminal tongue-in-cheek element about her pieces which, for Blumenfrucht, fits in nicely with one of her artistic inspirations. "I am influenced by [20th century Dutch painter Pieter Cornelis] Mondrian and his straight lines," she said, "and I find it comical that he made everyone think it is art. I can't see his works in a museum or gallery without having a laugh to myself."
Judith also feeds off another early 20th-century artistic school of thought.
"I love art deco with its clean lines," she said. "In my home everything is very geometric with clean lines."
Unlike her linguistic skills, which she acquired at high school and at various universities in Britain and at an interpreters' school in Switzerland, Judit's design expertise is largely self-taught. She says she is at a loss to explain her laissez faire working continuum to date, and that there were several hiccups to be negotiated en route to where she is today.
"I started my business with nothing - that's the whole joke of it," she said.
"I had this range of jewellery I made 22 years ago after doing a silversmithing course.
"But like everything I do, I am never happy with my own work so I gave it out to be made up by other people.
"Unfortunately, one of the jewellers lost 22 pieces and I didn't have the money to remake them.
"My husband was out of work at the time, then he found a job and I forgot about the jewellery work."
That hiatus lasted a full two decades but, once back in the sector, Blumenfrucht got up and running in double quick time.
"In between the last time I took part in Hutzot Hayotzer and this time, I did Top Drawer [international design exhibition] in London," she said. "That was amazing.
"My stuff is now in the National Portrait Gallery [in London] - although it's not on display yet because they don't really know how to put the pieces out.
"If you put square objects on a flat top it just looks like junk. I hope to do something about that the next time I'm in London."
The Top Drawer website blurb says the show exhibits items by British and international suppliers who combine "great design with commercial appeal", which is a fair description of Blumenfrucht's eye-catching creations.
Her go-with-the-flow ethos is bearing aesthetic fruit. On her way back from Hong Kong in June, she stopped off in Amsterdam to visit her son who works in computers there and found some interesting materials and shapes.
"I made some stuff for Hutzot Hayotzer myself, which is very unusual," she said. "The design came with the making without a plan.
"I picked up some square pieces of metal with holes in them in Hong Kong. And in Amsterdam I found this amazing enormous bead shop and I ended up buying some wooden beads - I try to stick to natural materials.
"I bought some square wooden beads, and long pieces as well, and pearls. Mind you, they're not all geometric shapes.
"I think I am taking a softer approach these days. When I got home with them I didn't really know what to do with them, and I started stringing them onto leather and ended up with a design which I'll put out at Hutzot Hayotzer."
She has also managed to get herself on board at this year's Emmy bash.
"I got involved with the American Artisans group and, through them, I am putting my business card in the swag bag that is given to all sorts of stars who attend the awards. I'm also planning on doing something at the Oscars and Golden Globes in 2012."
However, any idea that Blumenfrucht is heading for the jetsetter elite couldn't be further from reality. "If any of that comes off I'll be made, but I don't think that will happen," she said.
"Money doesn't really interest me. When I was small, in England, we were poor.
"I remember my father's room had icicles in the winter because he didn't heat the room," she said.
More than anything, Judit says she has fun with what she does, even if she's not quite sure where her ideas come from.
"I love what I do - It's just creativity," she said. "It's in the air somewhere." (Jerusalem Post)
See more of Judit's work at www.juditb.com