Interview: Urban Raven Creator Shiran Tal

In case you haven't already, check out the generous Urban Raven ring giveaway in the previous post! Here, Urban Raven's creator Shiran Tal answers questions about her methods and motivation. If you are a creator, this is a must-read!

When did you begin Urban Raven? 
Shrian Tal: I founded Urban Raven in 2013 in Zichron Yaakov, Israel.

While studying industrial design at HIT College, I became interested in jewelry design and began learning it on my own. It became a true passion, so I ended my studies in industrial design and am currently a goldsmith student.  
Ever since I was a child, I always loved design and working with my hands, but I never thought I would be doing it for a living. 

When did you start to upcycle? 

I was introduced to the world of upcycling after I had already begun experimenting with jewelry making and it was a god send! It led me to creative searches through the flea market in Yafo (Jaffa) where I looked for items I could reinvent and sell to pay off my student loans. Unfortunately, even at the flea market, the items were too pricey for me and I just couldn’t see a way to make a living off of them. 

However, it was there that a broken beer bottle happened to catch my eye and fill me with inspiration about creating beautiful pieces out of discarded objects. I began experimenting with glass, smashing a few bottles at home, and worked with the random shards that naturally broke off. What resulted from those first experiments was beautiful and produced an excited reaction from friends and family. 

That’s when I truly realized that I had found a way to enjoy design, challenge myself and create unique pieces that would be environmentally friendly (very important) and still quite beautiful. 

Then I started to branch out and look for anything and everything that I could turn into jewelry. My mother works in the world of high-tech and suggested that I might use castoff computer chips to create something. The computer chips turned out to be great material to work with because they are so intricate and lovely just as they are. All I needed to do was bring out their inner potential in terms of design. 

A few months later I came across my brother’s old stamp collection. It was so distinctive and wonderful that I decided to try and incorporate the stamps into my jewelry. I even got a few stamp donations from friends and acquaintances. The end product was a collection of nostalgic, historical, one-of-a-kind pieces. 

One of my favorite discoveries was my grandfather’s old coin collection, saved in his attic for years. I was honored when I was given them to repurpose. Coins have a way of capturing history and art in a special way and it was a privilege to rework them and bring out their hidden beauty. 

What is the biggest challenge in upcycling? 
The biggest challenge, and the most fun part, of upcycling is choosing the materials and turning them into something wearable that preserves the item’s history while still giving it new life. Most of my pieces are one-of-a-kind. Even if I use similar materials I try to make sure that each piece has its own distinctive significance. 

For example, even two identical stamps will have a different patina or wear and tear so they are never exactly the same. Beyond my interest in creating each piece with its own look, the real joy is making each item special for each customer so that they know they have the only one like it. 

What are your plans for your shop?
My hope for the future is to never stop creating and learning new techniques in the field of upcycling. I’d love to get into furniture, accessories, lighting and more. I often fantasize a completely upcycled store, full of inspiration and design. It would fuel my personal desire to be surrounded by inspiration and innovation at all times. 

Where can you buy Urban Raven Items?
At the moment I sell my items on etsy, shopping Laisha (Israeli site), my personal website Urban Raven, and Facebook. I also occasionally set up booths at fairs and festivals throughout Israel. 

Do you have any tips for new upcyclers?

Open your mind, play with different materials and always look around you for inspiration. Work with the materials you find, be flexible. You might think you know what direction a material is going to go in, but the material might show you otherwise. Go with it and understand that the best things happen when you haven’t planned them. 

Study materials, take short courses in what interests you and experiment all the time in your studio/home. Show your creations to your friends and family and really listen to their comments. They will always want the best for you, so don’t be stubborn. 

On the other hand, do not ONLY work from a desire to please clients. You must find your own voice and believe in it. 

Overall, do not be afraid to play and experiment. At worst you’ll have upcycled and helped the environment and that’s really a no lose situation. 

Good luck!