A Conversation With: Gittit Szwarc and Laurie Franck

An ongoing series of conversations with friends, collaborators, and creatives to explore a dialogue on inspiration, passion, community, travel, and life in general.  In celebration of the Knobbly Studio x Laurie Franck Woman Tee, we interviewed both jewelry designer Gittit Szwarc of Knobbly Studio and photographer/tattoo artist Laurie Franck.  Learn more about these fascinating ladies and how they imbue their work and life with a refreshingly considered perspective.

Tell us about yourselves.  Your backgrounds are very different from what you ended up pursuing career-wise.  What drew you to jewelry design and photography/tattoo?  

Gitit:  I started off making accessories for myself, because I couldn't find what I wanted.  I'd never pierced my ears, and all the ear cuffs at the time were either very blinged out or they had dragons and fairies.  I wanted something streamlined that worked with the lines of the body, so I made it.  I think that's where my connection to movement practices comes out: to this day, whatever I design, it always starts out with the image of a human face, neck, body and an idea of how the new lines would relate to their contours or movement.

Laurie:  I was always passionate about photography and went to art school.  I’ve been working as an independent photographer for 6 years now.  I usually work for brands or magazines and sometimes host exhibits to show my personal work.  For tattoo, it began with a love story.  I met Paolo Bosson, a great tattoo artist experimenting with a new aesthetic and way of tattooing.  We started drawing together, and he pushed me to experiment and taught me how to tattoo.  I did my first tattoo in handpoke on him, and it was evident that this medium was right for me.  It’s a form of meditation.  You are in a special atmosphere with your customer, and it’s a really different mood and energy than with the machine.  As a tattoo artist, I’m now working at Verlan Gallery in Zurich with a talented team and owner, who is also a really great photographer.  I feel I’m in the right place.

How did the collaboration come about?  What was the inspiration?

Gittit:  Laurie and I connected on Instagram.  I was fascinated at the time by the idea of depicting human forms and expressions with as few lines as possible.  We are so wired to look for faces and bodies that representations can be stripped down to almost nothing, and we'll still see them there.  And Laurie's work was exactly that.

Whether explicit or implicit, you both share a love and celebration of women from form to a spirit of support.  Who are some women that you admire?

Gittit:  My grandmother, who is an amazing human.  She is living proof that creativity and learning don't stop with age, and at 83, she's still working, researching, changing, synthesizing ideas across domains, and fully engaged in doing what she loves.

Laurie:  Throughout my life, I’ve always been fascinated by females and the female form.  Maybe it started when I was young and a synchronized swimmer.  That form of swimming is a really sensual discipline.  After finishing art school, I discovered new photographers and was especially fascinated by Francesca Woodman.  Her book was my bible for two years.  I have a lot of admiration for the women around me, especially because they are strong and fragile at the same time and put so much energy into their projects.  Like Gitit, for example, she has put so much energy into our collaboration.  I’m really thankful to know her!

What has been inspiring you as of late? 

Gittit:  I had some conversations with friends who are fine artists, about making choices that appear unwise in traditional senses at the time, but have a longer amplitude effect that is visible over years to come.  Fine artist careers live at a different pace, it's sort of like watching a giant tortoise when you're used to the lifespan of a vole.  But it's taught me to have a far more forward-thinking perspective of how I want my work to be.

Laurie:  Recently, I was in Paris for 3 days.  Usually, I have a problem with the city, but the time, I was really inspired by it!

You’re based in Israel (Gittit) and Switzerland (Laurie). How do your surroundings impact you and your work?

Gittit:  I grew up in a coastal town, so I always feel like I think better near the sea.  My studio neighborhood, the Noga District, is a mix of young designer studios, art galleries and garages.  It's a super supportive environment and people are always happy to pool our knowledge and resources, which is extremely helpful with my collaborations project because I'm always having to learn new mediums - being able to drop by and pick a friend's brain for insights that they gathered working in their field for several years is priceless.  Lastly, Israel is a polarizing place in terms of how it's viewed from the outside.  My first few years I thought I needed to keep that part of my bio out of the spotlight, but lately I realized that there are already so many things out there that offend no one, there's no reason for me to be one of them.  It's taught me to allow myself to be one thing and decidedly not the other, in everything I do, not just whether or not I take pictures of my town.  You can't add value if you're not willing to choose what you are not.  I do occasionally get comments or emails from people saying as much as they love my work, they do not feel they can in good conscience support something coming out of Israel.  I tell them that when they support Israeli indie designers, they're supporting and strengthening the people in this generation who are still here pushing for human rights and peaceful solutions and struggling against the present state of this country.

Laurie:  I was based in Lyon, France for 5 years and recently moved to Zurich.  It’s a new start for me, and I really enjoy it.  I always dreamt of living close to the sea or lake, and now, I’m surrounded by water and mountains.  I take my inspiration from everywhere – nature, books, the internet.  Mostly, I just draw without expecting something and let my hand run free on the paper.

Fuggiamo is Italian for “let’s escape”.  In the spirit of escaping, what are your favorite ways to unwind? 

Gittit:  Last winter I ditched my car and started cycling everywhere.  It's a 40 minute ride each way from my home to my studio, which seems like a lot, but it's my favorite time of every day.  40 minutes not looking at any screen, and just being in whatever weather is happening at the moment and responding to movement in your surroundings - I can honestly say it's kept me sane and balanced through an extremely stressful year.

Laurie:  Nature is the best place if you need fresh air and new inspiration.  I take my bike for a ride or go to the lake.

Do you have a mantra you live by?  

Gittit:  I remind myself often to "be polarizing".  I mean it not in a negative or aggressive way, but in the sense of, do not be afraid to express what you stand for because someone might not like it, or not relate to it, or take offense.  I feel it makes the connection to people who do stick around and are interested in what I have to say, that much stronger.

Laurie:  I just try to be in the present moment and leave my anxiety and fear aside.  You create your reality, so I try to make mine as beautiful as I wish.

What’s next for you?

Gittit:  It's going to be a busy season!  I have several new collaborations lined up in various mediums, which I'll be rolling out up until the holidays.  I've had some good responses to conversations I published with artists I collaborated with, and I'm looking forward to doing more of that - talking to interesting people about the unique intersection of things that they're passionate about.  Laurie is coming to Jaffa in October, and we've been sparking off so many ideas for things to do and make when we finally meet in person!

Laurie:  A solo exhibition at Verlan Gallery in October and a week with Paolo in Tel-Aviv to meet Gitit.  I can’t wait to meet Gittit in person!  We would like to work on more projects, and it’s important for me to have real contact.  I want to dive into her environment.

As for the rest, I don’t know yet.  A lot of inspiring stuff, I hope!

Gitit and her studio

Laurie and her designs


 Be sure to follow Gittit and Laurie on Instagram, and shop our selection of the Handpoke Woman Tees here.