Tal Zur on slow interiors, soft power and the language of crochet

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My latest guest on Out of the Clouds is Tal Zur, teacher at the Holon Institute of Technology and the co-founder of Iota Project, a Tel Aviv-based design and social enterprise start-up with a goal to create social impact through design. And their technology (or rather technique) powering the project is crochet.

I had the pleasure of seeing Tal and her company receive an award a few months ago, and I was moved to see her on stage with her then four-months-old baby Shira to accept the trophy.

In our conversation, Tal tells me how she came to study industrial design, curatorship and patisserie (yes, indeed, a surprising combination) then how she chose to move away from working in fashion and a serendipitous connection with her co-founder, Shula Mozes, the one to bring her the idea of crochet as the basis for their social enterprise.

From that first conversation, Tal tells me about taking up crochet herself while walking the trail of Camino de Santiago (known in English as the Way of St James), and how meditative and interesting the practice was for her. Later, things clicked into place when she visited Boston’s The Institute of Contemporary Art museum and saw a textile exhibition that sparked an idea. Shortly after, the Iota Project was born — without a business plan, without excel spreadsheets, but with great passion.

I ask Tal about the products first, because, well, theirs are quite wonderful: swings, rugs, portable cushions and blankets with straps, for indoor and outdoor living. She tells me about why they choose to make their own yarn, the benefits of designing products with a tolerance for mistakes and taking inspiration from Greek grandmothers’ doilies for their rugs and blankets.

Tal also highlights that crochet is like a design language. She compares it to music and how, by sharing crochet design drawings (not unlike sheet music), pieces can easily be made by women working remotely.

We then discuss the importance of slow design, and how Iota Project aims to create sustainable social impact by being a platform for change, and putting the opportunity in our hands, the consumers, designers, architects or other companies that will purchase the product.

We finish by talking about how Tal approaches her life as a mother (of three!) and being an entrepreneur, the importance of trust when working with women remotely, and how teaching in front of design students twice a week is a bubble that keeps her feeling creatively connected.

A very inspiring interview with a compelling and fascinating woman. Enjoy!