Continuing our exploration of captivating slow design brands, we discovered Ethnica Designs by Dikla Lahiani. Nature-inspired and nature-honouring, the handmade designs speak to those that adore that little bohemian touch. The young Tel Avivian designer enlightened us about her spiritual inspiration, as well as the unique niche of Etsy entrepreneurship.
Words: Meri Frig
You like to use cork, recycled wood and vegan leather as materials. Why is that?
The basic materials I love to work with are eco-friendly materials that do not harm the environment in their production, use or disposal. I think that the environment and its protection should be at the top of our priorities and thoughts. It is important for every one of us to understand the impact of human activities on Earth.
As a vegetarian artist, I avoid using products whose production included animal exploitation or harming nature. As a product designer, it is important for me that the products are vegan, devoid of cruelty to nature. I also genuinely connect to the rough, earthy and natural look, which is simple and sometimes even ferocious. I went on an ongoing journey to find the materials and techniques that suit my products best. This is one of the most interesting, yet challenging tasks in my creative work.
Cork wallets, vegan accessories, cork wall clocks, jewellery organisers, laptop stands, as well as plant holders and stands are some of the fruits of this process. Cork is the material I use most often. For producing cork, no tree needs to be cut and the tree’s surface does not suffer any type of damage. It is a waterproof material, great for keeping products safe and sound in adverse weather conditions. It also ages without deteriorating due to its resistance. I also use upcycled wood: woods that were used for various purposes and not fully utilised. It is possible to turn the discarded wood from useless items into something functional and attractive. Vegan leather is an animal rights activist's alternative to real leather, essentially a fake 'leather' material that does not use animal skin.
What inspires you?
I love making and creating whatever I can dream of, and I always take the creative process as a new experience. After traveling around the world, I got to know different cultures and I was exposed to different types of art. I started to create art in many forms, combining special and high-quality materials. I have been very inspired by ethnic designs and geometric style that transmit a lot of love and appreciation for nature. In my designs, I emphasise the unique patterns that exist naturally in nature - colours and geometric shapes.
Which are the characteristic Ethnica products? How did you come up with them?
When I designed my first product, I combined all my skills and started creating a concept. I started with design wallets made of high quality cork and different vegan leathers, and started to draw mandalas on them by hand. From that, I started making vegan necklaces and bracelets. Lately I have started to focus more on home décor: eco-friendly products for home with authentic design.
All my designs are handmade and unique. Each one of my products is one of a kind and each piece has its own unique characteristics and personality. Ethnica products are ecological and nature-inspired designs for home interior, home organisation, accessories, fashion, and routine. I emphasise quality and therefore my handmade items last longer.
You draw some parts by hand. What kind of figures do you like to draw? Is there a semiotic meaning to them?
Geometric forms have always been a key source of inspiration for me. I draw geometric patterns, with which the designs become simple yet wholly striking works of art. I work with a special painting technique and all the materials I use are derived from nature.
"The most important thing is to do what you honestly love, feel passionate about and do well, try not to be discouraged by ideas that don't necessarily translate into success."
Mandala appears frequently in your products. Why is that?
Mandala represents wholeness. It is a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to infinity, beyond and within our bodies and minds. I use Mandala frequently in my drawings because it symbolises my own journey through life. Mandalas can lead us to an experience of wholeness, when we take the time to make them and then wonder what they mean. In the strict use of the mandala, there is a central point or focus within the symbol from which radiates a symmetrical design. This suggests there is a centre within each one of us to which everything is related, by which everything is ordered, and which is itself a source of energy and power.
"Mandala represents wholeness. It is a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to infinity, beyond and within our bodies and minds."
What are your tips for designers who want to open their own Etsy shop?
First of all, don't be scared. We can all analyse the pros and cons, and be really intimidated to start doing anything. Just do it! Especially when you hit a wall and nothing seems to be selling, just keep on creating and posting new items on your Etsy shop. To those who are just starting out, keep in mind, the most important thing is to do what you honestly love, feel passionate about and do well, try not to be discouraged by ideas that don't necessarily translate into success.
As an artist, interior designer or a crafter extraordinaire, starting a business of your own handmade items can be exhilarating, as well as overwhelming. Always remember that the amount of time you invest is directly related to the amount of progress you will make and the degree of success you will see. Go at it with a long-term commitment and passion, and when you do feel weary, press on.
It helps a lot if you have an original product that stands out from the crowd. If you believe in yourself and love what you do, it reflects to your work. Taking small steps and slowly building customer relationships has brought me where I am now. I love custom requests, they can be very inspiring and it gives me a chance to naturally evolve in my work. Heart-warming feedback from my lovely customers is the best thing in this work. It definitely keeps me going.