William Drenttel | Essays

Imagining Menorahs as Peacocks?

Menorah, design by Drenttel Doyle Projects (Miguel Oks), 1996

I dread the cycle of new product introductions thrown at Design Observer every holiday season — especially the menorahs — or Hanukkah lamps — proposed as Hanukkah gifts. They're paraded in catalogs this time of year with questionable evangelism: "A new generation of designers is re-imagining the menorah using everything from recycled bike chains to wrought iron for inspiration." The idea that designers want to "re-imagine" the menorah every year is worthy of discussion and critique; the idea that they elect to work with materials like recycled bike chains needs to be challenged by someone.

Sadly, this year's highlights of "re-imagined" menorahs from Modern Tribe include the "Not Schlock's Man-orah Menorah" made out of galvanized steel pipe plumbing parts; the need-we-say-more East-Village asesthetic "Recycled Bicycle Chain Menorah"; the "Solid as your faith" wrought-iron menorah; the perplexing "Puzzle Menorah," "crafted with four generations of Egyptian-born and Jerusalem-based silversmith artistry;" and finally the are-you-kidding-me "Peacock Menorah" to "preen your Hanukkah finery."

Daniel Libeskind, famed for his Jewish Museum in Berlin, decided to make a contribution too. There is his exhibition of 40 menorahs at the Jewish Museum in New York, lovingly photographed to look elegant for T, The New York Times Style Magazine. The designer contributions in this show are mixed, including Richard Meier's 1985 homage to architectural styles from historical moments of Jewish persecution to Karim Rashid's somewhat dated blob forms of 2004.

And let's not forget this year's iMenorah for your iPhone: "For the Jew far from home!"

A decade ago, Drenttel Doyle Projects worked for a year designing a menorah on commission. We made five of them. It was a long, slow process, and ultimately the menorah was hand-tooled in steel, and made of close to 100 individual parts. When candles were placed in it and lit, the reflective screen moiré became magical. I love everything about what we designed, except that it's too expensive to share or sell. But at least it's not a peacock or, God help me, a Man-orah.

Jobs | May 19