Design is a subject Oded Friedland feels strongly about. The Israeli industrial designer originally studied at Bezalel Art & Design Academy in Jerusalem. Upon graduation, he launched Monkey Business in 1994 as a company specialising in original gift items.
“We are a publishing house for local Israeli designers,” says Friedland during one of his frequent visits to southern China to oversee the production of his company’s products.
“The local population of Tel Aviv is small. Our products target international markets, and the language of design is international. Israel is close to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. We help Israeli designers bring their ideas to market.”
Friedland understands that while people may enjoy fine wine and designer clothing, the items that they use daily can also be luxurious.
Yet, many are not willing to spend a little extra for something that gives them a daily pleasure while doing mundane household chores such as laundry or preparing meals for the family. He explains the process of how his design for laundry pegs, Pegzini Family, came into being. “Originally, I had the idea of silhouettes similar to Charlie’s Angels figures from the ’70s TV show,” he recalls.
But upon further study, the prototypes were too flat and the legs did not suit the function of how a clothes peg worked. “That idea became tight rope walkers,” Friedland says, noting how a laundry line is a version of a tight rope.
“We researched vintage circus posters. Inbal Hoffman provided the illustrations – and the packaging was a big part of our product.”
The final product is a playful interpretation of stereotypical circus performers, with five figures, including a monkey on a unicycle and a juggler as part of the fictional Pegzini family.
Monkey Business represents more than 40 designers or design firms, with royalties going to each. The products include kitchen, dining, household and office-related items. One of the latter is Morris Memo, a clever and whimsical memo holder shaped like a friendly pony and designed by long-time collaborator Yaacov Kaufman, a lecturer at Bezalel and one of Friedland’s former teachers. The head of Morris is a built-in clip intended to hold important notes or other items.
Along with operating the family-run Monkey Business with his wife Liat and brother Omri, Friedland teaches a course at Bezalel concentrating on entrepreneurial design.
When he is not in China making sure products are fully realised to an international level of quality or back home working on the latest gadget, he can often be found surfing and indulging his love for the sea.
One of his designs evolved out of a trip to the beach with his family and staff. After opening a few bottles of wine, he began to amuse himself with the corks, forming cute characters with just the addition of a few pins and simple accoutrements.
The experiment eventually became Corker, a fun way to add life to a party through accessorising corks extracted from wine bottles. “My son saw the initial version of Corker and said that I wasn’t working – I was playing,” he remembers with a smile. Indeed, his job is one that we all would like to have.