It’s often artists and other creative types that inhabit and restore abandoned, historically significant buildings.
That’s what happened at Jerusalem’s Beit Alliance, the educational institution built in 1880, used for years as an arts high school and later abandoned.
After a local developer bought the property to turn it into a hotel, he was convinced by non-profit Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit) to loan it temporarily as a center for young artists.
The spacious square structure, located next to the Mahane Yehuda market, is now home to startup accelerator MassChallenge, dance group Catamon, the School of Music and Silence, actors’ forum Brenga, Alliance 7 filmmakers and most recently, Parallel, a studio and shop shared by three clothing and accessories designers. Jewelry designer Baara Guggenheim, weaver Adi Yair and leather bag designer Ella Alush make up Parallel, located on the bottom level of the building.
Guggenheim crafts subtle, contemporary necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets using silver, gold plate and concrete, integrating the hard, neutral materials to fabulous effect in delicate pendants and pins. The non-precious jewelry is priced from NIS 160 ($45) to NIS 500 ($142).
Jewelry design is a second career for Guggenheim, who previously worked in high-tech and higher education, before applying herself fully to what had first been a hobby.
“Cement is labor intensive, but it’s also an inspirational material to work with,” said Guggenheim, who crafts her pieces at the Parallel studio.
Her neighbors in the other corners of the room are Yair, who weaves monochromatic tops and dresses in black and white, and Ella Alush, a Bezalel graduate who has been obsessed with designing bags since she was 12.
Alush first tried to launch her brand of boxy, Asian-inspired pocketbooks, wallets and backpacks in Tel Aviv, before embarking on a worldwide tour that ultimately brought her back home to Jerusalem.
“It’s my comfort zone and that’s most important for me,” said Alush, who also sells her bags at fairs and online at Etsy. “I love being near the [market], and the other artists here — it gives me power to create.”
Alush’s collection ranges in price from NIS 150 for wallets to NIS 1,400 for bags, and she’s also working on leather jewelry pieces and sandals.
There’s also a new bag collection in the works, made with Tyvek, the polyethylene material used most often at construction sites, in order to bring down costs, and create something vegan-friendly.
All three artists sometimes offer workshops separately, or together.
Parallel, Beit Alliance, 5 Kiah Street (inside the Mahne Yehuda parking lot), bottom floor, open 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.