The Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco is a non-collecting institution exploring the 21st century Jewish experience and bringing it to new audiences through diverse programs and exhibitions. In 2005, Allied Works was asked to participate in an invitational that explores and re-interprets artifacts and objects from Jewish life. The focus of the exhibition was the besamim, or spice box, which is used during the ceremony marking the end of the sabbath and the return to everyday life.
Inspired by the landscape of the Rift Valley between Jordan and the West Bank, we took the traditional spice box archetype—often a tower or house form wrought in metal—and turned it on its end. The resulting glass vessel is four hands wide and subtly curved and etched. During the havdalah ceremony, the besamim is passed from person to person and the scents of spice are inhaled. Our concept focuses on the act of passage: the vessel cannot stand alone and must be offered and received with two hands. Its perfectly matched steel base gives it a place of honor within one’s home. Whether in the hand or at rest, the luster and translucency of the glass highlights the beauty of the spices contained within.