Meet the Alessi of Judaica: David Orlansky of Uvtuvo

By Danielle Crittenden Frum

Before David Orlansky founded Uvtuvo, a modern tabletop and gift design company, he was an aspiring fine artist in Brooklyn, NY working in mixed-mediums. Ever since he was a small boy, however, he designed products for fun. His father, an engineer, at one point worked with a housewares company. Orlansky says he remembers some of the samples his dad brought home: “They were of very high quality and I grew to have an appreciation for them.”

Then, a couple of years ago, Orlansky turned his focus on the hundreds — “possibly thousands” — of ideas he had for products. Most were for tabletop items but he also had some concepts for Judaica. Unlike many hipster artists now living in Brooklyn, Orlansky grew up in the neighborhood with an observant Jewish family. Now married with a two-year-old son, he and his young family remain observant including celebrating weekly Shabbat. It’s no wonder then that the first piece his company would produce is a modernist take on the traditional hand-washing cup, used ritually for shabbat meals, as well as weekday netilat yadayim washing.

“When you look at the other washing cups on the market, many follow a basic principle — a traditional cup form with handles stuck on them. We wanted to expand the focus on what Judaica is, and what are the standard necessities for a Jewish home. I design objects that are functional art. People can appreciate them on an aesthetic level but they are also usable. This way they get more out of the object — they’re forced to view it in a new way. It’s not stale. It shifts the focus to, What is it that I’m experiencing?”

Released in early 2016, the “O” washing cup is indeed like no other: a perfect circle made from polished stainless steel, it functions both as a washing cup and as a bud vase, or simply as a piece of sculpture on its own. The cup complies fully with halachic requirements for netilat yadayim. Compared with traditional cups, it provides a remarkably satisfying and comfortable washing experience, remaining ergonomically balanced in your hands as you pour back and forth from each of its holes, with no need to re-position it.

Orlansky is creating a complete Shabbat set, with a kiddush cup and tray already in production, followed by candle holders, all with the same cool vibe as the washing cup. He is also planning a havdallah set and even a small set for mayim achronim, the ritualistic washing of the fingertips at the end of a meal.

Orlansky says there is no conflict between his vision as an artist or perspective as a designer: the two have come together in his desire to create pieces that are both aesthetic and also functional. “There’s a place for both: beautifying the home, and beautifying life. Things should be enjoyable to be around and enjoyable to be used.”

He’s also firm that high design does not have to come with a high price tag. The Uvtuvo line will be affordable without sacrificing his standards for how an object should look and feel, or how it should be made. “We want to make our products available to everybody,” he said.

We’re truly excited to be able to make the O Washing Cup & Vase available to all of our customers here at Fig Tree & Vine. It’s the perfect gift for any occasion — and will bring cutting-edge modern design to any home.