"I will never forget the first time I met David Bowie"

For nearly five decades David Fellerman was the concert merchandiser designer and producer for some of of the greatest musicians in history. He immigrated to Israel seven years ago, and now he is exhibiting in a new exhibition in Tel Aviv. In the interview he talks about working with David Bowie, Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin and recalls the time he played football backstage in Perth with the fabulous Rod Stewart

Maor Hoymage 
Updated: 23.08.20, 11:16
Chances are you did not think deeply about your souvenirs, but if you keep a Rolling Stones shirt , a Rod Stewart jacket , a Led Zeppelin brooch or a Frank Sinatra bracelet - chances are good that the designer of these items was David Fellerman. The British designer took advantage of the musical flourishing of the 70s and found himself a rather unique niche: merchandise design. As part of his work he has toured all over the world, met with living legends and established himself as a sought-after designer who has gone by word of mouth of all the great artists. His client list will envy any rock fan, and it also includes David Bowie , Bob Dylan , Fleetwood Mac , Dyer Straits, Grateful Dead, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald and Lisa Minley.
David Fellerman with one of his works
"I had Israeli audacity." David Fellerman with one of his works
( David Fellerman )
Eight years ago, he left vibrant London and settled in Netanya with his wife, and these days his first exhibition in Israel is on display at the Ben Ami Gallery in Tel Aviv. An exciting event for him, as he has been seeking recognition for the artistic community in the country for years. "I immigrated in 2012 with my family," he says in an interview with Ynet. "My daughter preceded us and immigrated 30 years ago, so we would come for visits and when my daughter got married we decided to settle here. Since I have been here I have tried to integrate into the Tel Aviv art world - but not very successfully. Now I will have the opportunity to present my art and I am grateful for that."
He began his career as a merchandising designer in 1967 when he set up a business for a souvenir company. The days were days of musical and cultural flourishing, hundreds of thousands of people filled festivals like Woodstock, Altmont and Newport, and Fellerman took advantage of the momentum to expand the business. He began working with the progressive rock band Yes in the early 1970s, rolled over to work with Elton John on his Christmas tour in 1973 and began to gain more and more experience. And so, without much British politeness, with a lot of hard work and a dash of Israeli audacity ("I only came to Israel for visits, but maybe it's something genetic," he says with a laugh) - Fellerman paved his way to many years of working with the biggest names in the industry.
Souvenir design does not amount to printing a photo of an artist on a shirt or cup, and in fact it is a complex collaboration between the artist and the designer. "It makes them a lot of money," Fellerman explains of the work process, "I meet with them before the tour, sign a contract with them to produce the souvenirs, and they get involved, ask questions and give ideas."
A Rolling Stones poster
"Mick Jagger is a nice guy." A Rolling Stones poster
( David Fellerman )
You worked with artists and bands you must have admired as a child. What was it like meeting them? "I was very vocal, and so were they. I knew the first meeting would be professional, and that I would have to impress them. The best way to do that was not to strain. I did not talk too much, I let them lead the conversation, ask questions. I was nice. Mick Jagger "For example, he's a really nice guy. I was full of smiles, because I'm like that, and they felt I was calm, and they talked to me at eye level."
How do you stay calm in such meetings? "I never went into the room and kept quiet - the day-to-day work just didn't allow me to behave like that. I worked with Frank Sinatra for ten years. I designed the tour booklet for him, and of course shirts, mugs, patches and sweatshirts. He was a wonderful guy. I had to behave. As usual, but inside I felt it was the most amazing experience that could be. "
Which meetings were you particularly excited about? "I will never forget the first time I met David Bowie. I designed the souvenirs for one of his tours, and at a show in the North of England, I saw him behind the scenes. It never happened to me, but he was just a stunning guy. So I felt a tingle in the back, and I said to myself "Wow, David Bowie," because it was a moment after his performance - which was amazing. It's a moment when I realized why there is a demand for souvenirs that I create - because his personality is iconic. "
Bob Dylan's shirt
"I need a month to tell all the stories." Bob Dylan's shirt
( David Fellerman )
Tell about a surprising experience from one of the tours you were on. "Rod Stewart was a football player, and he used to play before the shows. He would perform in huge stadiums, and before the show the whole team would play football behind the scenes to relax. I was not a good player like him, but I could not refuse, so it turned out I played football with Rod Stewart. ".
After so many years of work and shared experiences all over the world, friendships must probably be formed as well. "Sure, I'm still in touch with the director of Dyer Straits. He's still a good friend of mine. He may not be working with the band anymore, but in the '80s we had a tour of more than 250 shows around the world. They performed to me at more than 2.5. A million people. "
Souvenirs of Dyer Straits
"The manager of Dyer Straits is a good friend of mine to this day." Souvenirs of Dyer Straits
( David Fellerman )
Is there a particular show that you especially remember? "I need a month to tell all the stories - at least the ones I can tell. I remember accompanying Led Zeppelin to the Navarre Festival in England in 1979. At one point there were more people out of the show, in queues at the souvenir stalls, than inside. "Extremely high."
David Fellerman's Backstage Tags Collection
"I'm not sorry for a minute." David Fellerman's Backstage Tags Collection
( David Fellerman )
Do you sometimes miss the happy days of London? "I had wonderful experiences and I do not regret a minute. These were crazy times. I still keep the tags that allowed me free entry behind the scenes. But I am happy to live in Israel. Tel Aviv is like London on the beach - with high energies and thrills, but with The weather is much more pleasant. "
Work of David Fellerman
"I am happy to live in Israel." From the new exhibition
( David Fellerman )
Work of David Fellerman
"This is an opportunity to present my art, as I did in London"
( David Fellerman )
The Summer Sale exhibition at Ben Ami Gallery (12 Hahashmal Street, Tel Aviv) is open Sunday-Thursday from 5:00 PM to 10:00 AM and Friday-Saturday from 2:00 PM to 10:00 AM, and will close on Tuesday, August 25.
Initial publication: 09:15, 23.08.20