Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Dolls Art

My visit to Dolls Art at the Old Jaffa Museum was squeezed in right at the beginning of the troubles here in Israel. Jaffa has a mixed population of Jews, Christians and Muslims and we feared that there might already be trouble there. Fortunately we were wrong. The day passed peacefully and I am really glad I made it to the exhibition. It featured some incredible dolls inspired by fairy tales, children's stories, theatre, and different historical periods and cultures, all created by contemporary doll artists from Israel and around the world. The collection included classic porcelain dolls, wooden marionettes from puppet theatres, miniature kinetic wooden dolls, illustrated dolls, and dolls inspired by great artists and by different periods and cultures. In addition, the exhibition displayed works of animation, drawing, illustration and photography. 
These pieces were not "toys" but rather dolls that were created as an object of figurative art and made to the highest level of craftsmanship. They were conceived, planned and created by artists, graduates of academies and prestigious award winners. Each doll told its own personal story and some were so lifelike that it was tempting to touch them to see if they were real. I did not include these in my photos as there were not my favourites. It was the dolls with their own unique style that appealed to me the most.
For this exhibition, Tami Kasher created a series that depicts famous and influential personalities from Israeli history, above. The sculptures were made from polymer clay and simply oozed personality.
Valentina Felce was raised in Florida. Cartoons and toys have always been part of her life. She is inspired by tattoos and children's toys, her artists note said, so merging the two seemed like the perfect way to express herself. Each of her dolls, above, is handmade before being meticulously painted by hand and decorated with countless tattoos. I loved them!
There were some dolls in the exhibition which had incredible stories behind them. The doll maker Magda Watts is 85 years old. She was born in a small town in Hungary and at the age of 15 was deported with her family to Auschwitz. Magda and one of her sisters survived seven months of horror at the camp and were then sent to Nuremberg to a forced labour camp. To keep herself occupied there, she looked for rags and bits of wire and made a small doll out of them. A German woman at the camp saw the doll and liked it. She offered Magda food if she would make her another doll. This was the beginning of Magda's doll making career and soon, when news of her talent spread, other Germans started bringing her the nicest materials to make dolls for them.
Magda managed to save her sister and some of her friends' lives with the food she earned from trading her dolls. Today her dolls can be found in museums, galleries and private collections all over the world and I was honoured to be able to see some of her work.
The Old Jaffa Museum is located in the "Ancient Saraya", an Ottoman house with both historical and architectural importance. The Ottoman complex, with its beautiful curved ceilings, was built on top of Crusader fortress remains. It was rebuilt in the 17th century and was most probably used for lodging. In 1811 the complex was turned into a Government House. Alongside the government quarter, there was a big gate, a well, a prison, a post office, a bath-house, a mosque, and an unroofed court.
With Jaffa's growth and the governments transfer into a new building, the house returned to the Demyani family, a well known Arabic Greek-Orthodox family that traditionally served as mediators between the Christians and the local Ottoman regime in Jaffa. Alongside the family quarter, they founded a soap factory. During the War of Independence in 1948, the complex was abandoned. It later become part of the Tel Aviv Municipal estate and was defined as a historical preservation site. The museum was founded in 1960 by Dr. Jacob Kaplan, the municipal archaeologist for Tel Aviv-Jaffa, who led excavations in Jaffa and the surrounding area.

* Update. Last night there were protests in Jaffa. Police were on the scene to prevent confrontation. What a sad world we live in. Here's to a peaceful tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Typical Male

A new customer spotted this card on Facebook and decided that she too would like to order a customised card for her husband's 40 birthday. He is a typical male, she told me. He enjoys beer, barbeques and watching sport on the television. He's in to American football and baseball, his favourite teams being The Eagles and The Philadelphia Phillies.
Well, I am no expert on American football and baseball teams, but a little research sorted me out and I was able to include all of Jonah's hobbies on the card. Even the television has American Football showing on it. The only slight issue was that I was apparently "too generous" with his hair. No worries - I am sure it made the birthday boy happy on his special day!
Yonatan was turning 11. He receives one of my cards from his parents every year. This year Mum wanted the card to have a music theme. She wanted me to show her son wearing black headphones, listening to music. He loves music, she told me. He's always singing along with his iPod. The black t-shirt was requested too. Yonatan sounds like a cool young man!
Harold likes vintage cars. I have also made cards for him several years in a row (it's so nice to have such loyal customers!) so I did a little research to come up with something new this year. I hope he liked it.
Finally, my father-in-law recently celebrated his birthday. Naturally, he too has received many of my cards. I liked this combination of wrapped presents and a bottle of wine. It made for a cheerful card and not one that he has received before.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Omri's Album

Yawn! A 6.05am Red Alert wake up call wasn't quite what I was hoping for this summer, but that's what we got today. So, I'm up. I'm crafting and, of course, I'm still blogging.
Here is one of my latest creations...
I made a Bar Mitzvah album for Omri's brother back in August 2012. Roll on almost two years and it was Omri's turn to celebrate and he too wanted an album. His Mum told me that her middle son is a big reader and that he enjoys cycling, gymnastics, running and... his cell phone! She also mentioned that he is a keen member of the Scouts, or Tzofim as they are known in Hebrew. Omri wanted to be shown doing some sort of flick flack or gymnastics move on the cover of his album, and Mum agreed. She said that he is always upside down!
So, I have shown the Bar Mitzvah boy doing a backflip on the cover on his album. He is wearing shorts and a sports shirt and has the number 13 pinned to his chest, like the numbers he wears when he is participating in a race. The number 13 represents the age that Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah. 
Omri's other interests are also represented on the cover. To his left you can see a pair of tefillin, the black leather boxes with leather straps that Orthodox Jewish men wear on their head and their arm during weekday morning prayer, and below that, a small pile of books to show his love of reading. On the right is the badge of the Tsofim Datiyim (the religious Scouts) and below that, his new Nexus 5 cell phone. Apparently he's quite attached to it.
Omri wanted the album to have "bright blue and deep blue" on it. Therefore I used two different shades of blue on the cover and inside, and illustrated some of the pages to cover his various interests.​ The first page, which as a Hebrew book opened on the rightmost page (the opposite of an English book), shows a collection of books and his beloved phone. Next I showed him doing a cartwheel (okay, it's not a backflip but it's close!), followed by a page devoted to camping and knots, activities he does with the Scouts. Running and cycling followed. Once again his shirt is adorned with a number 13 race number. His Mum said that Omri's bike is red and black, and his helmet only black, so I tried to match the colours accurately. You can see how teeny tiny it really is!
This album was a lot of fun to work on. It was definitely the first time that I have featured a Bar or Bat Mitzvah girl upside down! I wonder if I will ever get asked to do so again.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Birthday Surprise

Remember my first real attempt at papercutting? Well, I went straight from that to this! Talk about taking the bull by the horns!
Mister Handmade in Israel is very supportive of the work that I do. I'm really not complaining. However, he often tells me that I should work on some "real art", alongside the cards and albums that I create for other people. Well, that is a discussion for another time, but his comments lead me to finding the perfect present for his recent special birthday. A piece of art handmade by me!
To be honest, other than my arm aching for a day or two after cutting this piece - I think I need to work with some lighter weight paper - this may look complicated but it actually came together relatively easily. I knew that I wanted to mark his special birthday on the piece and also that some of his favourite things should be included there too. A little time spent checking out some talented papercutters blogs helped me decided how to put the piece together, of course being careful to keep to my very own style. I hope you can see a little "Handmade in Israel" in there. It does rather make a change from my usual line of work.
Mister Handmade in Israel's name and birth date feature prominently on the piece, along with the names of the rest of our family. I also added the Arsenal cannon, top right, taken from his favourite team's club crest. Priorities, priorities! A football was placed there too, along with the flag of England. Do you get the impression that he quite likes football? Finally, I added a Magen David, or Star of David, to represent his faith and the role that the Jewish religion plays in our lives. On top of the star perches a little bird. Just because.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


Mister Handmade in Israel turned 50 last week. He didn't want a party or a big fuss being made, but there was no question in my mind that he was still going to receive a handmade card and a few special gifts on his big day. The boys and I planned our handmade goodies weeks in advance and it all paid off. My husband was thrilled with his birthday gifts, even if the cards, ahem, poked fun at him just a little bit!
Mister Handmade in Israel is a big football fan. I've mention this a few times before! Once again I showed him wearing his Arsenal shirt on the front of his birthday card. He is holding up a big sign which declares his age... and which also covers his follicly challenged head! Many of his favourite things surround him: sweet Woodpecker cider, a football, chicken soup and chopped liver, Galaxy chocolate, football on the television, McCoys Salt and Vinegar crisps, and the silly flap hat that he wears when out in the sun (not because he necessarily loves that so much, but because he is a very white-skinned Englishman and he needs to protect himself from the hot Israeli sun). Unfortunately I was not able to supply all these treats on his birthday - many of the things he dreams of are English and not readily available over here - but I didn't do too badly. He still ate English chocolate on his big day!
Now, as well as handmade cards, we also had some handmade gifts ready for him. The youngest son writes great stories, so he wrote a book specially for Daddy's big day. "The Good, The Bad and The Snoring" tells the story of Ricardo De La Moneypants' trip to the Amazon rainforest to bring back the rare Pixelfly, a fly which has the ability to unlock every single code in the world by flying into the computer. Ricardo sounded uncannily like Daddy and the story had us all crying with laughter!
The eldest son's talent is poetry. He wrote a wonderful poem for Dad, mentioning his silly hat, his love of football, crisps, chopped liver and sleeping. Sound familiar?
I made him something special too. You can have a little sneak peak at it below, but I am going to save the whole piece for another blog post.  In the meantime have you spotted the football and the England flag?
Mister Handmade in Israel had a wonderful birthday. We ate breakfast in the beautiful gardens of Derech HaGefen in Beit Zayit, a moshav located seven kilometres west of Jerusalem. (Beit Zayit literally means "house of the olives," and refers to the extensive olive groves on the slopes around the village). We then returned home for birthday cake (of course there was cake!) before going bowling and then out for a delicious evening meal.
Hopefully he will remember the day for a long time to come. With all his handmade presents, he has many wonderful reminders!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Festival of Light in Jerusalem 2014

The Festival of Light in Jerusalem is an annual event in which the Old City of Jerusalem is brought to light with colourful installations from international and local artists. We last visited it two years ago and had a wonderful time. This year it was perhaps even better!
The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from Israel and abroad who stroll through the picturesque lanes of Jerusalem’s Old City, taking in the dramatic lighting on the ancient city walls. This year four routes were offered, each clearly marked by a different coloured light. The routes took us from one art installation to another and of course we I had to see them all (just about manageable in one evening) before the lights were switched off at 11pm.
This year's artworks included three-dimensional displays, video projections on the Old City walls and sound-and-light shows. There was at least one interactive display that invited people to be not only spectators but to participate as well. Highlights for me included "The Garden of Dreams", outside Jaffa Gate, by Luminarie De Cagne, an Italian family of lighting artists. They created a fantastic floral paradise with thousands of LED lamps chained into curtains of light and mounted onto a wooden structure. The illuminated Damascus Gate, where the 6 minute light show uncovered layer upon layer of mysterious images, was probably my absolute favourite, but of course who couldn't love the Israeli "Elephant Caravan" slowly plodding along the Old City walls?
At Hurva Square, the heart of the Old City, sat the "House of Cards" by the Israeli O*GE Creative Group. Central biblical characters were featured on the deck of cards, giving meaning and power to the display. The Portuguese "Jerusalem Circus of Light" in Batei Machaseh Square also deserves a mention, as does the beautiful "Cloud" on Maronite Convent Street in the Christian Quarter. I could go on and on.
There’s simply nothing quite like strolling through the Old City lanes and coming across some amazing light art! I'll definitely be going back for more next year.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Solid Gold

Most, but not all of my customers are women. Occasionally a guy pops up and orders a special card for the special person in his life. In the case of this card, the gentleman concerned wanted a customised card for his wife to mark the occasion of their Golden Wedding anniversary. His wife, he told me, was a librarian and is still a big reader. She enjoys doing crosswords and playing Sudoku and they are also keen travellers. He didn't want the message on the card to be too sentimental but I think what we came up with together was just right!
Long after the gentleman had collected his card, his daughter then called me and asked me for a special Golden Wedding card too. I was honest and said that Dad had already beaten her to it, but she was keen for me to make another one and it was easy enough for me to come up with something quite different, above.
Finally, another local couple were also celebrating their Golden Wedding. My customer sent me a photo and asked whether I could show them both on the card. I love this pose, which I copied from the photo. I think it clearly shows the great warmth felt between the man and his wife. A few gold flowers and a big 50 mark their special anniversary.
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