Thursday, 25 February 2010

Purim

We are now in the Hebrew month of Adar and this coming weekend Jewish people worldwide will celebrate the festival of Purim. Purim, which literally means "lots", is a holiday commemorating the rescue of Jews living in the ancient Persian Empire from certain destruction at the hands of Haman, an evil nobleman.
There are many wonderful traditions associated with the holiday. One, my own kids favourite, involves the distribution of a food basket or platter of ready to eat food and drink to neighbours, friends and local charities, to ensure that everyone has enough food for a Purim feast later in the day. During the festival, and in fact throughout the whole month, many kids wear colourful dressing-up costumes and masks whilst parading through the streets and I have seen a few little clowns, like the ones on my cards, as well as ninjas, fairies and knights, on the way to school this morning!
After hearing a reading of the Megillat Esther, the Biblical Book of Esther, and delivering the Mishloach Manot (food baskets), the Purim holiday ends with a special dinner called the Seudat Purim which can go on well into the night. While not considered a major Jewish holiday, Purim is still viewed as a day of rejoicing and remembrance of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai's courageous acts against Haman.Etsy Chai, the Jewish community team which promotes Jewish and non-Jewish artists handmade Judaica on Etsy, has been running several pieces all about Purim on their blog. Recently one such article was illustrated with a photo of my clown cards and included a short anecdote of mine about the food baskets I make up. Once again it was exciting to see my work there (above).
Chag Purim Sameach everyone - Happy Purim!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sweet Little Things

Surprisingly, even to me, most of the customised cards I have shown here over the last couple of months have been for boys and young men, always a subject that I have to work that little bit harder at. The last cards that I blogged about specifically made for us girls were for the netball-playing, salsa-dancing twins back in December. A special request for a "Dora and Boots card" last week changed all that though and I was able to create a special birthday card for a sweet little girl who loves the American animated television series 'Dora the Explorer'. My boys enjoyed the series when it first hit our televisions screens a few years ago so I am familiar with the characters and enjoyed re-creating them in paper form.
The birthday girl's big sister wanted a special card for her and her brother to write too. I suggested a little portrait of their ginger-haired sister and very specific requests were made for her to be shown holding a pink heart-shaped balloon with red on the outside and lots more hearts! The Hebrew greeting says 'To the Best Sister in the World'.
Whilst we are on the topic of sweet little things, I am an avid reader of the decorating magazine 'Good Homes'. My husband treated me to a subscription several years ago and I have continued to enjoy it ever since. In a recent issue there was a delicious and simple recipe for Saffron's brownies and I decided to make them as a calorie-laden weekend treat for all the family. The resulting brownies were delicious, if a little undercooked, which didn't bother the kids at all because it meant they were all gooey inside when a bite was taken from them! Definitely a sweet little treat which I will make again.
Finally, a short while ago I received a message from Nicole at http://iloveetsy.knitnicoleknit.ca/ informing me that she had recently featured my Japanese Woman Papercut Picture on her site. This particular picture of mine seems to get a lot of attention and a little more publicity is always very much appreciated. Thanks Nicole! The featured picture can be seen below.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Treasure Boxes

A couple of weeks ago I took a table at a fund-raising event at our local cultural centre. The event was arranged by the kids at the high school that my boys will hopefully eventually go to and I was happy to support it. The kids put on a show in the concert hall and arranged sales tables in the gallery upstairs. I haven't mentioned the fund-raiser here before because sadly, for the seven talented craftspeople and fellow parents selling their goods there, it was a non-event. No-one seemed to know that we were hiding upstairs in the gallery and no-one sold very much at all! We all had a lovely time together though and it is always fun bonding with people who understand and appreciate what you do.
I had prepared quite a lot of cards for the sale - never a bad thing because I now have plenty of stock at home - and also had fun making these little treasure boxes, which did not return home with me that evening. The last time I had taken part in the very same event my little boxes proved very popular with the girls and I had had a few requests for something for the boys too. Football is always a winner and the slightly scruffy little character that I created seemed to work well with that theme. The lady who purchased my boxes told me that her boys would have to complete their sticker charts before receiving their gift. I hope that they have earned them by now and are enjoying filling their boxes up with all kinds of 'treasure'. There are more Treasure Boxes available in my shop.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Zadok Ben David

This last weekend my eldest son went away overnight with his youth club. I wanted to do something special with my youngest so that he didn't feel left out and would relish his time at home with Mummy and Daddy. As I have mentioned before, he really loves to draw and so a trip to The Tel Aviv Museum of Art seemed like a good idea. A place where he and I could perhaps sketch and enjoy looking at the art together.
I have to admit that my son, being seven years old, was underwhelmed by my idea at first. I suspect that a suggested trip to a fairground would have been a more popular choice! However, he warmed up to the idea when I took out my own sketchbook at the museum and started drawing and soon he was sitting alongside me sketching away. He drew a lot of attention and one lady even commented to me that she thought he had great talent.
After some time we decided to pack up our books and wander a little and this is where the great surprise of the day awaited us! At the entrance to the museum we had wondered why the queues were pretty long, especially on an unseasonably warm February day. Walking into one one particular gallery, we soon worked out why!
The exhibition we were greeted with featured the work of the Israeli artist Zadok Ben David. Extending over two halls, we were equally thrilled by his single sculptures - steel cutouts of figures whose bodies are an image of branches and foliage, and of trees whose foliage is a silhouette of human activity - and his truly breathtaking sculpture installation, titled 'Blackfield'.
The 'Blackfield' installation presents over 20,000 steel cutouts of plants and flowers in two entirely different ways. Entering the hall you are greeted with a bed of sand housing thousands of tiny black steel plants, but, as you walk through the room something magical happens. The colours on the flowers change. From one side of the room the paper-thin pieces are black. Yet from the opposite side, they are transformed into a riot of colour, Ben David having painted their second sides in brilliant purples, reds, greens and blues.
The artist has said that he sees the black side as a starting point but definitely not an ending point, that this piece is about life and death and carries great optimism.
Whatever the interpretation, my husband, son and I were all struck by this incredible exhibition, though my son did declare it "too hard to draw"! If any Israeli readers of my blog are able to get to The Tel Aviv Museum of Art before the exhibition closing date of February 27, I highly recommend a visit.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Prayer Book

The Israeli education system separates "religious" and "secular" families, via a system of “state religious” or “state secular” schools. My husband and I were not at all comfortable with the options available to us because of this and, as our eldest son reached school age, fought tooth and nail to get a place for him at the Yachad ('Together') school, a school where secular and religious students grow up together, and which promotes Jewish dialogue and education in an environment that integrates children from different Jewish backgrounds.
One of the many wonderful things about the school is that the kids all say their tefillot (prayers) together every morning, regardless of their background. This evening my youngest son, who entered first grade last September, will have his Mesibat Siddur, or Siddur Party, when he will receive his very own siddur (Jewish prayer book, containing a set order of daily prayers)... and this is where the crafty element comes into it!
Two weeks ago every family with kids in the first grade was given a green cover for the prayer book, some fabric and thread and was asked to prepare a cover for their child's book. I am in my element with projects such as these and, though my sewing skills are a little rusty, quickly set to work.
My son's cover, above and below, shows a kid (a young goat). My son's name is Gadi, a variant of Gad, which in Hebrew means luck. It was the name of one of Jacob's (the biblical father of the Jewish people, and the source of the name 'Israel') twelve sons, and of one of the tribes of Israel (each tribe is named after one of Jacob's sons). It also happens to mean 'kid', and therefore was the obvious choice as an illustration for the cover. My son requested the olive branch. The Hebrew lettering says 'Gadi's Siddur'.
Gadi hasn't seen his personalised cover yet. We were asked to send them to school wrapped up so that the children will be a surprised this evening. I hope that he likes it and will use it and treasure it for many years to come.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Half a pint and a bottle of beer please

Another milestone birthday was coming up for a family member of one of my regular customers. I received a very organised e-mail from him detailing what subject matter and what greeting should be included on a customised card and, along with that, he also attached a photo of the birthday boy. He seems to have learnt how I work and certainly made my job very easy on this occasion.
This time the event was his nephews 21st birthday and I was asked to illustrate the birthday boy with a selection of his interests. These include cooking, drinking, poker, football (the English club Tottenham Hotspur) and travel. My client told me that I didn't need to illustrate every hobby and activity but the card design came together easily and I was able to include everything. The overflowing pint glass and bottle of beer in the foreground are my favourites!
My youngest son was recently helping Daddy do a little weeding in our front garden. He excitedly ran into the house to present me with a flower that he had found in the course of his work. Of course it wasn't so much a flower as a weed, but I was delighted by his gesture and happily put his gift into a vase on my bedside table. Behind the arrangement you can see one of my most prized possessions - a drawing done by the same son last year, with a big heart on it and the message "I luv you Mummy". As I mentioned in my last post, he loves to draw and create and certainly seems to be on track to joining me in my little business one day!
At the end of last year Yafit of Yafit's First Glass, and a fellow member of the Etsy Chai team, included my Hanukkah cards in a treasury. When a discussion recently arose on the Etsy Chai e-mail list about Google Analytics and the number of visits people get from referrals, both Yafit and I were pleasantly surprised to discover that she had had a good number of visitors to her shop as a result of my mentioning it, and thanking her, in a blog post. Yafit recently included another piece of mine, my Japanese Woman Papercut Picture, in one more Etsy Treasury, titled "I love EtsyChai's colors". My picture can be seen, above, in the centre of the colourful collection and is also available in my shop. Thank you for showing my piece, alongside some other beautiful work, Yafit. The co-operation and online friendship between so many Etsy sellers is just wonderful!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Penguins

I have two papercut pictures of penguins in my shop, one of which was recently voted as a favourite in an online blog competition. It seems that my youngest son, who loves to draw, was inspired by them and decided to create his own version.
He really is a very talented artist, even if I say so myself, but along with that talent comes the artistic temperament! If the picture that he is working on does not come out exactly as he wants it to, he is quick to throw it away. Fortunately on this occasion I rescued his penguin sketches before they were disposed of. I told him that I thought they were beautiful. He did not agree. Until he saw what I did with them!
I loved the free flowing lines of the sketches and realised that they would make a beautiful picture for his bedroom. I carefully traced his drawings, cut the shapes out of paper and reproduced them as a colourful picture, changing nothing at all but simply adding a couple of icebergs for a background.
My son finally agrees that his penguins were good after all and I am wondering when he can start working for me!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin