Monday, 29 March 2010

Chag HaMatzot

Chag HaMatzot, the "Festival of Unleavened Bread" in English, or simply Passover, will soon be upon us. I was organised this year and since the end of the last Jewish festival, Purim, I have slowly been preparing for the festival which probably requires more preparation than all the other festivals in the Jewish calendar put together!
I have cleaned my kitchen and removed all traces of chametz (the Hebrew term for "leavened bread"). I have changed all the utensils and pots and pans for ones that we only use during Passover. I have washed the curtains, polished the silver, cleaned the kids rooms, washed the floors... the list goes on. Of course many of these jobs are actually really just spring cleaning. Preparations for Passover require us to rid our homes of leavened bread - to remind us that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise - yet there certainly has not been any bread anywhere near my curtains! However, it is now all done and I can relax and enjoy the seven day holiday and all the activity that comes with it.
Passover is the holiday that commemorates the time in history when the Jewish people were freed from slavery in the land of Egypt. It is celebrated today in homes by having a Seder. The word seder means "order", and we read the Passover story in a special order from the book called the haggadah. Haggadah means "to tell" and we tell the story of our ancestors, and remind ourselves that we are now free people.
During the Seder we eat several traditional and symbolic foods. We dip a spring vegetable into salt water - the vegetable being a sign of Spring, or rebirth, and the salt water represents the tears of the slaves. We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness of slavery, and we eat a special mixture, called Charoset, made of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon, that reminds us of the mortar that the slaves in Egypt made their bricks from.
The name "Passover" refers to the fact that God "passed over" the houses of the Jewish people when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In Hebrew it is known as Pesach.
My boys have already been on holiday from school for a week and, between all the preparations, I took them to nearby Kfar Chabad, a Lubavitch community in central Israel, to see the special handmade, round-shaped Shmura Matza being made (top photos). Visiting the community really is a little bit like stepping back in time. Whilst the schools there are apparently well known for their strong vocational and technical training, this comes together with intensive religious study and seeing all the men and boys at work in the factory wearing the same clothes, and with their black hats hanging up on clothes pegs whilst they work, really does give the impression of a 19th-century Eastern European shtetl.
My Passover cards, seen above on the Etsy Chai blog and in an Etsy Treasury, with their own little pieces of matza on them, have received quite some publicity in the run-up to the holiday. They have appeared on the Etsy Chai blog, in a spotlight for the Etsy Chai team on the ByHand Gallery, and in no less than three Etsy Treasuries! Nonetheless, the next couple of weeks will probably not see much crafting going on as the days of Chol Hamoed, "weekdays [of] the festival", will hopefully take me away from my desk and allow my family and I time to explore and enjoy some great days out. I hope to drop by now and then with a few photos to show you.

PS. Thank you for all your votes in the Etsy Easter item voter. If you haven't yet been over to cast a vote for my daffodil and chick cards and wish to do so, please click here.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Etsy Easter item voter

Dear Blog friends –
I just discovered by chance that my set of Easter cards is in the Etsy Easter item voter! I had no idea whatsoever. The items that receive the most votes will feature on Etsy’s homepage on Easter Sunday.
I'd really love to get some extra Etsy exposure and would really, really appreciate you popping over to check out my cards and voting for them.
To vote, please click here.
My cards are the blue and yellow cards with daffodils and chicks on them (as seen above).
To view my set of cards in my shop, click here.
On top of that, if anyone wishes to blog / tweet / facebook about this and get me a few extra votes, I will be forever in your debt.
Many thanks, and wish me luck!

Monday, 22 March 2010

(I Can Get Some) Satisfaction

Yesterday some young friends of ours celebrated their 10th birthdays and I was very happy to make them their very own customised birthday cards. Why was I so pleased to be making these particular cards? Well, some time ago their mum, who is still a good friend of mine, confessed that she did not understand the point of my little business at all. She did not understand why, in this day and age, anyone would think in advance to order a handmade customised card when one could send an e-mail or order a printed card online so easily. Whilst I quite agreed with her that those options are great for a last minute birthday greeting, I argued that there is nothing quite like receiving a handwritten card, and especially a handmade card created especially for you!
Fast forward a few months and I was delighted to receive an e-mail from the very same friend with a request for two large customised cards for her kids. It seems that her Mum, Grandma, wanted to send them to the twins. Resisting the temptation to be sarcastic, I soon set to work on these cards, including all the kids favourite hobbies and interests in the illustration.The card for our twin boy, above, had to be predominantly red, his favourite colour. He has gained his orange belt in judo and is a big sports fan, being a keen supporter of Liverpool FC and the basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem.
Our twin girl is shown, below, practising her favourite sport of gymnastics. Her favourite colour is blue and she is a keen reader, likes playing on Facebook and, like many ten year old girls, loves the American television film High School Musical.
I mailed the cards to my friend and when they reached her she e-mailed me and told me "The cards arrived and they are fabulous!! The figures actually look like them (the kids)".
I hope that the twins had a great day yesterday and that they enjoyed seeing themselves on their birthday cards. I myself relished the opportunity to make these particular cards and was satisfied that my friend was more understanding of my business and recognised that a little effort spent ordering a handmade card is more than worth it.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Monkeying About

Isn't it strange the way you can work really hard on something yet it never quite turns out as you wish it to, then on other occasions it just seems to happen? One day this week I spent a little time working on the photos in my shop. I usually photograph my papercut pictures in one particular way, on a wooden table by the window, yet I was suddenly inspired to try something else. And guess what? I was delighted with the results! This particular photo of my Monkey Papercut Picture gave my artwork a new lease of life, which was confirmed just two days later when it appeared in an orange-themed Etsy Treasury, alongside some other beautiful orange pieces (below). My monkey has been hanging around in my shop, largely unnoticed, for some time. I hope that he will maybe find a new home after his photo session.
I was recently asked to make a large anniversary card for a customer's parents-in-law. They weren't celebrating a special anniversary, so there was no specific theme to run with. I feel confident that this classic design, below, incorporating champagne glasses, hearts and flowers met with their approval. Though somewhat obvious images to use, I hope that my papercut style, with all the layering, makes it an attractive piece.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Spring is in the Air

The weather is warming up here in Israel as we move towards Passover and Spring and it definitely seems to be influencing my creative work. The colours that I have used in this latest batch of cards are decidedly Spring-like once again. Clockwise, from the top left, I created a card for a 14 year old shopaholic - I hope that she likes the little spotted skirt that I picked out for her; a couple of floral cards for some special birthdays and flowers once again to celebrate an anniversary; finally, the least Spring-like, but definitely the correct colour scheme for the card, a black and white striped Newcastle United shirt and football for a long-term supporter of the club. I picked up these gorgeous daffodils a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed them while they lasted. I couldn't resist taking a picture of them and showing them to you in all their glory.
Lastly, I really have enjoyed a lot of attention in the Etsy Treasuries lately. Once again my Purple Cupcake Notebook (below, top right) has made an appearance in a beautiful collection titled 'Violet and Pearls' chosen by Gratitude Jewelry. As always, a big thank you for including it. Looking at the gorgeous colours really makes me feel that Spring is right around the corner!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Shuk Ha'Carmel

This morning I travelled to Tel Aviv, anticipating an Etsy Chai team meet-up which sadly didn't happen. Away from home, with a few hours to spare, I decided to explore a little and enjoy a morning off, rather than simply turning around and returning home.
The above photos were taken at The Carmel Market, known locally as Shuk Ha'Carmel. This market is Tel Aviv's biggest and a fascinating place to visit. It is basically one crowded narrow alley with long lines of colourful stalls standing on either side where vendors proudly - and loudly - present their goods. Here you can find almost anything imaginable, from cheap clothes and shoes, fake CDs and watches to exotic spices, fish, poultry and an amazingly colourful collection of fruits and vegetables.
After roaming around and enjoying the sights and smells of the market, I crossed over to nearby Nachalat Binyamin Street. On Tuesdays and Fridays the street comes alive with an Arts & Crafts Fair which features the work of roughly 200+ Israeli artists. The variety and range of work available there is broad and varied. One can find jewellery, ceramics, lampshades, Judaica and much, much more. There are many talented people gathered up in this fair, and even if you're not in the 'buying mood' you will enjoy this little market.
After a couple of hours it was time to head home, just in time to collect the kids from school. My morning out had been somewhat 'rescued' after such a disappointing start, though tomorrow I intend to keep things simple and catch up with some recent commissions.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Pretty in Pink

The customer who requested the 50th birthday card shown in my last post also asked me to make several other cards, including one for another sister's birthday. Once again she had no specific request but simply wanted something with a birthday theme. Since it was not a significant birthday nor had I been asked to illustrate any specific hobbies or interests, I went with a slice of cake and candles, a birthday card, party hat and balloons. Though I do not normally 'do' pretty, I actually enjoyed working in this pastel palette, adding a little stronger colour here and there for variety. You can see quite clearly in these photos how I layer some of the elements in my cards using foam strips so that the overall design does not appear too 'flat'.
After the heavy rain of the previous week, over the last few days we have seen a little sunshine. The colours in this card put me in the mood for Spring, well the colours AND the Passover Spring cleaning which has begun in our house...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

"Cheerful and pretty"

Purim has been and gone. Sadly it was cold and wet for pretty much the whole holiday, though we didn't let it spoil our fun! The Mishloach Manot (food baskets) were delivered after an initial aborted attempt because of the rain and we are now tucking into an abundance of delicious baked goodies which we were lucky enough to receive from many good friends. Our own friends received a plateful of Choc Chip Muffins, a recipe which I discovered right here in the blogging world some time ago. Thank you Lisa and Sarah at A Spoonful of Sugar. Many friends have told me that the muffins were delicious.
A couple of weeks ago I received an order for several customised birthday cards. The customer who requested them doesn't usually have any specific ideas for her cards but simply asks for something "cheerful and pretty". For her sister's birthday, however, she did in fact ask me to somehow incorporate into the design little notes with her thoughts about her sister. I added a big birthday cake, candles and balloons and hope that the end result was as cheerful and pretty as my customer had hoped. I am pretty sure that her sister was delighted to read such loving words and to receive a card that had had so much love poured into it.
The Etsy Treasuries have been good to me again and I am pleased to show you two more which have included my work. Above you can see a colourful collection put together by Shay of Shay Aaron Miniature Food. Shay included my Purple Cupcake Notebook, seen on the middle row, far left. My sweet little blue Treasure Box, below, top row, far right, has also made a recent appearance in a treasury curated by Yafit. As always, it is a great thrill to see my work chosen for these treasuries. Many thanks to both of you.