Sunday, 30 September 2012

Gilad's Album

Remember Gilad's invitation? Well, this is Gilad's album, which he took to his Bar Mitzvah party for all his guests to write in. His Mum told me that he loves drawing, bike riding, origami and daydreaming so, just like on his invitation, I showed him doing all those things. He is dressed for his Bar Mitzvah ceremony too, with his kippa (skullcap) on his head and a tallit (a Jewish prayer shawl) over his shoulders.
I either put a Star of David or a tallit as a graphic element on the corner of my Bar Mitzvah album covers and on each embellished page inside. Gilad's Mum decided to go for the blue and white striped tallit, below.
The tallit is a garment Jewish men wear during prayer. Tallit is an Aramaic word from the root tll / טלל meaning 'to cover over'. By wrapping yourself in the tallit, or by covering your head with it, it is believed that the intention and direction of your prayers can be enhanced.
The tallit is striped simply because that was the fashion in Greece and Rome in the Biblical period. However, the stripes remind us of the strand of techelet (blue) once worn as part of the tzitzit, the special knotted fringes attached to the tallit's four corners. The Torah commands that tzitzit contain a thread of techelet.
"Blue is like sea,
Sea is like sky
Sky is like the Throne of the Lord." - from the Talmud, the basic book of Jewish law.
The dye used for this blue colour came from an animal called the chilazone, thought to have either been a squid or a type of snail.
So, I decorated each page of Gilad's album with a tallit and a small illustration of each of his hobbies. Above you can see the page which shows his love of drawing, then, clockwise from top left, his passion for bike riding, reading, daydreaming and origami.
Gilad came to collect the album himself and seemed thrilled with it. His Mum later wrote and said "the album is just stunning... love it. Thanks so much."
Wow! What a great customer she was.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Laura Bolter Design

I discovered Laura Bolter's gorgeous work quite some time ago but it was only recently that I was lucky enough to see one of her colourful pieces for real. Laura recently ran a giveaway you see and I was one of the lucky winners!
Laura was working on her resin jewellery and prints and in a blog post asked a few questions. "Would you prefer to wear one inch pendants mounted in metal settings or on wood tiles?", she asked. "If you like metal settings, would you prefer antique copper, antique brass, shiny silver or black? Or, do you like pins better than pendants?" She had questions about wood tile magnets, tallit clips and her prints too.
I gave Laura's questions some thought and was delighted when she picked me as one of the winners, as her way of saying 'thank you'! I got to choose a pendant or pin of my choice from all of the images in her shop and was thrilled to find a lovely package containing this beautiful floral pendant waiting for me when I returned to Israel at the end of the summer.
Thank you, Laura. I am absolutely thrilled with my pendant and am touched by your kindness.
You want one too? Well I suggest you go and take a peek at Laura's shop. I know you'll be tempted...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Love Lily

The Bat Mitzvah card above was created after a lot of discussion with my customer. She had a very specific idea in her mind about how the card should look but it was really not suited to my style of work. However, we of course worked it out and I'm pleased to report that she was thrilled with the end result.
The theme of the Bat Mitzvah was "Love Lily". The Bat Mitzvah girl's family had changed the logo of the Victoria Secrets "Pink" logo to feature the young lady's name. My customer - a guest at the celebration - also wanted me to add the dog with three little diamond gems around its collar which featured on the Bat Mitzvah invitation they had received. She requested that the dog was placed inside a striped heart and the whole thing  was decorated with stars, hearts and lots of peace signs. Finally she wanted me to add the words Bat Mitzvah and the number 12 somewhere on the card.
Phew! I think I remembered everything.
This card was rather more straightforward, though of course equally fun to work on. My customer's niece was getting married and she wanted a card for the bride and groom. The bride has just received her PhD from Cambridge University. She grew up in Amsterdam, has visited Israel several times, likes travelling and in the past has taught English in some interesting places. The groom comes from Canada. On top of this my customer wanted the card to show that it came from Israel so, as well as including all the flags of the various countries the couple have lived in, I wrote the greeting “Congratulations Lara and Paul” in  both English and Hebrew.
My customer kindly wrote to tell me that Lara and Paul were delighted with the card I made for them. In addition to all the flags, I showed the bride clutching her newly acquired PhD certificate. The couple are dressed for the wedding and the bride also has a suitcase nearby, covered in stickers from her various travels. I popped a red heart in there too to make it a little bit romantic. It was for a card for a wedding after all!
This last request was for a diamond wedding anniversary. Sam used to be a taxi driver and Valerie worked in a travel agency before they retired. They are both English and are celebrating their anniversary the same year as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. I crafted a London black cab to illustrate Sam's profession and an aeroplane and some palm trees to represent Valerie's work in travel. A Union Jack completed the picture, along with a big silver 60, for 60 years of marriage, and some patriotic red, white and blue flowers.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs.

We spent three days in Venice and had a truly wonderful time there. Yes, it was full to bustin' with tourists and yes, we found it expensive, but what a magical place it is! My favourite morning was spent simply getting lost amongst Venice's small, traffic-free streets and  less crowded campi (squares), discovering many charming places along the way.  
Saint Mark's Square was the kids' favourite. My animal-loving boys took a bread roll from breakfast each morning to give to the pigeons and they flew down en masse to receive their tasty treat. The other big tourist attractions were pretty impressive too. The views from the Campanile were simply breathtaking and the Doge's Palace, with its beautiful architecture, art, and of course the Bridge of Sighs, was incredible. The streets in the Jewish Quarter were quiet and peaceful, giving me ample time to share with my kids that this area is where the word ‘ghetto’ was originally coined.
We took the boat to Murano and visited just about every furnace and glass shop on the island. Seafood is a big part of Venetian cuisine and was rather intriguing to this Jewish family who stick to a kosher diet. The Rialto Market was full of some interesting animals that the kids had never seen before and they were both captivated and a little repulsed all at the same time.
Venice was simply a great place to enjoy the scenery, beautiful buildings and people. We walked and walked and walked some more. There were more than enough nooks and crannies to explore to keep the boys entertained and they even found the shops, bursting with glass ornaments and Venetian carnival masks, quite fun!

And then our cases were packed. We had time for just one more pigeon feeding session at Saint Mark's Square. Our two and a half week holiday had come to an end and it was time to say our goodbyes to Venice and to Italy – for now anyway. I hope we'll be back someday.
* I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; / A palace and a prison on each hand. (Quote by Lord Byron who visited Venice in 1816).

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Rosh Hashanah 5773

On Sunday evening my family and I will begin celebrating the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah, which means ‘Head of the Year’ in Hebrew, falls in the month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar and is believed to be the month in which God created the world.
The holiday marks the beginning of ten days when Jewish people think very carefully about their behaviour during the past year. We remember what we have done, ask and pray to be forgiven for any bad deeds and promise to be better next year.
A lot of time is spent in the synagogue. We hear the blowing of the shofar (a ram's horn), an ancient musical instrument that is blown into like a trumpet. One hundred notes are blown on the shofar in the synagogue on each day of Rosh Hashanah and the blasts make an urgent sound that remind us to reflect on the past year and the year to come.
Throughout Rosh Hashanah no bitter or sour food is eaten. People eat sweet food, symbolizing the desire to have a new year filled with sweetness. Special meals for the holiday include pomegranates, apples dipped in honey (thus my paper bees!), and challah bread in a round loaf to symbolise the circle of life and of the year.
The traditional Hebrew greeting on Rosh Hashanah is שנה טובה ומתוקה (Shana Tovah u'Metukah) literally meaning "a good and sweet year." That being said, I would like to wish all my Jewish customers and friends a very happy and peaceful holiday, and, in the words of the traditional blessing "May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good Year."

Monday, 10 September 2012

Gilad's Invitation

Several years ago I met a lovely lady when our sons went to the same English class. She is a talented crafter herself and, after regularly chatting whilst waiting for our boys, we soon connected over facebook. I know that she reads my blog regularly and so was delighted when she wrote to me to commission a design for a Bar Mitzvah invitation and an album for her son.
Her son, she told me, loves drawing, bike riding, origami and daydreaming! His favourite colour is green, like the green English countryside, and, what she thought I might not have noticed (I hadn't!) is that on the left side of his hair he has a small blond wisp... kind of like a feather!
My customer wanted the invitation design to have a Bar Mitzvah theme but, aside from that, was happy to leave me to come up with something suitable. My favourite kind of customer!
I decided to show the Bar Mitzvah boy, Gilad, wearing a kippa (skullcap) on his head and a tallit (a Jewish prayer shawl) over his shoulders. He is holding a book and some pencils in one hand, and an origami swan in the other. The facebookers amongst you may well remember the teeny-weeny origami swan, above, which I posted on my page whilst working on the design. Gilad's black bike, with a yellow stripe on it, is also shown in the background and he is daydreaming about being 13!
Finally, this particular customer chose to keep all the wording in English which made for a good, clean design. She kept 'our project' a secret until I had finished the artwork but wrote to tell me that her son was thrilled when he saw it. "Amazing" she said "[I've] just showed Gilad and he loves it! Thanks so much!".
The invitations were beautifully printed on white cardstock, below, and their guests seemed to like them.
I made Gilad an album for the Bar Mitzvah party too but that is going to have to wait for another post. Look out for it!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tantalizing Tuscany

We all fell in love with Tuscany in a big way. Mile after mile of olive trees and vineyards. Renaissance art in Florence. Beautiful squares in Siena and Pisa. A good glass of wine in the evening. I mean, what's not to like?
The kids adored the dogs at 'Il Sodo', the delightful farmhouse we stayed at. The property dated back to the 15th century and, located on a hill top in the heart of Chianti, was surrounded by the enchanting Tuscan countryside. None of us wanted to leave... 
We climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa and ate delicious Bruchetto drizzled with olive oil. The hubby and I tasted locally produced Chianti wine - I loved it, he didn't - whilst the kids stayed on the farm and swam in the pool.
Dinner was pizza almost every night and none of us bored of it. The absolute best was at the 'Palazzo Pretorio' in the Tuscan medieval village of San Donato in Poggio (below).
Florence was magnificent. We walked for miles. 'Il Palio' was soon to begin in Siena and the atmosphere was electric. We had been advised not to stay for the wild bareback horse race itself but very much enjoyed all the flag waving and pageantry building up to it.
But it was the splendid Tuscan landscape with its castles and country churches, olive groves and vineyards, that did it for me. Really, what's not to like?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Photo Copy

At the beginning of the summer I received a photo in my inbox which a customer wanted me to recreate in paper!  She realised that there would be a lot of work involved but wanted a really special card for the wedding of a young man she is very close to.  "I'd love it to be as close a copy of the photo as it can be." she said. An unusual request but one I was happy to have a go at.
My customer was quite specific - she wanted the trees and leaves behind the bench, as well as the couple in the exact pose as in the photo. I dressed them in the very same clothes and had them sitting back-to-back on the bench as she requested. I hand cut each of those little leaves in different autumnal shades too.
On the front of the card she wanted the short and sweet greeting 'Danny ♥ Malki' and inside 'Wishing you a lifetime of happiness, laughter, joy and simcha.'
It took me quite some time to complete this card because I was working to such a specific brief but my lovely customer was encouraging. "I have absolutely no doubt that we will love what you create" she wrote.
I am happy to say that she did.