Monday, 31 March 2014

Noah's Album

I absolutely love the fact that I am now making Bar and Bat Mitzvah books for the younger brothers and sisters of my original customers. Who knew, when I was asked to make that first book back in 2010, that they would become such a big part of my work?
Noah's Mum put in an order for her second son, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the beginning of this month. Noah loves his drums and she wanted the main picture on the front of the book to show him playing his drum kit. Unfortunately his kit faces a wall and it was too difficult to turn the whole thing around, so I had to take an educated guess as to how it is set up. Mum told me the brand and colour of the drums and apparently I got it quite right. Noah was amazed how accurate they were!
The colour scheme for the Bar Mitzvah invitation was orange and grey. I used the same colours on the book but gave him a blue t-shirt and red headphones as Mum told me that they are his favourite colours. I also popped a kippa on his head to match the one in the photo she sent me.
Noah's other interests include surfing, the English Premier League football team Arsenal, his computer and Wii video game console. He is always busy on his Samsung Tablet, either playing games or watching a movie with his earphones, and often sends texts on his mobile phone. Noah loves to watch YouTube videos about how to make stuff out of paper, serviettes etc. In fact, I was told, he'd probably love to come and work for me! Finally, this year his family are fostering a Golden Labrador for the Israel Guide Dog Centre for the Blind. Mum thought that maybe she should feature in the album too. Of course she should!
The inside pages also carried the colour scheme of orange and grey and I think I included all his hobbies. The lovely Golden Labrador got prime position!
When the book arrived in the mail, Noah's Mum wrote to tell me that she thought it looked amazing. I'm so pleased that their second order was so well received.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Iris Hill

A couple of weekends ago we made a quick visit to Shmurat Ha-Irusim or "Iris Hill", a small nature reserve located on the border between the cities of Ness Ziona and Rishon Letzion. I didn't even know of the existence of this little hill until someone posted about it on the wall of the Facebook group "Love Love Israel", but as soon as I read about it, I knew I had to go and see the irises. I even got Mister Handmade in Israel and the kids to come along too!
Iris Hill is home to the Iris artropurpurea or Coastal Iris. This rare sub-species of the Iris oncocyclus only grows in Israel, and only in Ness Ziona, Rishon Letzion and the city of Netanya. It  is considered an endangered plant and seems unable to thrive in other areas of the country. At this time of the year there are also huge bushes of Rotem (white broom) in bloom, but it was the large purple-brown irises that we were looking for and that we found, popping up in clumps among the dunes and grasses.
Iris Hill rises about 55 metres from sea level and accommodates the remains of one of the last gravel quarries along the Israeli coastal plane, of which there were once many. Now birds nest in the holes in the walls of the quarry, and on the eastern slope of the hill you can find several water troughs, probably left from the British Mandate period.
The site is small, about 50 acres in all, but it's a very pleasant place for a family picnic and flower walk. The irises, though now few and far between, since they bloom in mid-February, were wonderful to see. Just behind the reserve there is an abandoned citrus orchard, also currently in blossom. It smelt incredible!
In the summer Iris Hill is covered in thorny bushes. You will also find numerous insects and tortoises there. Many species of birds also inhabit the area.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Gadi's Papercut

My kids are pretty blasé about my work. I guess they're just used to seeing it. They get excited when it comes to their birthdays and wait with great anticipation to see what theme I have gone for on their card, but otherwise they're really not too bothered to look at my latest creations. Therefore, when I recently had a first attempt at papercutting, I was thrilled when my youngest son - the son who walks around listening to his Mp3, with his ipod in his other hand - was excited to see what I had made. So excited, in fact, that later the same day he piped up and asked if he could make a papercut too.
You bet he could!
Now, 11 year old boys don't do birds and flowers. They do battles and guns and skeletons and all things nasty. Well, mine does anyway! I suggested the skull and crossbones to start with and my boy was happy to go with it. The teeth proved too hard for him and I helped out, and I must admit that allowing him to use my scalpel, while I stood over him holding my breath and praying that we would both keep all our fingers, was more than scary. But he did a great job!
He drew... he cut... and then it was finished! His very first papercut.
I hope there will be more.
If anyone wishes to order a similar papercut to mine, then please be in touch using the "email me" button on the right.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Boys to Men

"Grandpa" was turning 82. He is a retired doctor, enjoys reading and loves history. My customer asked me to make a birthday card for him which would illustrate all those interests. The little stethoscope and clipboard speak for themselves. The small pile of books displays both his love of reading and history.
Max Rajnish was celebrating his 10th birthday. Well his name is really Max, but apparently his nickname is a joke he has with his friends and his auntie went along with it. She wanted a card that showed him holding a mobile phone with FaceTime on the screen. It seems that he spends quite a lot of time using the video chat program on his iPhone. Guess he's no different to all the other 10 year olds... except my own... who thinks he's terribly badly done to because we won't buy him a smartphone. 
The "Dad" depicted on this card is a keen Tottenham Hotspur supporter and his son told me that he enjoys a good red wine. For his 80th birthday card I decided to show Dad wearing a Spurs shirt, with a glass of red in his hand. I tried to get you guessing which football team's shirt I was currently crafting out of paper, by posting the above photo on my Facebook page, but it seems that none of you are English football fans. Well, now you know.
Finally, this card was being sent to a fellow in Newcastle, a city in North East England. Newcastle Brown Ale, or Newkie Brown, as it is known locally, is an ale that was originally produced in the city, though I was amazed to read that it is now produced in North Yorkshire! My customer thought that her nephew would appreciate the local touch to his card.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


I've had a little go at papercutting before (you can see the results here and here) and I always promised myself that I would do more of it. Of course card orders come in and there is always an album to work on, so papercutting just for fun is put to one side. I spend, ahem, rather too much a lot of time on Facebook and enjoy seeing the work of Paper Panda and By Charlie's Hand there. Recently I was inspired to have another go at a papercut myself and I was pretty happy with the result!
I took the little bird which appeared on my recent bookmark design and on several of my cards and made her the focal point. The leaves and flowers were built up around her, and the little bird house was added before I began my cut.
I'll definitely be making more.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Big 1

It's always fun to create sweet cards such as these ones. The top card was for a little niece who was soon to be celebrating her 1st birthday. Now, one year olds don't tend to have so many hobbies, so I suggested a card full of cute little girl things. My customer, a good friend, is very into ducks. I think one lived in her garden when she was a child. So I decided that a duck had to be added to the card, and a big number one as well. Finally, I created a little paper portrait of the birthday girl. She has short dark baby hair at the moment, but I made sure she looked cute and girlie by giving her lovely long eyelashes.
Just a few days later another friend called and asked me for two small cards for her one year old niece. These were being sent to the UK, while the first card went to Australia! This time I made the number the main feature and added balloons and flowers and a little bird too. The duck sneaked back in there as well.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Red South

In February each year the green landscape of Israel's northwestern Negev desert turns bright red when the wild anemones bloom. The winter rains can be few and far between, and particularly so this year, but nonetheless a fabulous display of anemones, or kalanit in Hebrew, always magically appear, and Israelis go out in droves to see them! A special festival called "Darom Adom" or "The Red South" celebrates this amazing natural wonder and visitors are invited to participate in tours of the flowering areas, as well as many other family-orientated activities.
I was keen to see the flowers - in previous years we haven't made it quite so far down south - but the friends we travelled with were equally keen to stay away from the crowds. We made our own way to the Beeri Badlands, a nature reserve in a valley that looks a little like a crater, and enjoyed seeing the kalanit (the name is taken from the Hebrew word for a bride, a kalla, referring to a bride’s beauty) in a somewhat quieter way.
Kibbutz Beeri is named after Berl Katznelson, a leader of the Zionist labour movement before the establishment of the state of Israel. His Hebrew name was Be'eri. Signs direct you to the Beeri Badlands from the kibbutz. Apparently gazelles, porcupines, monitor lizards (the biggest lizard in Israel) and common tortoises inhabit the area but for us the flowers, in particular the beautiful red anemones, were far more evident. 
From the top of the "crater" we could see abandoned mines and what I later learnt were the remains of a British army installation (below). The sulphur mines were established by a British geologist who discovered sulphur deposits in the area during the First World War. About 10,000 tons of sulphur were dug between 1933 and 1946, when the plant was closed. A road was paved north to transport the sulphur to Gaza port which, my husband kindly pointed out to me only later, is located only about 1 km to the west. We could still see the piles of sulphur residue. South of the mines are the remains of the buildings and a network of roads where the British army had large ammunition storehouses during the First World War.
There are many other points of interest in the area which we will return to see another day. The area is a great place for cycling and I am sure that's something my boys would love to do. It was the kalanit, the anemones, that we had gone to see that day and they were there in plenty. Whilst not quite the red carpet I had expected (apparently that can be found in the nearby Shokeda Forest), it was still a sight to behold.
I took many photographs on the day we visited but one in particular stood out to me. I sent it to the ISRAEL21c news magazine and was delighted when they featured it as their Photo of the Week, below. I was quoted and credited as a blogger who writes about nature reserves and areas of beauty in Israel.
Ah, fame at last!