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.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Perfect Days of Football and Wine

It really is all about football at the moment in our home. First it was the FA Cup being discussed all the time, and now the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I briefly mentioned the fact that it was my birthday on the day of the FA Cup Final in a previous post. Since then Mister Handmade in Israel and I have celebrated our wedding anniversary and, as with any celebration in our home, that means a handmade card. Of course it was football-themed!
Now, I am originally from Hull, in the north of England, and Mister Handmade in Israel is from London. Thus we support two different football teams. My team, Hull City, waited 110 years for their first FA Cup Final, whilst Arsenal, Mister Handmade in Israel's team, have been somewhat more successful in recent years. There was great excitement in our home when we realised that the two teams were to meet in the final... and on my birthday too!
On the morning of the big day our house was ready. The kids had decorated the lounge in a mass of red and white, and black and amber! I excitedly opened my birthday presents and was intrigued to discover a medal inside the package from my husband. "Lisa Isaacs FA Cup Runners Up 17th May 2014" it read. Before we had even played the game!
Well, in the end my team lost but I had a great birthday anyway! I did appreciate Mister Handmade in Israel's little joke and decided to immortalise it on our anniversary card just a few weeks later. Below you can see the two of us on the card. I am wearing my Hull City t-shirt and he's in his Arsenal shirt. Around my neck is the aforementioned medal. We're still holding hands though - at the end of the day it's only a "beautiful" game!
The FA Cup brought an end to the English football season, which meant that our anniversary could be spent in a rather more romantic way than watching a football game. I decided to book a cheese and wine tasting session at the nearby Kadma Winery, a new winery located in Kfar Uriah, a place where vineyards were grown and wine was made in Roman and the Byzantine times.
The Kadma Winery combines ancient wine making techniques with modern technology, and revives some of the wine making methods that were used in the area in the ancient world. It is the only winery in Israel that uses large earthenware vessels, brought from Georgia, as part of the wine production process. Each of these vessels weighs almost 150 kilo grams and when full of liquid weighs over a ton. In the southern Caucasus the huge vessels are usually buried in the ground in order to maintain a fixed temperature during the fermentation process. In Israel the warm soil temperatures do not allow this and as a result the vessels remain standing upright in the cool rooms of the winery. 
The winery has a small visitor centre and our visit included a film about Kadma's unique wine making process and a lecture from Vlad, the husband of Lina, the ex-high tech worker who founded and manages the place. This was followed by a "meal" of wine and locally produced bread and cheese. Neither Mister Handmade in Israel or I are wine experts by any means - we just enjoy a nice glass of the stuff now and then - but we were assured that fermentation in the earthenware vessels and the vessels special structure increases the intensity of the aroma and colour of Kadma's wine. Who knows? The winery is young and only time will tell, but the sight of the elegant vessels, the interesting historical information conveyed by the family, and the beautiful location of the winery, facing a landscape of green Judean Hills, made for a good visit.
As good as the football any day!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Beautiful Game

Well, it is World Cup time, so why not write a blog post that is football related? Okay, I know that my posts often are - I live in a football-obsessed home - but none of these cards were made for members of my own family. They were created for other people who are passionate about The Beautiful Game.
The "Best Dad in the World", above, is rather fond of West Ham United. So fond, in fact, that his wife asked me to put a picture of him wearing his favourite team's shirt on his birthday card. I noticed on Facebook that his birthday cake had the team's badge on it too. He must be keen.
This Hebrew card was made for an Israeli who is passionate about Manchester United. I've just read that the club's international fanbase is a mind-boggling 659 million! Football is huge here in Israel - with basketball coming a very close second - so it was really no surprise to be asked to make a Manchester United card, even if the boy's Grandma originally comes from Leeds!
Finally, this Bar Mitzvah card was made for a young man who loves baseball. Okay, so it's not football, but it's still a sport that involves pitches! His favourite team are The New York Mets, who play in blue and orange, and my customer told me that the Bar Mitzvah celebrations were to be Mets-themed.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Noa's Album

It's always exciting to receive orders from other countries. My cards and albums have reached Afghanistan and Malaysia, India and Argentina, and I regularly send pieces off to America and the UK. This was definitely the first time that I received an order from Singapore.
Noa's cousin lives in Israel and I made an album for her Bat Mitzvah last year. Noa's Mum knew that her daughter really wanted one too and so, after a quick chat and several messages back and forth (Whatsapp makes it all so easy these days!), I set to work drawing the Bat Mitzvah girl and all of her hobbies and interests.
This book was to open the English way (Hebrew books open from right to left) but I showed her name in both English and Hebrew, and the date in Hebrew alone. Noa loves to read and write. She is a big fan of the Harry Potter books and also very much enjoys art, especially drawing. She likes listening to music on her phone and her favourite subject in school is science. Since she is living in Singapore at the moment, her Mum asked whether I could include the Merlion (a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, used as a mascot of Singapore) and also somehow incorporate Israel and Italy too, since she's lived in both of those countries as well. 
The colours of the balloons at the Bat Mitzvah celebration were going to be purple, white and silver.
Well, there was a lot to include but I think I got everything in there! I showed blonde-haired Noa with a book in one hand and some coloured pencils in the other. To her left there is the Merlion (below) and some drawing papers, and on her right a Harry Potter book, the Sorting Hat and a wand. Her phone appears too.
Inside the book I continued to illustrate all her hobbies. The first decorated page (there are 20 high quality cream coloured pages in my books) showed her love of books and reading. Next I devoted a page to Harry Potter, adding a couple more book covers, along with the Harry Potter logo and a wand (below, left). A page of papers, pencils and paint followed, then the Merlion reappeared, along with the flags of Israel and Italy. Finally I illustrated her favourite subject, science, by cutting out some little glass jars and test tubes, all full of some interesting coloured potions! Perhaps they could have represented Harry Potter too?

Friday, 6 June 2014

Breaking Bad

There was a steep learning curve ahead for me when a friend and loyal customer asked me to make a Breaking Bad-themed card for her husband's recent birthday. I have never seen the television series - though I have at least heard of it - and so I had some research to do when my friend started talking about Walter White, blue crystals and dark sunglasses.
To be honest I am not so much wiser even now. I do now know what Walter looks like and I understand the significance of the numbers above the 'H' and the 'Bi' (they're from the periodic table of chemical elements) but any real understanding will, I guess, have to wait till I watch the series for myself.
I do know that my customer and her husband were thrilled with the card I came up with. It shows the aforementioned Walter White, surrounded by the birthday boy's family. His wife is to Walter's right and on the left are his three kids and, ahem, a few pieces of blue meth crystals. I hasten to add that there is no connection here whatsoever between this family and drugs! They just like the show!
This particular card has provoked more interest than almost everything I have created recently. Both my customer and her husband posted it on their Facebook pages and I have received WhatsApp and Facebook messages galore from people telling me how much they like it.
I think I'd better watch the show.