Sunday, 26 July 2015

May their memory be a blessing

My friend Mandy recently celebrated her birthday. This year I decided to make her a papercut card. She and I were at art school together, ahem, quite a few years ago, so I added a little pencil next to her name. Granted these days she is using a computer more than a pencil for her wonderful design work, but a pencil seemed fitting! 
Of course not all cards are for birthdays or other happy occasions. A new customer in the United States asked me for some "Jewish condolence cards." Together we decided to add a Magen David (Star of David) and a Dove of Peace to the cards, along with a few pretty flowers. My customer chose the greeting "May their memory be a blessing", or in Hebrew, "יהי זכרו ברוך", a honorific in Judaism used when naming and speaking of the deceased. Once they had arrived in the United States, she kindly emailed to say she thought the cards were beautiful.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Umbrellas in the Sun

Every July, the streets of Águeda in Portugal are covered in a colourful art installation known as "The Umbrella Sky Project". The project is only a few years old but has already become world renowned. It has since crossed the world and spread to streets in Turkey, Germany, England, Luxembourg and other countries. This summer it was Jerusalem's turn to welcome the umbrellas!
Yoel Moshe Solomon Street, in the historic Nachalat Shiva neighbourhood, was the chosen street and has been decorated with hundreds of colourful umbrellas which appear to float in the air (they are of course suspended by barely visible wires).
Nachalat Shiva was founded in 1869 by seven (shiva in Hebrew) Jewish families from Jerusalem’s Old City, and was the third neighbourhood to be built outside the Old City walls after Mishkenot Sha’ananim and Mahane Israel. It was founded as a cooperative effort by the seven families who pooled their funds to purchase land and build homes. Lots were cast and Yosef Rivlin won the right to build the first house in the neighbourhood. In 1873, milk cows were imported from Amsterdam and a dairy was opened in Nachalat Shiva. A carriage service to Jaffa Gate was inaugurated that summer.
Nowadays it is one of Jerusalem's most arty streets, and is filled with jewellery, craft and souvenir shops, as well as cafés, and several historic synagogues. A large, imposing building at the very end of Yoel Moshe Solomon Street, constructed by a Christian Arab from Bethlehem, was called the Baharav Hotel. The hotel’s location near Jaffa Road and in the centre of town made it a popular venue for British officers. In more recent years it became the offices of The Jerusalem Report magazine, which was where I worked, firstly as a designer and then as Art Director, in my very first job in Israel!
Yoel Moshe Solomon Street has been decorated as the opener of the Ha’Ira (back to town) campaign, launched by the Jerusalem Municipality. It looks gorgeous and is a wonderful attention-grabbing way to welcome visitors downtown. Free shows by local street artists and musicians will be running until the 5th of October.
The umbrella's put me in a summery mood and also seem to match my cards! A new customer spotted this card in my Etsy shop and asked me to create one for his wife. He kindly messaged me after her birthday to tell me that his wife "loved the card."
These recent creations were also "umbrella-coloured". Obviously the colourful umbrellas on Yoel Moshe Solomon Street have had a strong influence on my work!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Festival of Light in Jerusalem 2015

The Jerusalem Festival of Light is a magical event. Currently in its seventh year, last month saw my third visit and each year it seems to get better and better. The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from Israel and abroad (according to the event’s website, it drew about 250,000 visitors in previous years). The visitors wander the Old City's cobblestone streets to take in an amazing variety of modern light art installations and videos projected on ancient buildings, all created by local and international artists. The juxtaposition of the historic Old City with such breathtaking works of art is truly a sight to behold.
Every year four routes are offered, taking visitors from one art instillation to another, each clearly marked by a different coloured light. This year it seemed like practically the whole city had turned out to see the festival. Israelis young and old, of every race and religion, were there, and the routes were busy but manageable. The youngest son (my art partner in crime!) and I chose three routes and, three hours of solid walking later, we had just about seen what we wanted to see.
My absolute favourite thing was watching the sand animation at Gan Hatekumah, or the 'Garden of Redemption' near Zion Gate, above. This fascinating and exciting art was created using only sand, light, hands and imagination. The artist, Sheli Ben Nun, wove a sweet story onto the Old City walls with rare skill and beauty, and I truly could have stood and watched her all night.
The youngest son wanted to move on...
He was fascinated by the giant jellyfish, changing their colours and moving with the wind, in Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Square, and by the large pendulum set into motion in the Hurva Square. We walked along the red route, past cemeteries and numerous architectural treasures all lit up, until we reached the outside of the city walls. The bright red "Bibligoo" - a polythene igloo to replace the igloo traditionally made of ice and created as an innovative solution for the Inuit people following the thawing of the ice - was a popular photo opportunity, below.
Zadok Ben David's "Dialogue in Colour" was another favourite of mine. The shadow of two metal sculptures, huge in size and quite unique, was projected onto the Old City walls at Gan Habonim. We watched a spellbinding stage performance, "Light Trickeries" by the Pyromania Group, where dancers in programmable LED costumes performed acrobatics, all to the sound of a hypnotic musical soundtrack. Standing outside Jerusalem's Old City late at night watching such a performance was truly a feast for the eyes!
We walked on to the green route, bypassing the blue route which had proved poorer in previous years. It might have been wonderful but we were running out of time. There was just too much to see! "Your Guardian Angel", light sculptures with giant wings at Zahal Square, allowed my son to become an angel of light when he stood in front of them, whilst the green "Blooming Meadow", below, and luminous "Fish Forest" delighted us with their bursts of colour.
We passed the "Field of Light Flowers", an enchanted field that came to life by changing colour to the sound of music, towards the Damascus Gate. This gate is one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the wall on the city's northwest side, where the road leads out to Nablus, and from there, in times past, to the capital of Syria, Damascus. Now this is an area of Jerusalem I would not normally comfortably walk alone, let alone with a 12 year old at 11pm, but there was plenty of security and, most importantly, lots of people around. Sadly there has been an incident since then, reminding me what life in Israel is really like. However, the night of the Festival of Light saw the gate lit up in its full glory with pictures created by Israeli children expressing their personal interpretation of the concept of "gate". A gate to the future, a gate to their house, a gate to peace...
Our last stop of the night was at Zedkiah's Cave. This mysterious cave located east of the Damascus Gate goes back about 1,000 feet under the houses of the Old City, and about 2,000 years in history. Make that 2,600 years, if you include the legend that gave it its name. It is said that Zedekiah, Jerusalem’s last biblical king, attempted to flee Jerusalem to Jericho through this cave before he was captured and brought before the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. His sons were murdered in front of him and his eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:1-6).
In keeping with this tragic story, at the back of the cave is a tiny spring known as "Zedekiah’s tears." That is were you discover the cave has no exit; archaeologists tell us that in fact it was a quarry from which Herod the Great hewed stone to rebuild the Second Temple.
In 1868, the first meeting of the Freemasons in Ottoman Palestine was held by candlelight in Zedekiah’s Cave. The Freemasons regard King Solomon as the first biblical Freemason, and since the cave was also viewed as the quarry used by King Solomon in the building of the First Temple, the Freemasons have held their traditional ceremonies during the past century in the main chamber of the cave and given the cave the name "King Solomon’s Quarries."
Zedkiah's Cave was lit with a dramatic and colourful installation the night we visited. Flashing red, green and blue lights made the static pictures and objects in the cave move, above. The light effects were mesmerising and it was an exhilarating way to end the evening. It was late - very late - and we were tired, but we'd had a wonderful night. The Festival of Light had been the perfect way for me to spend an evening with my creative son, and this installation - his favourite - was the very best way to end it.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Yonatan and Ilan

Last year Yonatan favoured his headphones and was into his music. This year he's become passionate about football, in particular PSG, the French club Paris Saint-Germain. His Mum asked me to create a birthday card for him showing his allegiance to the club. I also added a blue football, as per her request, and a big red 12 to show his age. Mum told me that the card was a great success!
Ilan was turning 21 and his Mum was looking for a really special gift for him. We discussed the various options in my shop and she decided that a framed picture for his room would be really nice.
Ilan is a keen West Ham United supporter and also a huge follower of our local Modi’in football club, Ironi Modi'in FC. He plays night cricket, and is currently serving in the Israeli army.
The West Ham shirt I could create quite easily. His army badge and a cricket bat too. However, the local football team turned out to be quite a mystery! Neither Ilan's Mum or I could find Modi'in's emblem on anything! In the end Mum found a T-shirt in her son's wardrobe that the supporters had printed. In the interests of accuracy he is a supporter rather than player, so it was decided that the white shirt would represent his favoured team. I think it's about time that Ironi Modi'in FC got themselves a website sorted out or updated their Facebook page though. Their last update was in 2012!
Ilan was delighted with his picture and immediately hung it on the wall of his room. Apparently he loved all the details on it. Mum felt that it made a very special 21st gift. "Many thanks for everything - your talent is amazing" she wrote. I'm blushing!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Calum's Album

Image: Isaac Strang Photographer.
Last month I mentioned our very quick trip back to England. In all the years we have lived in Israel - and it's over 20 now - we've never made such a short trip. Our nephew was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah but it was still school time and there were exams to do as well. There was no alternative. A weekend in London it was!
Obviously I packed an album in to my suitcase for the Bar Mitzvah boy. Red-haired Calum enjoys playing tennis, is into football (of course he is - nearly everyone on my husband's side of the family supports Arsenal!) and is a keen reader. He is a techie too. He has an iPad, is a YouTube fan, and also likes playing FIFA on his PS3.
I have shown Calum with his iPod and a book tucked under one arm, and a tennis racket in the other. To one side of him you can see his PS3, his school's badge, a football, and a small pile of books. On the other side is the Arsenal crest, and a plate full of his speciality chocolate chip meringues. Apparently he is a good baker.
I decorated several pages inside the album as well. The opening page shows his school's badge, some pencils and books (top). Next I added a football and the Arsenal crest. Calum enjoys watching The Simpsons (just like his cousins here in Israel), so Bart featured on one of the pages. More chocolate chip meringues followed, as well as the YouTube logo, the FIFA15 game cover and a teeny tiny PS3 controller. My youngest son was very impressed with that!
I added a tallit (the Jewish prayer shawl) to each page in shades of blue and purple - just like the one Calum wore in the synagogue for his Bar Mitzvah ceremony - and featured them on the cover too. Finally I added the date of his Bar Mitzvah, Calum's name and the words 'Bar Mitzvah' in Hebrew. According to his mum, my sister-in-law, there was a "vague green theme going on" at the party (it was actually so much more than that!), so the background on all the decorated pages became a nice forest green.
We had a lovely time in London. Even though we were only there for a few days, we squeezed a lot in! We watched proudly as our nephew performed his Bar Mitzvah in the synagogue, and partied with him on the Sunday evening. We fitted in some shopping, and went on a really interesting London Walks guided walk of Old Hampstead Village. The kids went zip wiring, leaping and swinging at Go Ape, and we all thoroughly enjoyed an unforgettable production of The War Horse at the New London Theatre on Drury Lane, in the heart of London's "Theatreland".
Not bad for a three day visit!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

International Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art

I was really very excited to read about the International Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art at the Old Jaffa Museum. I like that particular museum a lot, having visited several times previously, most recently last summer for the Dolls Art exhibition. The museum is located in the "Ancient Saraya", an old governmental Ottoman house, and is relatively small but quite lovely! Of course I was going to visit again for the paper exhibition.
The Contemporary Paper Art exhibition is advertised as the first of its kind in Israel. The exhibition brings together 30 world-renowned paper masters, displaying "crumpled" works by the French artist Vincent Floderer, as well as creations by the artist and mathematician Martin L. Demaine and his son, Professor Erik Demaine. In addition, Dr. Robert Lang, one of the developers of car airbags, displays works of art created by hundreds of folds of paper. I was particularly enamoured with his Poison Dart Frog, below. The exhibition, curated by artist Paul Jackson, also hosts the German artist Heinz Strobl and his works made from folded strips of paper hundreds of metres long, as well as other leading and respected artists from Japan, Europe, the USA and Israel.
The exhibition showcases the unlimited possibilities of paper art in the most wonderful way. "Paper is all around us", the curator's introduction read, "but we don't look at it. We touch it, but we don't feel it. It is our ever-present servant, essential but invisible, humble but dignified... It is all-but excluded from the list of respected artists' materials, such as stone clay, metal and wood." But that's how it used to be. A growing number of artists have adopted paper as their primary material and have begun to create vibrant folded, cut and crumpled work that is finding an enthusiastic public. Myself amongst them.
There were so many pieces that I fell in love with at the exhibition. Melina Hermsen's "Tessellations" just blew me away. Melina, from Germany, is one of an exciting new generation of tessellation artists who take the traditional pattern-making techniques and add a creative flair. My absolute favourite piece was the lion cub, below, which I would more than happily hang on my wall at home.
Anne Rudanovski's huge pleated disk created from one sheet of paper, above, was initially part of a larger installation of many disks. This piece will disassemble and fold into a small box, rather like the closing of an umbrella.
The modular origami lamps of Tomoko Fuse from Japan, below, are created from one sheet of folded, uncut paper. She is considered by many as a renowned master in origami.
There were papercuts too. Noa Yekutieli's "Behind the Human" hand cut papercut is based on an ongoing series of pieces titled "Summer 2014" which are based on ruins from "Operation Protective Edge" and deal with the physical and human emotional destruction that are a result of the ongoing conflict in Israel. One side of the piece shows the destruction and the shared reality of the individuals that are sometimes forgotten behind this catastrophe. The second side reveals a subjective personal moment. The cut out paper from the side depicting the destruction pile up as ruins and symbolises how time will blind the human ability to remember. It does not tell a story of a person, a party, a side, or a house, but is a metaphor of a universal distress resulting from war and conflict.
Each visitor to the exhibition receives a small sheet of origami paper with the entrance ticket. A large screen within the exhibition area demonstrates the art of origami with detailed instructions, allowing visitors to have a go at the art form. My son made a delightful swan, with a little help from Mum.
The exhibition's curator Paul Jackson has been a professional artist since 1982. His paper folding sculptures are displayed in museums and galleries around the world. He has published over thirty books on paper art, and created many commercial projects. Nowadays he teaches at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, one of the leading colleges in Israel.