Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Best of 2017 - Part I

Happy holidays to those of you celebrating Christmas and best wishes for an amazing year ahead! Thank you so much to everyone who has taken time out of their daily lives this past year to pop by and see what's happening over here at Handmade in Israel. I hope you will continue to visit in 2018 as I share the coming year's cards, albums and papercuts, and a few of my adventures in Israel.
In 2017 I made lots of customised cards and albums. I created invitation designs and papercut pictures, and my artwork now hangs on new customers' walls. As is common at this time of the year, I thought it would be fun to collect together some of my favourite designs from this past year and show them to you once again. Have you spotted your card or album amongst my collections? I'll save my top 10 favourite places in Israel post for another time. Watch out for it!
A big thank you to those of you who have commented, liked, shared and bought what you've seen on my blog. It is such a compliment to the maker, artist or designer when you buy directly from them. I am always very happy to receive your encouraging comments and support. Thank you for liking what I make.

1. Ronit's Album   2. שלום Shalom   3. Sarah's Album   4. Yaniv   5. Eden's Album   6. 'Lamed' is for Lisa   7. Lily's Bat Mitzvah   8. The penguin   9. Adiela's Album 10. Roxana's Album

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Wishing you a wonderful, happy and colourful New Year, and a safe and exciting start to 2018!

* This post has been shared on Sunday Features, {nifty thrifty sunday}, Amaze Me Monday, Inspiration MondayThe Good. The Random. The Fun.Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)Our World TuesdayWow Us WednesdaysSeasons and Mosaic Monday.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Marc Chagall "My Life"

One recent Friday morning I hopped over to Tel Aviv with friends to see the exhibition Marc Chagall "My Life". It was held in a tiny private gallery on Rothschild Boulevard, one of the principal streets in the centre of Tel Aviv and also one of the "coolest". The exhibition was so small that, frankly, we weren't there for very long, but what we saw was a real treat!
Altmans Gallery specializes in lithographs and engravings, as well as works of contemporary Russian painters and graphic artists, ceramics, porcelain and sculpture. Lithography, from the ancient Greek lithos, meaning "stone", was invented in Germany in the 18th century. It is a method of printing from a stone or metal plate onto paper or other suitable material.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985), once dubbed "the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th Century," was a Russian-born artist who worked in just about every artistic medium, including fine prints, etchings and the lithographs which were celebrated in this exhibition. He discovered lithography for himself in the late 1940s, in the workshop of the New York graphic artist Albert Kermen. One of his first experiments with lithography was a series of 13 lithographs based on four stories from The Arabian Nights.
Chagall's lithographs often centre on the topic of emigration as he escaped Russia to flee antisemitism, went to Europe and then escaped Nazi persecution by going to New York. Other recurrent themes are illustrations of village life in his native Russia - images of a red cow, an angel, fiddler on the roof and birds - and scenes of Paris, his beloved adopted city. Chagall was raised in a Hasidic family and studied Hebrew and the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) as a young boy. Many of the motifs in his art were inspired by these teachings. He also travelled to Jerusalem in 1931 to discover and experience the Holy Land. He later painted 12 windows that were installed in the synagogue of the Hadassah Medical Centre in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. Each of the twelve windows represents one of the Tribes of Israel.
The exhibition, which was timed to mark 130 years since Chagall's birth, presented more than 20 black and white and coloured lithographs, privately owned by the gallery. These included rare prints such as "The Yellow Sun" (1968), "Chloe Dressed and Capped by Cleariste" (1961), as well as a unique signed monotype "Le Bouffon" (1965). Some of the lithographs had never been exhibited in Israel before and some were being shown together for the first time within the framework of one exhibition. We saw Chagall's prints from his famous Biblical series, as well as works dedicated to Paris, his beloved adopted city, Vitebsk, his hometown, and childhood memories of the artist.
Chagall's Biblical series is considered to be one of the most important stages of his work. According to his own recollections, this theme attracted him in his first years in Paris, but the trip to Palestine, Syria and Egypt in 1931 served as a basis for deeper understanding of the subject. On his return he made 105 etching sheets, then picked up the theme once again twenty five years later, in 1952-56, with the series titled Drawings for the Bible. This series comprised of 24 colour lithographs illustrating tales from the Bible and was published by Verve, Paris and printed by Mourlot, Paris from 1958-1960.

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

After the First Rain

I've blogged about Titora Hill many times before but it's just up the road from me - a ten minute walk at the most - so it's a place I visit quite often. I went up there recently to look for some particular flowers, the products of the first rains, and there they were - Sitvanit - one of the first flowering plants of the autumn. This small, delicate flower is sensitive to rain, and right after the first shower it blooms, directly from the ground, with beautiful pink flowers.
Sitvanit's common name is Steven’s Meadow saffron, while its scientific name is Colchicum stevenii Kunth. The flower is dedicated to Christian von Steven, author of various transactions of the Imperial Society of Naturalists of Moscow published since 1838. In Hebrew it is known as Sitvanit HaYoreh (סתוונית היורה): Sitvanit from Stav meaning autumn and HaYoreh, the name of the first rain of the season. The Sitvanit is a perennial plant that belongs to the Lily family, along with the Lilies, Tulips, and Hyacinths. It is referred to in the Mishnah (the oldest authoritative postbiblical collection and codification of Jewish oral laws) where it is said to be used to produce vinegar. In addition, the Colchicum species contain Colchicine, originally used to treat rheumatic complaints and especially gout. Its present medicinal use is mainly in the treatment of gout; as well, it is being investigated for its potential use as an anti-cancer drug. 
There were other signs of new life on the hill. Clumps of rakefot leaves (scientific name: Cyclamen persicum, the Persian cyclamen) could be seen in many places. Rakefot bloom throughout late winter and into spring, so we will soon see carpets of this delicate pale pink flower in many areas of the country. The Hebrew name Rakefet (רקפת) comes from the Syrian name Rakafta. The popular name for cyclamen in Arabic is Sabounat al- Raa'i, or soap of the shepherd, testifying that herdsmen recognised the foaming qualities of saponin in the plant and used the leaves or tuber as soap in times of emergency. Cyclamen contains a toxic saponin, cyclamin, in the tuberous rhizomes.
There were also a few remaining red sabra (prickly pear) fruit left on the Opuntia cactus. This cactus has large flat pads (which, incidentally, are also edible), thorny fruits, and flowers that blossom annually. Sabra cacti can be seen scattered throughout the Israeli hills, where they were often planted to serve as natural dividers and barriers.

Monday, 18 December 2017


Mizzie is a chocoholic by her own admission, so she has apparently decided to stop eating chocolate altogether. Her husband therefore requested a birthday card on the "no chocolate" theme. "No chocolate biscuits, no Cadbury, no chocolate mousse" he wrote "Can you come up with something?"
Indeed I could.
I have shown Mizzie in the centre of the card wearing a purple top to match the purple colour of the Cadbury Dairy Milk bars (I am such a tease!). She is surrounded by chocolate biscuits, chocolate bars, Cadbury chocolate and chocolate mousse. They have all been crossed out or are banned (in driving the red circle is used mostly to prohibit something).
Do you think she got the message?
Though I do not celebrate Christmas (we are in the middle of Chanukah celebrations right now!) I do make Christmas cards every year for a few friends back in the UK, while other people require cards to send to their friends or clients abroad. After all, they are celebrating Christmas, even if we're not. This year's cards have brightly coloured Christmas trees on them. It was fun to cut out the simple triangular shape of the tree and add some "twinkling" lights.
Finally, cooking again, but this apple crumble is worth a mention. Apple crumble is a favourite in our home, but I have often found myself scrambling to make more topping as the ratio of fruit to crumble has not been right. This recipe was just perfect. It was certainly not a recipe for the health conscious (5 tablespoons of sugar - oops!) but was so tasty, with a nice tangy cinnamon and apple base, and a lovely crunchy crumble which perfectly offset the sweetness of the cooked apples. Yum!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Roxana's Album

Our niece recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah, so Mister Handmade in Israel and I made a quick visit to the UK for a long weekend to join in the celebrations. Of course I took one of my customized guest books with me, just as I have done in the past for her older sister and brother.
My sister-in-law, Roxana's Mum, gave me a few themes to work with before I started work on the book. Roxana is into her iPhone (aren't they all?) which Mum told me is encased in a Simpsons doughnut cover. She enjoys going to the Zionist youth movement NOAM (an acronym for No'ar Masorti, Masorti Youth), and loves to eat sushi and lamb cutlets! She likes playing football and is keen on Arsenal F.C., just like the rest of our family. Roxana has recently taken up playing the drums (she has drumsticks and a practice pad so far). Mum suggested that I also include a Torah scroll, since Roxana planned to read from the Torah for her Bat Mitzvah, and also asked me to add her JFS school badge. Finally, like her cousin, Roxana loves dogs! A dog had to feature somewhere on the cover.
I have shown Roxana wearing her NOAM sweatshirt. She is looking at her iPhone and stroking a cute little dog at the same time. To her left is a Torah scroll, a lamb cutlet and some sushi, and to her right her practice pad, her school badge and a football. The date of her Bat Mitzvah celebration and her name appear in English, along with the words Bat Mitzvah in Hebrew. Star of Davids (known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David) appear in two corners of the cover.
I decorated several pages inside the album as well. The opening page shows a hand (presumably Roxana's!) holding up her iPhone. Next is a page displaying the NOAM logo, followed by a page with some tiny sushi and chopsticks on it. Another page features the Arsenal crest and a black and white football, and lastly I added that cute dog again. Each page also features a gold Star of David placed on a blue background.
Mister Handmade in Israel and I had a good time in London and, even though we were only there for a few days, we squeezed in a lot! We watched proudly as our niece performed her Bat Mitzvah in the synagogue, and partied with her on the Sunday evening. We fitted in some shopping, and I met a friend to see the wonderful Designs On Britain exhibition at the Jewish Museum (I blogged about that in a separate post). We also enjoyed seeing the hit musical Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. The show was a lot of fun with some amusing one-liners, fabulous costumes and glitz.
Not bad for a three day visit!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Designs on Britain

Mister Handmade in Israel and I made a flying visit to London recently for our niece's Bat Mitzvah. Most of the weekend was taken up with the celebrations, but I did manage to find a few hours on the Sunday morning to visit the wonderful Designs on Britain exhibition at London's Jewish Museum.
20th century design in the UK was greatly influenced by the arrival in the 1930s and 40s of pioneering Jewish émigré designers from continental Europe. These designers brought with them a knowledge of European modernism, which they had learnt at celebrated design schools on the continent. There they learnt new techniques such as photomontage which had not yet reached Britain. Others studied at the Reimann School, founded in 1902 in Berlin but the school was forced to relocate to London in 1937 after Nazi persecution of its Jewish owners. It was the first commercial art school to open in Britain.
Designs on Britain features the work of these immigrant designers and covers graphic design, product design and corporate identities. It focuses on 20 different designers who created work for major British companies or British events, and who helped import European styles into British life. Many of these designers went on to dominate British graphic design in the 1940s, creating many of Britain's most iconic symbols.
Among the designs featured in the exhibition are Tom Karen's 70s Raleigh Chopper bike and a Marble Run toy, early iterations of Penguin books by Romek Marber, and even the popular circle-and-bar London bus stop sign by Hans Schleger. On display are iconic posters for the London Underground, British Rail, the General Post Office and the War Office created by designers FHK Henrion, Hans Ungar and Dorrit Dekk.
Originally destined for a career in set design in Austria, Dorrit Dekk arrived at work one day to be handed a note stating, 'Jews not allowed'. Escaping to London, she worked for the government’s Central Office of Information producing iconic posters such as ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases’ before setting up on her own as a graphic designer.
Another famous poster, 'Dig for Victory', was designed by FHK Henrion, who also started his own business and was a pioneer in developing the idea of corporate identity. His clients included such stalwart British companies as the Post Office, the National Theatre and Tate and Lyle.
The exhibition also includes a powerful design by Henrion entitled Four Hands and dated 1944. It was a design for the US Office of War Information, for use in Europe after D-Day and shows four hands, each marked with the flag of one of the allies, pulling apart a swastika.
Designs on Britain is organised thematically across travel, war-time, publishing, toys, vehicles and the 1951 Festival of Britain. Many of the designers went from being interned in Britain to working for the War Office. Post-war, the 1951 Festival of Britain was very significant. A number of the designers were commissioned to produce work for the Festival. This was a nationwide party to celebrate the end of the war and a new beginning. It meant that they entered the world of design in a blaze of glory. They then went on to work for many companies including London Transport and British Rail, for the General Post Office, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) as well as in corporate identity for companies such as Penguin, John Lewis and Schweppes.
Though each of the designers was Jewish-born none of them were particularly religious in their outlook. George Him worked hard for Israel but even he had not had a particularly Jewish upbringing. He was close friends with Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, with whom he had studied in Russia. It is probable that many of the commissions he received from Israeli organisations came through Kollek. In 1960 he was appointed Chief Designer for El Al, creating numerous designs for the company.
FHK Henrion also worked closely with Israel as his parents had settled there before the war. He designed brochures for the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad and for WIZO and he regularly taught at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
Possibly what all the designers had in common was that they all felt that they were outsiders. All were involved in various professional organisations and they mixed together. They were all very supportive of each other and helped each other to find clients and commissions.
The exhibition was guest curated by Naomi Games, the daughter of renowned British designer Abram Games. The Jewish Museum organised a very successful exhibition of Games' work to mark the centenary of his birth in 2014 and, after the exhibition, Naomi started to think about all the designers who were friends of her parents and who used to visit their home. She decided it was about time their work was shown too. Abram Games' work is not included in the exhibition as the curators chose to include only those designers who were born abroad, and Games was born in Whitechapel. He was, however, close friends with almost all the designers included.
Designs on Britain is on at London's Jewish Museum and continues until 15th April 2018. I highly recommend a visit!

* This post has been shared on Seasons, No Rules Weekend Blog Party, Sundays In My CityWelcome To The WeekendThe Good. The Random. The Fun.Monday Morning Blog Club and Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday).
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