Sunday, 30 April 2017


A new customer wanted to order a birthday card for her gran. She loves baking and cooking for everyone, my customer told me, and she loves her family - the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Delving further, I was told that Gran's speciality are her jam biscuits, ginger biscuits, apple cake (and lots more!).
I have shown Gran wearing an apron and proudly holding a big plate of biscuits. Her favoured apple cake is next to her and behind her is a small photo of nearly all of her great-grandchildren. I added her age too, and the greeting "Happy Birthday Gran / Safta" (Safta means grandmother in Hebrew).
My customer wrote to tell me that "Gran loved the card!"
Another customer requested a special birthday card for her granddaughter who was turning 21. I decided that bunting, some heels, a glass of champagne, lipstick and stars were the right thing for a 21st birthday card. The Hebrew greeting says "Happy Birthday to my dear Granddaughter Karin".
Lastly, this was a simple but sweet design for a small card. I hope the lady who received it liked it.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Anniversary Wishes

A customer asked me to make a card for special friends who were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary. I suggested showing the couple and their four kids on the card, an idea which she really liked. Their youngest son was the most fun to illustrate. His blue rimmed glasses were rather fiddly to create but made me smile when finished. My customer's response to them was positive too. "I love M's specs. Brilliant!"
The family who received the card were even happier. "This has to be the best card we have ever received." she wrote on Facebook. "We love it, you are very talented."
Another customer asked me for an anniversary card for her daughter and son-in-law. She requested a small card and I had no specific brief, so I decided to re-make this card, in the more traditional colours associated with love, red and pink.
She also wanted a silver wedding anniversary card for a couple celebrating 25 years of marriage. Apparently the historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath on their twenty-fifth anniversary, and a gold wreath on the fiftieth. This was a small card, so I decided to simply cut out a large silver number 25, which I embellished with some flowers and finished off with a silver bow. There was no wreath on this occasion!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Art of Banksy

The kids have gone back to school after the Pesach break and Mister Handmade in Israel is back at work. We had a good week, though times have changed now the kids are older and we only managed one day out when all of us were together. That's fine though. I know it's normal and am glad that they are busy and have their own plans (or perhaps don't want to hang out with Mum and Dad!).
The youngest son and I took ourselves off to see The Art of Banksy, a new temporary exhibition that's come to the coastal city of Herzliya courtesy of Banksy’s former agent Steve Lazarides. Banksy, in case you haven't heard of him, is an England-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity. His street art, executed in a distinctive stencilling technique, is political, satirical, brings a smile or a smirk to your face, and makes you think.
Steve Lazarides and Banksy are both from Bristol in the UK. The two go back many years to the days when Lazarides took photos of Banksy’s work for the now-defunct Sleazenation magazine. These days Lazarides owns galleries in London and in Newcastle, and is recognised as a key figure in bringing street art into galleries. Several years ago, he realised that many of his clients owned Banksy works, some of which had never been seen by the public, and the idea of doing a retrospective took hold.
The Art of Banksy is not a Banksy-endorsed display (Lazarides and Banksy parted ways in 2008 in unexplained circumstances and an exhibition is not in keeping with the artist’s ethos) but it still contains about 80 original works from Lazarides’s collection plus other private collections.
All the pieces included in The Art of Banksy exhibition are original works, as well as limited edition screen prints and photographs of some of his most iconic pieces located overseas. We saw 'Girl with Balloon' – a work that appeared on London’s South Bank in 2002, and then took on a life of it’s own, becoming a symbol of the #WithSyria campaign in 2014 when the image was projected onto the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Nelson's Column in London (and later, a tattoo on Justin Bieber’s forearm). Then it was onwards to thought-provoking pieces like 'Bomb Love' (2003) and 'Flying Copper' (2003). There was the deeply poignant 'Burger King' (2006) and an acrylic on tarpaulin original of 'Rage, Flower Thrower' (2003). This iconic stencil illustration first appeared in Beit Sahour, a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem. The subject, who appears to be involved in a riot, wears a handkerchief and backwards cap and is depicted armed with a bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail. 
Rats are a recurring theme among Banksy's works. Though he has not offered any interpretation of his works, his rat stencils are said to be inspired by Blek Le Rat, a Parisian street artist who stencilled iconic images in the streets of Paris beginning in the 1980s.
The imposing 'Flag Wall' - the large-scale stencil piece that debuted at his 2006 'Barely Legal' exhibition in Los Angeles and shot him to fame in the US was there, and 'Laugh Now' (2002), which features a sandwich board-wearing monkey stencilled in black and white standing upright, as would a human being. While its eyes are not visible, it is clear from the hang of its head, the slope of its shoulders and the downturned corners of its mouth that this monkey feels rather downtrodden. The full text of the sign board reads, "Laugh now, but one day well be in charge". The original piece sold at a 2008 Bonhams' Urban Art sale for nearly $500,000.  
From small pieces to wall murals and statues, the exhibition represents a wide range of Banksy's artistic styles, and includes three pieces that have never been publicly exhibited. My son and I found it to be an interesting introduction to Bansky's work, though it helped that I am British and could understand some of the irony and political commentary. 'Tesco Bag Flag Tesco Generation' is a perfect example of this. The scene in this piece shows three children giving respect to a hastily lifted Tesco bag that flies like a flag in the breeze. One boy hoists the Tesco plastic bag as the other two children salute the makeshift icon as if saluting the British flag. Tesco is a British grocery and general merchandise retailer, and the irony of Banksy's piece may have been lost on some of the Israeli visitors to the exhibition. Banksy does not offer any interpretation to his works and so there were no stories behind each piece.
Famous (or infamous) for his humorous take on the human condition and the state of the world, Banksy has drawn attention to some deep issues. While some may consider him to be a vandal, violating public space with his blunt messages, others view him as an artistic mastermind who has found a way to make people listen to what he has to say. I tend to be in the latter camp. I find his work fascinating. It's clever, has meaning behind it and it makes you think.
What do you think of Banksy?

Saturday, 15 April 2017


A lovely lady I know recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Her friend called me and requested a large card for her that all her friends could sign. We discussed the the various things that should be featured on the card. My customer wanted the WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organisation) logo, as our friend has been a big worker and supporter of the organisation over the years. She is originally from Leeds, a city in the northern English county of Yorkshire, so I added the city's coat of arms. The blue and white flag of Israel also had to appear, since Israel is her home and has been for many years. My customer also specifically asked for some music notes and the Hebrew words Mazal Tov, a phrase used to express congratulations for a happy and significant occasion. I cut out the teeny tiny letters and added them to the card. Finally, a slice of birthday cake, balloons and flowers completed the card.
The birthday girl loved it and, even though the card was in fact not from me, called me to tell me how thrilled she was to receive it. My customer emailed too. "The card is gorgeous and Joan will love it. Many thanks."

Monday, 10 April 2017

Mickey Mouse

Eilon was turning 2. He likes Mickey Mouse, Mum said, so I cut out a big paper Mickey along with a picture of Eilon. I added some balloons and stars, and a big red number 2.
Mum was thrilled with the card. "[It's] so cute. I love it!" she wrote to me. "It looks just like him! He will love it." Now, I wasn't totally convinced that a 2 year old was going to recognise himself on a card, but Eilon's Mum orders birthday cards for all her family, so I knew that his big brothers were going to enjoy it, even if Eilon wasn't so sure!
I was absolutely thrilled when Mum sent me these photos on the morning of Eilon's birthday. Eilon had certainly spotted Mickey and was clearly pleased with what he saw. Some people are puzzled when I tell them that I make handmade, custom-made cards in this day and age. They think that emails have replaced birthday cards. When I see photos such as these, I know that all my efforts are
worthwhile. And Eilon's Mum thinks so too.
"You have no idea what joy you bring to our house" she told me.
"[You're cards have become] a real tradition!"
* This evening marks the start of Pesach, or Passover, and my family and I will celebrate the Passover Seder. You can read more about it in two of my previous posts here and here. 'Chag Pesach Sameach', a happy Passover festival, to all celebrating.

** This post has been shared on Seasons, Happiness is Homemade, The Good. The Random. The Fun., Monday Morning Blog Club, Monday's Musings, Modest Monday, Inspiration Monday, Sweet InspirationAmaze Me Monday and Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday).

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Flowers on Titora Hill

It's not that long since I wrote about Titora Hill, a popular archaeological site and beauty spot very near to my home. Back in December it was still winter and the hill was just beginning to recover from a wave of fires. I am pleased to say that a recent visit showed us that Titora is recovering nicely. There are still some badly burnt areas, but there was also an incredible display of wildflowers, some of the most common being the anemone, or the kalanit (taken from the Hebrew word for a bride, a kalla, referring to a bride’s beauty), the almond tree flower, the shkedia, with its delicate pinkish petals, and the cyclamen, or rakefet in Hebrew. The Asphodelus ramosus, or Irit Gadola, a member of the lily family, with its long slender leaves and small white flowers that are edible, was also in full bloom and, if you’re lucky, you can also find long sprigs of wild asparagus on the hill. Just snap one off and munch on it.
Interestingly, a difference can be seen between the flora in the areas facing north or northwest - which get indirect sunshine and have a temperate micro-climate, and those facing south and east - which get direct sunlight most hours of the day.
Israel is located at the meeting point of several climate types and contains a great diversity of habitats. These unique conditions are the main reason for the large variety of plant life here. Apparently there are more than 2,500 different species of higher plants in Israel's small area. Most of the plants develop during the rainy and cool winter months and bloom in early spring. February and March is one of the most spectacular times in Israel, when the countryside turns green and the wild flowers blossom profusely.
The almond tree flower marks the beginning of the spring blooming season in late January or early February. Narcissi, cyclamens and anemones follow, covering the meadows and wooded areas. I have written about "The Red South" before. In northern Israel a mixture of blue purple and white anemones draw the crowds, whilst several species of irises, some of which are so dark that they are referred to as Black Irises, are dispersed in special locations from the Golan Heights to the Northern Negev. During the months of February and March numerous people visit Mount Gilboa to view the dark purple Iris that are found on these slopes. Blue lupins cover Givat Haturmusim (Lupin Hill) in The Valley of Elah, and the Madonna lily can be seen blooming in early May in one place on the Carmel and one spot in the Western Galilee. In other parts of the country yellow blankets of wild mustards and chrysanthemums cover vast areas, and in the rare years that the Negev desert gets enough rain, it also get covered by a symphony of colours and fragrances that are unforgettable.
Though some species of Israeli wildflowers bloom nearly year-round, depending on the particular year and the amount of rainfall in that area of the country, February and March are the best times to enjoy the riotous colours. We certainly enjoyed seeing plenty of colour on Titora Hill.

* This post has been shared on Make it Pretty Monday at The Dedicated House, The Good. The Random. The Fun., You're the Star Blog Hop, Our World TuesdayPictorial Tuesday and Tuesdays @Our Home.