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WOW, How long did it take you to make that?

Here are  a few of the questions I ask myself when I begin a project: What is the theme and message? How will it enhance the site? Who will see this artwork? What is the color palette? What textures, glazes and glass tiles will work best?  etc. etc. The question I rarely ask myself, but probably should, is “how long will it take?”

To celebrate completing my newest project, I invited a group of friends to a studio open house for a look at the artwork before it travels to its final destination in Clearwater Florida. Everyone  always asks me “How long did it take you to make that?”

After 15 years of doing  large mosaic installations, I know the true answer to this question is not measured in months or days.

The answer is ” it takes a lifetime .”

It takes a lifetime to figure out the right questions to ask yourself, and it’s an ongoing learning process.

Making a large mosaic installation for a public space is a long and tedious process but it’s not unlike any other profession. It takes an idea and a vision and a  lot of work. There are endless details to consider and most importantly, a successful project  always includes really, talented, competent people.

The client requested  a video of my creative process and that was a first for me. It gives a “behind the scenes “ look at what goes on in my studio and explains my working process.

I’d like to thank all the talented and  incredibly competent people who helped me with this project. I couldn’t have done it without their help!

Kathy Davis- Welch Architectural Signage Company –she and her staff put it all together and make it  happen.www.welchusa.com

The Menorah Manor Foundation Staff- they had a vision for a piece of fine art to enhance their beautiful project

Randy Cohen, Richard Rossen- invaluable technical assistance

Blue Green– Videographer and storyteller extraordinaire-www.sceamingreens.com

Taylor and Jeff–  muscles !!

Temple Beth Sholom Artwork Installation

It isn’t everyday that a client and artist are a perfect match.  I was honored to be chosen to create a piece of artwork for the newly rennovated space at Temple Beth Shalom in Cherry Hill , New Jersey. The artwork was a new direction for me , using over 85% recycled glass. I was thrilled with the final piece and  the impeccable installation of the Welch Signage Company,and most importantly, the congregation was very happy. It was a true pleasure to work with them . Here are some comments from the  fine art committee chairwoman:

“It looks like a magnificent piece of artwork that just happens to double as a donor wall.  It is far too obvious that she put her entire heart and soul into this piece.  It is entirely evident.  We knew from the minute we read her artist’s statement that we were on the right track and there could simply be no other artist who could define us so well.  And when we spoke to her on the conference call, it was obvious, a proper match had been made!
Her work is positively glorious!  Outstanding doesn’t even begin to describe.  Stunning.  Magnificent.  Undeniably beautiful.”

Artist Statement

“Torah, Worship, and Gemilut Hasidim are the three pillars upon which the world is built”
Pirke Avot 1:02

These meaningful words were the inspiration for the donor recognition artwork for Temple Beth Sholom. Judaism encourages people to reach out and help those in need. By performing these actions, we can help make the world a better place to live.

Temple Beth Sholom brings people together to pray, to learn, to celebrate holidays and family simchas and to perform acts of loving-kindness. When life presents us with challenges, we gain strength, courage and comfort from our caring community. Even the smallest act of loving-kindness can make a difference in someone’s life and those acts of loving-kindness create the underlying theme and energy for this artwork.

The quote that will be featured on the donor wall, “Let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” comes from the Torah portion that describes the building of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that G-d commanded the Jews to build. Among the many specific instructions given to Moshe, there was a detailed description of the Menorah. Today the Menorah is still the most recognizable Jewish symbol and that is why it was chosen as the starting point for this design.

This artwork emerged from a stylized image of a Menorah combined with the Hebrew letter “shin” at its center.  The “shin” begins the word “Shaddai”, one of the names of
G-d. This is to acknowledge that G-d’s presence and his gift of Torah is at the center, the heart, of all we do on earth. Our acts of loving-kindness make it possible for Him to dwell among us.

The Menorah and the shin contain the colors described in the Torah portion: blues, purples reds, and gold.  The mosaic artwork contains predominately recycled mosaic glass tiles as well as unique handmade tiles. The artwork comes alive with action by reconfiguring the symbols and putting them in motion to create a unique and individual design full of creative expression, excitement, luminosity, and inspiration.

There is inspiration in seeing new ways to interpret our sacred symbols. The names of the generous donors, whose names will be part of this exciting wall, have taken action to make sure that their children will continue to fulfill G-d’s commandments by studyingTorah, praying together and performing acts of loving-kindness in the caring community that is Temple Beth Sholom.

Letterpress Invitations….reviving a fine art

My Mom always used to say ” what goes around , comes around.”  And that saying still holds true. I recently rummaged through my old college portfolios to look at  pages I had printed using the letterpress technique.  I still have an  obsolete tool  called a type stick which I  used  in one  of my first design classes at Carnegie-Mellon.  As a  graphic design major, I was required to learn to set hot metal type, and use a hand-operated printing press.  Today’s graduating  graphic designers have  probably never heard of  “hot metal type” or a ” type stick” because every aspect of the print industry is digital.   But a growing number of established printers and new start-up companies  have  refurbished and re-vitalized vintage printing presses to answer a growing demand for the letterpress technique. The deep impression and  subtle color variations give a letterpress piece a  beautiful, hand crafted quality.  The art of letterpress printing is seeing a revival, especially for wedding invitations, and I recently had the pleasure of designing an invitation for a wonderful couple getting married this fall.

The bride and groom are overseeing every detail of their wedding day and are carefully considering choices that reflect their concern for  the environment, their love of nature and their great respect for family traditions.  The ceremony will take place in a beautifully rennovated historic building and the invitation design reflects their appreciation for  fine craftsmanship and historic details.  The handmade 100% cotton paper is from Holyoke Press in Massachussets and the letterpress printing was  done by master printer John  Steurer at The Stationary Shop in Akron, Ohio. The  family owned printing company, which has been in business for over 60 years, is a pleasure to work with.  We were very lucky to work with Lori Ryder who helped coordinate all the details of the  project.  They graciously allowed us to proof the colors on the press and worked to adjust the impression of the metal  plates to  the right depth on the luxurious 130 pound paper stock. The result was a soft  textured printed piece  with subtle color variations that are not possible to achieve with regular digital printing or offset lithography.

I hope the bride and groom will be delighted with the results!

Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington

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Jewish Council for the Aging

Donor Recognition Project Artist Statement

Bonnie Cohen                                                                            June 10, 2011

 “Youth is a gift of nature. Age is a work of art”.

 The Jewish Council for the Aging offers services to improve the lives of thousands of seniors in the greater Washington area. Their slogan “helping seniors thrive” describes their mission to improve every aspect of senior’s lives.  The word “vibrancy” was used to describe what JCA offers to seniors. Vibrancy became the underlying theme of the artwork that frames the generous donor’s names on the Donor Recognition Wall.

 The design is made up of three mosaic panels representing the mind, the body and the soul. These three aspects of our lives are enhanced by the numerous services offered by the JCA. The abstract figures are in motion to highlight the vibrant activities, social services, education and programming offered by JCA.

The design was created using graphic shapes and figures. Flowers, a motif used in Judaic Art through the ages, accent the three mosaic panels symbolizing love, maturity and renewal. Thousands of pieces of luminous, recycled glass in over 20 different colors make up the artwork along with handmade  tiles enhanced with 24k gold.

It is my hope that this artwork will inspire and honor past, present, and future donors who have supported this extraordinary organization. And for every senior whose life has been enhanced by the services of JCA, may this artwork be a constant reminder of the vibrancy of a life touched by JCA’s good work.

It is truly a privilege and honor to have my artwork displayed in the JCA space.

Ketubah featured in The Knot Magazine

 

http://heatherparker.com/blog/2010/12/11/boston-wedding-photographer-smith-barn-featured-in-the-knot/

Thank you to Heather Parker for the beautiful photos and Karen and Robbie, the beautiful couple

An Inspiring Couple

There’s a Jewish folk tale about an artist searching for the most beautiful scene in the world to paint. He leaves his wife and children to travel to far away lands in search of his inspiring scene. After a year of searching with no success, he reluctantly decides he must return home. He approaches his house  as the sun is setting and he sees his wife and children in the window  with their faces glowing from the light of the Shabbat candles. The artist realizes, at that moment, that  the most beautiful scene in the world was right in front of him.

This past weekend our family had the  great pleasure of all being together to celebrate my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. The weekend started with my Mother lighting Shabbat candles surrounded by her children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters. She used her Mother’s candle sticks which had been passed on to her. It really was the most beautiful scene in the world; a scene that ,as I  grow older, becomes even more precious and appreciated.

So what kind of a gift do you give to someone married 60 years? An anniversary ketubah , of course ! A simple elegant  paper cut filled with Jewish symbols. There are 18 pomegranates( the symbol for joy and Jewish tradition),the crown of a good name, and blessing hands offering Divine protection. The ketubah text  contained the Hebrew and English date of their marriage,their Hebrew names and renewed the promises of the vows they took 60 years ago in Akron, Ohio.

It was an inspiring weekend,celebrating an inspiring couple and we are  all so grateful to have such a blessing in our lives.

 

A New Year Tradition

Lots of birds have been  visiting our backyard lately but it’s  my ” bird challahs” that have  taken over my kitchen !  Every year I make about 18-25 round egg breads with birds on top to give away and enjoy for the Jewish New Year. The challahs  are made in a round shape to symbolize continuity and the dove on top symbolically carries our prayers to heaven.  Here’s my recipe and with it  comes wishes to all my family and friends for a healthy and sweet new year !
Bonnie’s Bird Challahs

( A) Mixer Bowl: 5 c. Montana Sapphire Flour 3/4 c. sugar, pinch salt

(B) Large Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup: 2/3 c. oil, 4 eggs

(C) Small Pyrex Measuring Cup: 1tsp. sugar, 1/2c. warm water,  2 pkgs. rapid rise yeast

Combine sugar water and yeast and let rise for 5 minutes till bubbly.

Beat eggs and oil and add yeast mixture to large glass measuring cup. Add additional water to make liquid measure 3 cups.

Add liquid mixture to flour in mixer bowl with machine  running on low. Add up to one cup more flour as needed. Dough will be sticky. It should start coming away from the edges of the mixer bowl. Mix in machine on low for about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl, cover with a towel, and set in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours.

When dough has doubled, turn out on a floured counter and knead in  more flour  to make the dough workable. Roll out dough with a rolling pin to add raisins. Divide dough into thirds and proceed to roll three long ropes of dough. Break off three golf ball sized pieces of dough for the birds( see photos).
 
Place loaves on oiled baking sheets and cover to rise for another hour. Glaze with a beaten egg before baking.
 
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Pavarotti, Zuchinna, and a Birthday Mosaic

My cousins took such good care of me. It was a pleasure to spend time with them and some of their kids. My cousin Erele was celebrating her birthday during my visit , so since she’s a budding mosaic artist, we spent the morning on her balcony in her well organized studio making a mosaic together. First of all, she’s a music teacher and school principal, and her parents are from Italy. She has pet Italian vegetable names for all of her children. For instance she calls her daughter Adar” Zuchinna.” She told me she does that because  her mother called her the Italian word for artichoke when she was a little girl.

So there we were, sitting on her beautiful balcony,  making a pomegranate mosaic while  she was singing along to the Pavarotti CD. It doesn’t get much better than that!

All the family stories I heard from the artists I met had roots in so many countries. Romania, Tunisia, Czechoslovakia, Russia are just a few that were mentioned. Many of the artists wove their stories into their art or their art into their stories.

Erele teaches English to Ethiopian children, calls  her children  Italian vegetable names,  lives part time in  Israel and part time in  Boston and  was brought up on a kibbutz !  Together, we pieced together a mosaic with interesting bits of stone, tile and glass from different origins and the final result was a fabulous work of art !!! No wonder mosaics are so popular in Israel.

It’s a local call

Dalit is so strong and fearless. She does all of her installations herself. Ronit helped us prepare the wall with mastic and then we fit together  all the pieces of the mosaic which included 12 panels from our students from Akron. Dena ( artist from Toledo) videotaped the entire process. In about 4 hours, it was up!!! Dalit was high up on the ladder . I was safely on the ground. The size of the design is about 6 ft. by 8 ft. Lots of picture-taking, lots of ” YOFFI, YOFFI ( means pretty)” ” WOW”

Even the Mayor stopped by to meet us and thank us! This was a very gratifying day for everyone. At our final meeting this afternoon, there were tears and emotion and gratitude for all the hard work by the Israeli staff and also the artists. The deputy Mayor said ” Every Jew must feel that this is your base , your home. ” He quoted from a Chinese proverb that said “once you give a flower to someone the scent stays with you.” This is a day I will never forget. A scent that will stay with me. We gave the people of Mate Asher our mosaic flowers of peace and I hope many people will be able to make a trip like this and experience the love,warmth and generosity of this land and these people. The deputy mayor ended by saying, ” Here, to talk to God , it’s a local call!