, , ,

Janice and Bonnie’s Israel Adventure


OK, so neither one of us knows how to use a Blackberry, or how to plug things into a wall with some kind of a converter, or how to use an ATM machine ! Are you wondering  how  all the preparations are  going for our week long artist in residency program in Israel?

Well I  did manage  to call Randy from my office while he was in the kitchen using skype. Am I making progress yet?

We may be electronically challenged, but when it comes to making artwork, we’re doing just fine. Janice is creating an amazing documentary fabric wallhanging about our Planting for Peace Project and we will be working with Israeli children at the Fence Festival   at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv. The children will be creating soft sculpture flowers and leaves with messages of peace to add to the wall hanging. More pictures to come this week as it takes shape.

Meanwhile I’m on a mission to find a bag for all my electronic thingies that you plug into other thingies/devices. Like an old fashioned purse maybe??

NO comments from our kids please !

Not the kind of papercut that hurts!

It’s a Jewish papercut for a Ketubah, a Jewish wedding contract that is signed before the wedding ceremony. This colorful, joyous design reflects the personalities and unique interests of the  wonderful bride and groom. It was created using  many layers of hand cut archival papers, handmade papers, gold leaf, acrylic paints and hand written Hebrew and English calligraphy. It is an emotional and meditative experience to create such a personal and meaningful document and this one is filled with interesting  symbolism.

This brightly colored design grew from the rich and interesting background story of this couple.  The Jerusalem imagery is featured prominently because that is where the couple met and shared their first food together ; a fig cookie which is  featured in the top right and bottom left.

They both purchased the same poster of a Klimt painting which was reproduced for their wedding invitation. The flower details from that painting are scattered across the top right. The favorite flower of the groom’s mother of blessed memory was the sunflower. The state birds of Oregon and Massachusetts   are featured to represent the bride and groom’s backgrounds.

At the bottom of the design is graphic representation of Mt. Kilamanjaro and the ocean to represent the various interesting and challenging trips the couple has taken together.

The concept of ” tikkun olam”( repairing the world)  and  the creation of a Jewish home are represented at the bottom right of the papercut ketubah.

The couple love bright colors and they collect an African folk art fabric called Kaross cloth. The background of the kaross cloth has a vibrant textured background which I tried to replicate in certain areas of the  papercut background.

, , , ,

May 2 , Planting for Peace

The ” Planting for Peace” community Lag B’ omer  program was a great success. All who attended had a meaningful and educational experience thanks to our wonderful volunteers. I was proud to be a member of our caring and thoughtful  Beth El Congregation.

May 2   Garden Dedication Remarks

The theme for today is Planting.


We are not only planting seeds in our community garden to help others but we are also planting kindness in our actions by working peacefully together.


We are making ourselves more aware of people less fortunate than we are.


We are planting awareness of our environment and making  making our world a better place to live.


We are growing food for the hungry; we are recycling to save our environment; we are knitting blankets to keep families warm; we are creating beautiful artwork to send to halfway around the world where people’s lives are not always peaceful.


This community garden inspired a mosaic art project called “Planting for Peace.”   This project gives us the opportunity to share artwork with people of the Western Galilee region of Israel in our sister city of Acco.

Our artwork and our messages of peace help us share kind thoughts and beautiful artwork in a part of the world where kindness between people is not always evident.


Our Torah teaches us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”


It is starting right here. It is starting with just one person reaching out to another. We are planting the seeds for a better world.

We are Planting for Peace


, , ,

Garden Art with Jewish Roots

IMG_0326 Gan HaOr Plant signs (1)

“Beth El is a Synagogue that is growing- literally”
( that’s what a recent article in the Cleveland Jewish News says about us!)

It’s hard to believe how much has happened at Beth El since February. Just a casual comment at a lunch with friends has turned into an amazing, revitalizing phenomenon called “‘Gan ha’Or”, Beth El’s Community “Garden of Light”. With the  incredible perseverance of Ellen Botnick, Andrea Steinberger and a crew of talented dedicated volunteers , the garden is coming to life. The beds are built, filled with rich  soil and planted with a few  early crops. More planting will be done in May.

Now it’s my turn to add some garden art with Jewish roots, of course ! I’m told we’re the first Synagogue to have a community garden in Northeast Ohio and I’m guessing we’re the first community garden anywhere with Hebrew and English plant markers.

Dick Rossen made all the wooden plant markers with  recycled wood from the exisitng play structure that was located in the garden area. He routed out all the English lettering and I  painted the Hebrew words. The Academy students will be painting and decorating the signs next week. The confirmation class is helping make the mosaic sign to hang in the garden as their class gift.

http://www.ohio.com/news/92648294.html Check out the Akron Beacon Journal article about the garden


Planting For Peace

The first mosaic panels are complete!

The Eighth Grade Class from  The Lippman  School along with teachers Sarah Greenblatt and Karen Halpern worked in my studio yesterday to  finish their mosaic panels to take to Israel next Wednesday. They will be the first students to share their  mosaic art with students of the Western Galillee.

The students are going to be able to give their mosaic art to the people who I will be working with during my Artist- in- Residency in early June. This is the beginning of a yearlong sharing process with the students of the Western Gallilee . The end result will be a  permanent mosaic installation in our JCC in Akron.

A very special THANK YOU to Susan Jablon of susanjablonmosaics.com for  a wonderful generous donation of ALL the gorgoeus glass tiles for the JCC project

Artist’s Statement for Planting For Peace Project

I am involved in planning a community garden at our Synagogue to raise fresh produce for a local hunger relief organization.  So the “seed” of an idea for the Israel Artist- in- Residency started to germinate from that project.

I remember a powerful poster for peace in the 70’s showing a flower placed in the barrel of a rifle. I thought that the “flower” was the perfect universal symbol for peace. From one single seed, nurtured with love and sustenance, a seedling will sprout and grow into something beautiful and miraculous.

The message of the artwork is the idea of partnership and sharing.  We will be able to share artwork with kids in the Western Galilee and those kids will be able to send their artwork back for us to enjoy in our own JCC.  Written dialogues, videos, pen pals, friendships, websites, and of course PEACE are all possibilities!

It will be a wonderful opportunity for members of our community to share artwork, ideas, hopes and dreams; flowering mosaics all planted together for a vibrant colorful mosaic mural of peace.

Finding Inspiration

Walking a child down the aisle for a wedding is a highpoint in every parent’s life. Until you’ve actually experienced it, you can’t imagine what it feels like .Watching a child grow up to be a good, kind and happy person and find a soul mate to share life with is an extraordinary blessing and I had the added joy of being able to create the ketubah for the occasion. It was a true labor of love and I enjoyed every second of the process.

Since this was my first ketubah, I had to practice for weeks to perfect my Hebrew Calligraphy skills. This was something I’ve always wanted to attempt. Ever since my first calligraphy class in college, with master calligrapher, Arnold Bank, I’ve had a passion for calligraphy. It’s  kind of a lost art today and that’s a real shame. The computer can never replicate the tactile joy of feeling, seeing, smelling and hearing ink glide over a fine handmade paper.

I remembered the lessons of my first calligraphy class in college. Professor Bank would walk by every student’s drawing table correcting your posture, making sure your feet were flat on the floor, and coaxing you to sit perfectly straight. If you weren’t holding the pen correctly, he’d whack his huge metal T-square on your drawing table and scare you to death. It wasn’t unusual for a student to run out of class crying.

All of Professor Bank’s lessons helped me learn the art of Hebrew calligraphy . Only after many many weeks of practice,was I  confident enough in my lettering skills to be able to begin the design for the ketubah.

Finding my inspiration for a project isn’t always easy, but for this ketubah, the ideas flowed easily. Just seeing my son and future daughter-in- law together was an inspiration. They share their love of Judaism, tradition,family, and travel and I tried to capture their essence in the ketubah design using eighteen different symbols in an intricate Jewish papercut.

There’s a tradition to leave one letter unfinished , to be completed when the ketubah is signed prior to the wedding ceremony. What a moment that was for me. My eyes were so filled with tears of joy , I could barely see to draw that final letter.

The memory of that moment is the inspiration for my next project. Another ketubah for another wonderful couple. I’m so excited to begin the process and I look forward to sharing it. 

Another Installation Adventure

” It really looks like it belongs here. ”  That’s what one of the congregants said to me when the installation of my artwork was complete.That’s the best compliment anyone can give me. The donor wall was designed to enhance the entryway of Ahavath Torah Synagogue in Englewood, New Jersey and to honor the generous people who made the beautiful new building possible. The colors looked beautiful in the lobby and the gold and glass mosaics really sparkled in the natural light from the glass entryway.

Randy and the crew from Welch Architectural Signage did a fantastic job of installing the artwork.It went up quickly with only a few areas that had to be adjusted because of the slight curve in the wall. Randy did an outstanding job of positioning the tiles to cover the seams and filling in all the screw holes. We finished ahead of schedule  allowing enough time to stop for a real New Jersey Kosher Corned Beef Sandwich for the trip home.

No matter how many times we’ve done this and no matter how much I try to plan for every situation, there are always suprises. It’s very rewarding to get a chance to meet new people and see their faces when the artwork goes up. It’s always an adventure!


“And they came, every man whose heart raised him up and whose spirit lifted him, and brought the offering to G-d”

The quote chosen for the Ahavath Torah Donor Wall is found in the Torah portion describing the building of the Mishkan designated to be the dwelling place of G-d on earth. “Let them build me a sanctuary that I might dwell among them”.

A stylized Menorah with seven branches spreads over the donor names like a tent.  This recalls that the Mishkan is called “The Tent of Meeting”. The golden branches of the Menorah come together and reach down to the ground. At the center of the Menorah there is a golden stamp replicating an ancient depiction of the Ark of the Covenant (mosaic from the 6th Century, Beth Shean).

The six days of creation are abstractly portrayed between the branches of the Menorah, suggesting the Rabbinic interpretations connecting    G-d’s creation of the universe with man’s creation of the Mishkan (Bamidbar Rabbah 12:13)*.

The rays of scarlet, purple, blue, gold, silver and bronze radiating downward from the Menorah represent the details of the Mishkan as described in the Torah. Pieces of mirror will be used along with handmade tiles and glass mosaic to recall the women’s generous donation of their mirrors for the Mishkan furnishings.

This artwork fulfills the commandment of hiddur mitzvah just as the Jews at Mt. Sinai did as they built the Mishkan.

Through my artwork, I  humbly attempt to portray a spark of the spirit of the Jews at Mt. Sinai.  It is an honor to present this artwork to inspire and recognize congregants of Ahavath Torah. It is my hope and prayer that this artwork will highlight the lessons of the Mishkan and “lift the spirits” of those who have so generously donated to the congregation.

A Studio Tradition


It’s hard to let go of  artwork that I’ve labored over for months. Once it’s shipped and  installed in another location, I almost  never see it again.  When I  started creating large installtions, I  began a tradition of  baking some of my favorite recipes and inviting a few friends  to my studio to take a look at the finished artwork before it leaves.

One very nice friend  said ” I truly do not know which is the bigger draw, for us to see your art work or eat your carrot cake!”

The wonderful support  of friends and family helps alleviate my” separation anxiety.”

And of course carrot cake helps too.

Temple Beth El


This Donor Recognition Wall was commissioned by Temple Beth El of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It’s 13 panels symbolize the idea that many different people come together to form a congregation. Hand-sculpted tiles and luminous recycled glass mosaics illustrate Jacob’s Ladder.

Ahavath Torah,Englewood, NJ Donor Recognition Artwork

The quote chosen for the Ahavath Torah Donor Wall is found in the Torah portion describing the building of the Mishkan designated to be the dwelling place of G-d on earth. “Let them build me a sanctuary that I might dwell among them”.