Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Talia's Album

It's always exciting to receive orders for pieces that are going to travel quite far, so I was very happy when a potential customer from Scotland contacted me about an album for her daughter's Bat Chayil. (Bat Chayil means 'daughter of valour' and is an Orthodox Jewish ceremony. It takes place in Orthodox synagogues at a date close to the girl's 12th birthday. The girl will give a talk on a Jewish topic, but not during the Sabbath service.)
"I love your guest books!" my new customer wrote to me. "Our daughter’s Bat Chayil is on 16th February. Would you be able to make us one in time to ship to Scotland?" Of course I could!
My customer sent me a few details about her daughter, Talia. She enjoys drama club, music, makeup, playing the violin and, of course, her friends. She also has a black cat called Sooty. The colour scheme for the Bat Chayil celebration was to be purple and lilac (definitely the Bat Mitzvah colours of the moment, check out these recent albums here and here). I had plenty to work with!
I have shown Talia with her violin under her chin and Sooty the cat in her other arm. To the left are some theatre masks to illustrate her interest in drama, and to the right are a mix of music notes and some makeup. The date of Talia's Bat Chayil appears at the top of the papercut illustration, and her name and the words Bat Chayil are at the bottom. The background box is purple and Talia's t-shirt lilac, to match the colour scheme of her Bat Chayil celebration. A Magen David in two corners of the album, surrounded by purple and lilac too, add a Jewish element to the design.
I decorated several pages inside the album along the same themes. Each page had a Magen David (Star of David) on it. From the top you can see the drama page, then a page with a tiny eyeshadow palette, lipsticks and a brush. Next, the cat makes a reappearance, while some colourful music notes decorate the next page. Finally I added a miniature violin and bow, which I can tell you took me quite some time to create!
My customer left me the most wonderful five star review in my Etsy shop. It seems that she was pleased with her daughter's album:
5 out of 5 stars
"This seller was wonderful to deal with! It was so easy to discuss the personalisations we were looking to add to the guest book. The book was shipped really quickly, with no issues at all. The end result was really beautiful, is of a very high quality and was admired by everyone signing and adding photographs to it at my daughter’s party."

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Ilan's Bar Mitzvah

Ilan celebrated his Bar Mitzvah back in February. His auntie ordered a card for the Bar Mitzvah boy. She sent me some pictures from his pre-Bar Mitzvah photo shoot and I carefully matched his hairstyle to create a paper portrait of the young man wearing his new tallit (a Jewish boy who has reached the age of 13 wears a tallit for morning prayer, during the week, as well as on Shabbat and other holy days) and his kippa. I added a Sefer Torah and some tefillin as well.
The Sefer Torah, or Torah Scroll, contains The Five Books of Moses that were given by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai, and include within them all of the biblical laws of Judaism. It is meticulously written by an expert scribe on parchment (animal skin) and is kept in the ark of the synagogue and taken out to be read during services. A boy is called up to read from the Sefer Torah on the first occasion that the Torah is read following his 13th birthday. Tefillin are cubic black leather boxes with leather straps containing four hand-written texts from the Bible, which Orthodox Jewish men wear on their head and their arm during weekday morning prayer. Jewish boys start wearing tefillin just before their Bar Mitzvah.
Finally, I added Ilan's name in Hebrew letters and the number 13 to mark his age.
Ilan's auntie also requested a card for the parents of the Bar Mitzvah boy. I recreated the street-art style logo from his Bar Mitzvah invitation and once again added some Jewish symbols and religious objects: a Torah scroll, a Star of David or Magen David, a blue and white striped tallit and some tefillin.
My customer told me that both cards were very well received. She was kind enough to leave the following review on my Facebook business page:
"I just ordered two more cards for my nephew on his Bar Mitzvah and for my brother... [It] was truly amazing how Lisa took photos, both with my husband previously and my nephew now, and made such great copies."

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A Glass of Wine in One Hand, a Bottle in the Other

A customer asked me to create a card for her best friend's special birthday. She asked me to show the birthday girl holding a glass of wine in one hand and a wine bottle in the other. She also requested Cadbury Chocolate and Maltesers in the background. I included her friend's age as well.
I'm told that Julie loved the card.
An old friend (okay, not so old, but you know what I mean!) asked me to make this card for his sister's 50th birthday. The funny thing was, he had been telling me for years that he was going to ask me to make a card one day, and this year he finally did! Unfortunately he then forgot to take it with him to the UK to give to his sister on her birthday, though I am happy to report that she did eventually receive it, two months after I had made it!
Beverley drives a black cab and enjoys hiking. I created her paper portrait and showed her next to her cab, which has her name on the registration plate. I added some hiking boots as well. A big yellow number 50 marks her age.
"Lisa, the birthday card was finally delivered and well received. Thanks again." my friend messaged me.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Tel Beit Shemesh

We were recently en route to Lupin Hill to see the gorgeous purple lupin in full bloom when we saw a flash of red by the side of the road. The peak season for Israel's wildflowers is mid-February to late March, so we knew that what we had seen were red anemones, or in Hebrew, calaniot. Of course we pulled over to take a look.
It turned out that the red anemones were in fact blooming on Tel Beit Shemesh (or Tell er-Rumeileh, the Arabic name meaning "the little sandy knoll"), the ruins of the ancient biblical city located near the modern city of Beit Shemesh. The ancient city of Beit Shemesh ("House of the Sun" or "Temple of the Sun" in Hebrew) was originally named after the Canaanite sun-goddess Shemesh, who was worshipped there in ancient times. Beit Shemesh was an important Biblical city during the Canaanite (Bronze age) and Israelite (Iron age) periods. It was a border city, located at the meeting point of three civilisations - Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines - and it is mentioned in connection with the return of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines (the Philistines decided to return the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to Israel, since it caused them plagues. They returned it to Beit Shemesh on a cart. The residents of Beit Shemesh peeked into the Ark, so G-d killed them), as well as other historical events.
Several important and unique archaeological discoveries have been made in recent digs at the tel (a tel is an artificial mound formed from the accumulated refuse of people living on the same site for hundreds or thousands of years). An ancient iron workshop was discovered there in 2003. Dozens of iron implements and slags were found within the workshop, the earliest of its kind in Israel. Over 30,000 animal bones were found on the tel in the 12-11th centuries BCE layer, none of which were from pigs, which the Hebrews were forbidden to eat. This, together with pottery finds, indicates that the Israelites inhabited the hill country in this period. However, it is not possible to fully determine their specific ethnic identity, which could be Canaanite, Philistine or Israelite.
During the 8th century BCE, the inhabitants of Beit Shemesh engaged in olive oil production. Remains of olive crushing basins, oil presses and stone weights, all used in the process of oil extraction, were found in the buildings during excavations. Other findings include a bowl, also dating back to the 8th century BCE. Archaeologists believe that the letters aleph, bet and kaph chiseled onto the bowl after it was fired, may refer to the word ahiha, or "your brother." Since the word "brother" is used often in the Bible to refer to other Israelites, it is thought that it could have been a bowl in which Jews frequenting a worship site would leave food for the poor.

To guarantee the water supply of the town, a large subterranean reservoir was quarried at Tel Beit Shemesh in the time of the early Kingdom of Judah (Early Iron age). The rock-cut reservoir is cruciform in shape with four large halls coated with thick hydraulic plaster. Its capacity is about 800 m3 of rainwater, which was collected from the town’s streets by plastered channels. During the destruction of Judea by the Babylonians in 701 BCE, the reservoir was sealed and covered to ensure the abandonment of the city. It was not uncovered until 2004.
Also found nearby was a prehistoric Megalith circle, probably the structure responsible for the name Beit Shemesh. A monastery and other remains from the Byzantine period have been found on the tel. In the late 19th century the area was known as 'Ain Shems or Khirbet 'Ain Shems and was used as a temporary harvest-time residence by local Arabs. The small mosque of Abu Mizar stood there. According to one tradition, Abu Mizar is Samson, the great Biblical hero. Today the ruins of the mosque, and the houses of the Arab village around it, can be seen on the east side of the modern road that crosses Tel Beit Shemesh.
Beit Shemesh is referenced the Book of Samuel (6,12). It was initially given to the Tribe of Dan (Joshua 19, 41), however the tribe was not able to overcome the iron age chariots of the Canaanites on the coast (present day Tel Aviv) and most of them moved to the very north of Israel to Tel Dan. In the 13th century Joshua took the town of Beit Shemesh (Joshua 21,16) and a minority of the Dan tribe moved to these foothills of Judaea. Eventually Samson became the Judge of this tribe. To the north of Beit Shemesh are the ancient villages of Zorah and Eshtaol. Zorah was the birthplace of Samson and it was there that he killed the lion barehanded and returned to eat the honey from its carcass.
The mighty Samson was a judge for 20 years, battled with the Philistines and died in Gaza by pulling down the temple with his incredible strength (Judges 13-16). The name Samson means "man of the Sun", so even his name is related to Beit Shemesh - the "House of the Sun".
During the period of the Judges a large village or town spread all over the mound. Remains of a large two-storied structure, probably the house of a well-to-do person, were uncovered on the north part of the tel. The house has a few spacious rooms, one of them beautifully paved with river pebbles, and a court. Some gold jewellery, fallen from the second floor, was found among the ruins of the house.
During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Egyptian army invaded the area and set up a fortified post on a hill overlooking Beit Shemesh, within the Arab-village Dayr Aban. The post changed hands several times during fighting. The Harel Brigade occupied part of the post for several months, with just 60 metres dividing them and the enemy forces. The post was finally taken by the Harel force in the Ha-Har offensive during the night of 19–20th October 1948.
Beit Shemesh is also the point from which the so-called Convoy of 35 set out to bring provisions to besieged Gush Etzion. On 15th January 1948 a group of 38 Palmach volunteers left Hartuv near Beit Shemesh. After one member of the group sprained his ankle and was sent back, accompanied by two other men, the group, now numbering 35, continued on its way. They were spotted before they could reach their target and killed in a prolonged battle by Arab irregulars and local villagers.
Nowadays you can park on the side of the road, walk up to the ancient ruins and imagine your are back in Biblical times. Paths full of wildflowers, including the red anemones we had seen from the road, crisscrossed the area on the day we visited, making our visit not only very interesting but also very beautiful.
Photo credit: Gadi Isaacs

California Globetrotter

Monday, 26 February 2018

Ella's Album

Ella saw Eden's Bat Mitzvah album and decided that she would like one too, so her Mum got in touch with me and gave me a list of her favourite things for the cover design. Ella loves music and singing, she told me. She plays the piano as well, and she loves to read. She likes sushi and writing stories. Mum asked me to include a Union Jack and the flag of Israel on the cover too.
I have shown blue eyed Ella with a microphone in one hand and a book in the other. On her right are some music notes, some more books and an electronic keyboard. On her left I added the Union Jack, the flag of Israel, some tiny sushi, and a notebook and pencils. Ella is wearing her white headphones. Her name appears at the top of the album in Hebrew and English, along with the words Bat Mitzvah. The date of her Bat Mitzvah is at the bottom, along with the parsha (weekly Torah portion) she read before Shabbat, Parshat Mishpatim.
Ella had a purple theme for her Bat Mitzvah celebration, so I matched the album to her colour scheme. Even the little books were the right colours!
As well as decorating the cover of the album, I also embellished five pages inside the book. On the opening page I added a little microphone and some colourful music notes. Next I added some more purple coloured books, with a small bookshelf filled with books in the background. The following page was devoted to Ella's interest in writing stories. A notebook lies open with a story half written in it. The flags of the country where she was born and where she now lives follow, and finally, on the last page I created an electronic keyboard to illustrate her love of music and especially playing the piano. Each page also features a silver Star of David.
Photo credit: Ingrid Muller Photography

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