I have been a scavenger all my life. From the time I could walk I would pick up things from the ground; dirty, rusted, or broken, for later use in a collage or construction. Growing up at the Jersey Shore, shells, driftwood, and beach glass were also fair game. My bedroom was always cluttered with potential material for some future art project.
My mother, who was a professional artist and had a studio in our home, was always very encouraging. From the age of eight, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Upon graduating from Skidmore College in 1975 with a degree in Art History and Studio Art, I set up a studio in my apartment, creating jewelry and selling at craft shows. The turning point in my career came, however, when I was a graduate student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, working toward an MFA in metalsmithing. I read an inspirational article telling of a need for CONTEMPORARY Judaica. This led me to begin creating Jewish Ritual Objects. For 10 years I created “production” Judaica and sold to stores nationally. Becoming bored with the repetition, I decided to focus on creating one-of-a-kind Judaica, and have returned to my scavenger roots. I comb antique shops, flea markets, and yard sales to find interesting elements to incorporate into my Judaica. I am still making collages, but now they are collages/assemblages with tradition, a purpose, and with meaning.
We have a detached garage at our home, and that has become my studio, my haven, my own special place. It is there that I have all of my various tools and supplies, including my hammers and my torch, but my most indispensable tool is my jeweler’s saw. It is the same tool I have used for almost 40 years, and it allows me to saw the most intricate of designs and Hebrew calligraphy.
My inspiration comes from nature and the various objects that I discover in my wanderings. I also did extensive research on the history of Judaica, (culminating in my Master’s thesis), and learning of ancient pieces used in different Jewish cultures around the world, has also been inspiring.
One of my favorite works is my “TIME to Give” Tzedakah Box where I have incorporated various clock/watch parts, hence its title, “TIME to Give”. I have created several variations on this theme, the first of which was a donor recognition gift commissioned by the Jewish Federation of New York to give to a gentleman, who collected antique clocks and watches.
One of the pieces I most enjoyed designing and creating was the donor recognition gift for philanthropist, Charles Bronfman. It was a Tzedakah Box where I incorporated coins from the places that have meaning for him — Canada, New York, and Israel. I sawed out a piece of metal in the shape of Israel and soldered it to the front of the box, then cut a slot in the middle of the country. It is through this slot that you would put your coins, the symbolism being that your money would be going “directly into Israel”.
I first sold my Judaica to a local store in 1980. There, a customer had come in telling the owner how she had inherited money from her grandfather and was looking for something special by which to honor his memory. She saw my oil burning Hanukah lamp of brass and beveled glass, fell in love with it, and purchased it feeling that her grandfather would be pleased. This was my first individual customer sale, and one which I will always remember.
I enjoy seeing the potential in found objects and antique elements. Combining my metalsmithing skills with my artistic vision, I transform these components into unique Jewish Ritual Objects. My work acknowledges the past, yet offers new and unusual forms which satisfy the demands of religious requirements.
My Judaica has been published in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, calendars, greeting cards, magazines, and in 10 books. I have received several awards, and my Etrog Box was purchased by the Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia for their permanent collection.
I take great pleasure in knowing that my pieces will be lovingly used by individuals or families as they perform ancient rituals linking past and present. Tradition, spirit, family – this is what is important to me.
The best place to see my work is on my Instagram page:
I can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org