Friday, March 27, 2015

More pix from Temple Beth Hillel workshops

This past weekend we had the last of three sessions in my papercutting workshops at Temple Beth Hillel and I took some more photos to share with you.
A big thank-you to Rabbi Eleanor Steinman for capturing this image
of me working with a student!

The students in my class really gave it their all – some finishing up their mizrach projects, and nearly all of them completing their midrash projects as well.

Papercutting in a workshop means you get feedback and support from the other students.




I took a bunch photos of the students hard at work; here are some of my favorites.



Yes – there were other southpaws in the workshop. Hooray for lefties!

I love seeing work coming together – the process is nearly sculptural.




The day was overcast, and the room a bit dimmer than usual...
but one enterprising student brought a mini lantern!




And of course, each student posed with their finished work. Some didn't quite get all the way done, but they'll be finishing up later – and you can already see how great those are going to be as well.




Barbara's mizrach was gloriously colorful.

Barrie built a house with the Hebrew letter bet and a tree branching through it.

Cindy made great headway with her midrash-inspired landscape;
just a bit more background to incorporate and she'll be dine!

Esther made a papercut inspired by Bamidbar, the second book in the Torah.
("Bamidbar" means "in the desert.)

Fran's "Miriam's Well" is so expressive, really capturing the shape of water blasting out.
You've got to see the image she used in the background of the water... stunning!

Leslie had a very complex design for her mizrach – so much time cutting,
not quite enough to finish backing it – but look at that pomegranate!

Margaret worked on three pieces in the workshop, including this "Tree of Life"
which she is backing with cut-out pieces from magazines she brought in.

Samantha missed the first session, so she had 2/3 the time of most students –
but still nearly finished this gorgeous tree!
Stuart (the lefty) was working on interpreting the hidden meanings of Hebrew letters.
His painstaking layering of colors behind the letters was inspiring (and time-consuming)!

Toby made a piece exploring "the endless cycle" of the Hebrew letter samech.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Papercutting Workshops at Temple Beth Hillel

This has been a busy season for me – workshops up and down the coast, with kids and adults, cutting paper like there's no tomorrow!

Right now I'm in the middle of a series of workshops for adults at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, California, and I love to share photos of the fun places I go and teach... so here we go!

During our first session the students made mizrach plaques – which designate a wall as "east," the traditional direction in which we pray. Most of the students were able to complete that project by early in the second session, when we moved on to "paper midrash" — telling stories about our stories, in paper. I love sharing midrash with workshop participants; I brought a number of books with me, including Chaim Nachman Bialik's Sefer haAggadah, which is a collection of stories and legends from the Jewish tradition.

This Sunday (March 22) is the last of the Temple Beth Hillel sessions; maybe the next ones will be at your synaogogue!

Workshop participants cutting paper under the watchful gaze of some beautiful Mordechai Rosenstein prints

"Look, I made a tree... where there never was a tree..." (Name that musical!)

Some of the students worked on adding a lot of detail to their designs

Building a wall out of paper

Our first project was making "mizrach" plaques.

I explained to my students that I usually work standing up... some of them liked that approach!

Look at that concentration!

As always, I provided some materials to help jumpstart projects

It gets a bit messy when we're working, but we always clean up afterward

That may be too many people at one table – spread out!

Using natural light through a window as a makeshift light table

It's always wonderful to see how workshop participants take to a new medium

Husband and wife cutting paper, side by side. How sweet!




Thursday, February 26, 2015

The People of the (Comic) Book


Some of you have asked for a copy of the slides I made for the class I taught the other night at my synagogue, called "The People of the (Comic) Book" — so here's a PDF. I should warn you – there are no presenter notes in it, and not a lot of words on the slides either. I have mostly images (and a few dates) used to help me tell the story of the beginning of comic books, focusing on the Jewish creators. I also have a section on Jewish characters... but again, lots of pictures, not much in the way of words. I talk about this topic a lot, and I no longer need notes to do so.

People of the (Comic) Book

Monday, February 23, 2015

Washington Workshops at Congregation Kol Ami

I just flew back from the Pacific Northwest, and boy are my arms tired! From cutting paper!

OK, I'm no comedian. But I did, in fact, just return from a long weekend in Washington and Oregon, where I was leading a papercutting workshop at a synagogue, checking on the windows I designed for a day school, and also just having some fun. Want to read about it? Then you're in the right place!

I love the design and thought that go into the making of airplane safety brochures. Just love it. And I took it as a good omen that across the aisle from me a gentleman was reading a trade book with DC's "Shade the Changing Man" comics in it. Obscure! Perfect for a Portland citizen, right?

The entire flight up I was amazed to see gorgeous, snow-covered peaks from 30,000 feet up – just beautiful. And those dots? A close-up of the wall next to my seat. Just thought it looked cool.

There's a lot of water in the Pacific Northwest – and so, a lot of bridges. Portland has ELEVEN, I am told, and I was on at least half a dozen of them.

There was an exhibit of quilted tapestries at the airport, much of the work featuring bridges.

And then there's the Portland Cuckoo Clock, in the airport. I've got a picture of the description here because it was crazy awesome.

Congregation Kol Ami of Vancouver, Washington, had invited me to up be their artist-in-residence for the weekend, working with their high school students and teaching them to make their own "paper midrash."

Their synagogue is beautiful – three years old, modern and sleek but warm and welcoming as well. Their ark has a gorgeous "parting of the Red Sea" design and a blown glass ner tamid that complements the theme. And the sanctuary has one wall of glass which looks out upon Mount St. Helens. Just beautiful, the way the building is situated on the grounds and integrated with the landscape.


As usual, I started off the workshop talking (a little) about what I do, teaching a little about papercutting (a little more), and going over knife safety (a LOT). And then, after a warm-up project cutting out their names, we jumped into "paper midrash."

We talked as a group about the idea of midrash – stories about stories – and how we can add to those stories, especially by creating art to express our ideas about them.

The students each found a story that held some meaning from them – such as Creation, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and stories and legends from deeper in our tradition, discovered in Sefer haAgaddah – and planned their work. They sketched and drew and erased and measured... and then began to cut.


The students had a break Saturday night, and while they did their own thing, so did I! My good friends Debra and Lisa showed me around Portland – including the world famous Powell's Books.


We had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant and got to visit Debra's studio, which was furnished with a mix of vintage knick-knacks and artifacts and state-of-art design equipment.

 Sunday morning I headed back to Congregation Kol Ami to continue working with my students.

The engagement of the students was matched only by their inventiveness. They really put all of themselves into their projects, and came up with some incredible work.

And of course, I had brought a big box of comics for them to cut up and incorporate into their work – just as I do. (Thank you again, Brave New World Comics!)

Really, just spectacular work.

Two days with them, and already creating things I will DEFINITELY STEAL. Not really. But I am genuinely inspired by what my students created.

A wonderful congregation, and a wonderful community.

(As for the rest of my adventures... you'll have to read this.)

Thirteen Windows in Portland

This past Sunday afternoon, as part of my weekend in the Pacific Northwest, I visited Portland, Oregon, to see the Maimonides Jewish Day School, which had commissioned me to create designs for the 13 windows of their new building entryway.

The windows represent the major holidays of the Jewish year as well as daily and weekly observances. The designs are printed on film and mounted between glass, so that they can be seen from both sides, and so the sun can illuminate them and bring vibrancy and joy to the entrance – which is what you want in a kids' school, if you ask me. (And they did!)

Unexpectedly, the late in the day the sun shines from the front of the building, and creates a special surprise inside the building...

Gorgeous interplays of light and shadows from the windows, which move around the building throughout the day and create unexpected bursts of color.

And even the shadows cast inside the window frames themselves are wonderful.

I can't wait to see the inset lights installed so that even at night the windows will be filled with color. If all goes well, I'll have the chance in March to see exactly that!

(If you're interested in the rest of my adventures in the Pacific Northwest, read about them here!)