Anna VanDelman reports:
Our meeting of May 21, 2014 was brought to you by the Count of Sefirot (further apologies to Sesame Street).
Our guest presenter was Laya Crust. A native of Winnipeg, this mother of six currently resides in Toronto. Laya has studied with world renowned artists and calligraphers in fields such as drawing, painting and printmaking. In addition she has engaged in Jewish studies in Manitoba, Toronto and Jerusalem. While she continues to work in a variety of media (fabric, glass, clay and silver) much of Laya’s current work is with paint and inks on paper.
From her artist’s statement: “Whether working on a ketubah, painting designs for a 5’x 6’ window, interpreting a story from the Bible or designing a fundraising piece, I work to uncover the essence of the message. In that way I can talk to the soul of the viewer.” Laya’s work is truly a celebration of what life has to offer us. A current piece of note is a Megillat Esther, wherein the ten sons of Haman (yimach shemo) are depicted as evil world leaders throughout history. This and other of her works are in private collections around the world.
Laya is no stranger to our Guild. She did a memorable presentation for us on calligraphy 23 years ago that remains fresh in the minds of those who attended it. Chaya Erez introduced Laya Crust and the current programme based on counting. How do we love our holidays? Let us count the ways: “And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, 7 weeks/49 days the fiftieth day being Shavuot”. We count the days from the second day of Passover to the forty-ninth day, Shavuot, when we became a nation receiving the Ten Commandments, our constitutional charter.
To help us count the days between Pesach and Shavuot we can use an omer counter. Omer means measurement. We measure an omer of barley, the Shavuot grain offering in the temple. We use attributes of the Sefirot to make ourselves better, rising from a state of impurity to a state of heightened consciousness. These days are also connected to a time of mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students who died of the plague. No celebrations are permitted until the thirty-third day when the plague stopped. Lag B’omer is a day celebrated with bonfires and the mourning period resumes until Shavuot. Laya took us on a visual power point trip with a showcase of exquisite counters from around the world to inspire us. She also brought real counters to show us, including one adapted from an advent calendar. Pomegranate Guild members, Elaine Genesove and Paula Miller showed their own beautiful omer counters and then members engaged in the process of creating omer counters with samples prepared by Laya and assisted by her husband (thank you!). Guild member, Chaya Erez thanked Laya for helping us turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Truly, an evening of magic! Thank you Laya for allowing us a glimpse into the phenomenal creativity of your artist mind.