Anna Vandelman reports:
Meeting March 18th, 2015
Our Artist in Residence, Laya Crust, took us through an extensive review of Passover just as we entered the last few weeks of making our own Pesach.
She shared the artistic history of the Haggadah with a table full of beautiful examples. She showed us how the art in each Haggadah revealed local customs as well as social and political issues through elements such as clothing, furniture, buildings, symbols, and artistic style. The first printed map of Israel occurs in a Haggadah of 1526, the first etching of the Four Sons in a Haggadah of 1695, and the political aspirations of the Jewish Brigade are expressed in its Haggadah of 1943. And, we see how marketing gimmicks promote the use of particular Haggadot: Once coffee was available kosher for Passover, Maxwell House capitalized on that by providing a Haggadah with the purchase of a jar of coffee. We can see in the variety of Haggadot that its themes are continually reinterpreted, in text, but especially in art.
Members then examined Passover artifacts brought in by other Guild members. And we all started working on a hands-on activity of designing a Passover apron: to wear for getting the kitchen clean, making the chicken soup or gefilte fish, or engaging younger members in the family in the process. Thank you Leah for an exciting programme.
Meeting April 15th 2015
Our April meeting was an exciting co-presentation by the Pomegranate Guild and Darchei Noam synagogue, at Darchei Noam. The lecture and exhibit of her art by Dr. Myriam Nafte blew us all away!
Sara Petroff, Chair of the Art Committee at Darchei Noam welcomed us all and introduced Pomegranate Guild president Karen Chisvin. As this evening was the eve of Yom HaShoah, Karen commemorated the event with remarks that honoured the martyrs, survivors and resistance fighters, the Hagvurah and then introduced the artist/speaker Dr. Myriam Nafte.
Dr. Myriam Nafte is a woman for all seasons, involved in medicine, anthropology, mathematics, mysticism, forensics, science and Judaica (and, oh yes, art). She began as a textile artist doing aleph bet paintings on silk: a tapestry of Jewish thought, words of wisdom, words of praise. She uses text as powerful imagery. After many years of examining anatomical and other scientific texts for their drawings, Myriam spent a period of time learning Hebrew calligraphy from her sofer/artist father. This brought her back to those same scientific texts with the discovery that Hebrew was a significant scientific language, not just a language of ritual and religion. In the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the early Enlightenment, Jews were involved in science, math, and cosmography. They invented navigational instruments, and other tools and techniques – so many rich contributions hidden and lost. Myriam’s work recovers and re-situates Hebrew text for us as a language of art.
After the inspiring lecture we toured the hall to view incredible paintings by both Myriam and her father.
Guild members visit and volunteer at Baycrest (including on the Baycrest Museum Board, Phyllis Spivak, Anna Vandelman, and Melanie Siegel). They want to let you know about the range of activities taking place during Jewish Heritage month. And while you are there, don’t forget to visit Pardes, an extraordinary example of a Pomegranate Guild group project.
Anna Vandelman reports on our January and February meetings:
JANUARY: If you were lucky enough to come out to our meeting on Wednesday January 21st, you would feel well prepared to devote your artistry to Passover.
Laya Crust, our talented, amazingly creative Artist-in-Residence took us through a review of the experience of the Exodus, showing us along the way how the themes and rituals of the story inspire creative responses. Slavery and freedom, burning bushes, plagues, sacrifices and matzah can all be interpreted – in art in general and textile art in particular. Haggadot through the ages have added and altered the text and illustrations to speak to contemporary communities.
Since the Seder is a family and community meal, table linens, cushions, matzah and afikoman covers can all be part of an artful celebration. Guild members shared some of their special preparations and programs. Susan Rosenstein includes a map of the exodus in the middle of the table, Anna Vandelman’s guests have played Passover Jeopardy, and Marilyn Levy has made special plague memory aids to help everyone participate.
Laya’s resource notes are available to members on the Members’ page of this website.
FEBRUARY: Bad weather (at least on Pomegranate Guild Wednesdays) has been a theme for us this season! Once again on a dark and dismal Wednesday evening February 18th, Guild Artist-in-Residence Laya Crust helped warm and brighten the night for us. Using her very special megillah as a specific example, Laya led us through a discussion of key aspects to fulfilling a commission.
In the first part of the evening, we talked about the need to merge creative ideas with business sense to successfully complete a commission. We discussed the usefulness of logbooks and spreadsheets to record time and materials. We also talked about the intangible costs and benefits related to working for close friends and relatives, demanding clients, working in new (for us) media. And we found that successful work often comes of establishing a good relationship with a client.
In the second part of the program, Laya took us through the specific process of creating a commissioned illuminated Megilat Esther. She sourced materials and techniques, sketched and practiced, and then scribed and illuminated a ten and a half foot scroll. It contains 32 lavish illustrations rendered in 16th C. Persian style. The original piece is written on parchment using historically authentic tools and painted in gouache. The Megillah has been reproduced in a limited edition series.
What an illuminating evening!
March is a great month for us to celebrate textiles and make more: Edge of the Forest, Threads of Hope for African Grandmothers, and a great opportunity for quilters to respond to a call for entry.
Members Melanie Siegel and Rikki Blitt have been instrumental in launching a Surface Design Association Canadian members’ touring exhibit, The Edge of the Forest. Both Melanie and member Barbara Goldstein have work in this wonderful exhibit. And Sheila Thompson, a past presenter at the Guild has been extensively involved.
We urge everyone to come out and celebrate their work at its premier opening in Richmond Hill on March 11.
Threads of Hope for African Grandmothers at the Miles Nadal JCC. “In honour and admiration of the remarkable African grandmothers, Waterloo-based Omas-Siskona (Grandmothers Together) produced Creating Futures: Threads of Hope for African Grandmothers. They invited Ontario textile artists to create and donate pieces celebrating the ongoing strength and resilience of grandmothers in Africa. The result is a stunning display of artistry, technique and inspiration.” Follow the link in the title for docent hours.
Sacred Threads – Call for Entry Juana Sleizer has brought this to our attention. The time frame for entry is tight, but many of you may have qualifying quilts to submit. For more information, click here, or the title above.
The Pomegranate Guild is excited to start our work up close and personal with Artist in Residence, Laya Crust, for four programs in 2015. Over these programs we will be exploring the creative process as we examine how we can create textile work to enhance our holiday celebrations. On January 21st we’ll start “at the very beginning.” See our calendar page for more details.
Members have already met Laya at earlier meetings, and some have had a chance and talk to her about their personal work. Come early to the meetings and talk to her about your work!
Before the meeting think about:
What do you love about Pesach and the seders?
What do you find challenging about Pesach and the seders?
Is there something you’d like to change about the seder or the haggadah?
And, bring examples of Pesach art to talk about, too.
One art often influences another. This new exhibit at Beth Tzedec is photographic display of Jewish musicians.
Dorion invites us: “Please join us for the opening of David Kaufman’s photography exhibition: VESSELS OF SONG: FACES OF NEW JEWISH MUSIC at Beth Tzedec Museum
on Thursday December 11th at 7:00pm.
We are delighted that the KlezKonnection will entertain us for the evening.”
Celebrate: Saving a Textile Legacy – October 22, 2014
Anna VanDelman reports:
Shila Desai introduced us to a world of cultural heritage, pride of artisanship and survival, glorious colour and renewal. We were taken into this incredible, kaleidoscopic world of magical colours, and their near loss in Gujarati communities. After a long period during which traditional skills were passed from generation to generation, dyeing skills, block-printing skills, and stitching skills have been threatened with extinction.
In some communities, the important ground water levels have a dropped and the water has become contaminated: new and improper technologies, industrialization in general, a younger generation attracted to more leisure time, and the disruption of trade patterns following the 1947 partition of Pakistan and India have all contributed to the erosion of this precious legacy. Six hundred years of this art was about to be lost. Now, how to protect and revive this legacy so crucial to women’s dowries and local economies? In some cases, it is WOMEN TO THE RESCUE! NGOs directed by women philanthropists get together to preserve traditional crafts while bringing them into the 21st century. Success leads to success and now over 100 villages and 22,000 women are benefitting.
See more by following the video links. And, experience heritage textiles for yourself by joining Shila on of her tours to India, Tanzania, North India and Sri Lanka. “BON VOYAGE.”
Photos by Janis Katz
Textile samples courtesy Shila Desai