Celebrate: the holidays with Laya Crust

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!


Anna VanDelman reports

Our April 2014 meeting was brought to you by Judith Leitner – Director of Visual Arts and a founder of The Toronto Heschel School – and by the letter Shin “ ש” (with apologies to Sesame Street).
Judith teaches in an arts-based integrated curriculum with a strong environmental ethos impelled by ethical behaviour. She develops the visual arts programme and wrote a Judaic Arts Compendium (see http://www.torontoheschel.org).
Judith led us through a series of activities that helped us see how letters can be expressive. What does the word Sh’ma “שמע” mean? The letter form has three branches. The dot makes it a ‘shin’ or a sin, depending on its placement. Are the three arms of the letter equal or not? What happens when we change their size? We looked at the essential elements of design: Line, shape, direction, size, and texture. We used big arm gesture drawing to create a “shameless Shin”. Is it straight? Lying down? Upside down? And then we made a “shy shin.” Is it small? Is it hiding? We continued with more variations on the theme of “Shin” (for example, “Shin” in shock).
And then we were invited to think about our personal connection to the “Shin.” We shared feelings about the letter, most of us relating to the Sh’ma and other words that begin with the same sound, “Sh”. As texture plays an important role in art, we concluded the evening by selecting or designing a “Shin” and interpreting it in textiles. President Karen Chisvin thanked our guest for leading us in an interesting workshop that opened a new window of discovery on a Jewish theme.