Over the last 23 years, I have created hundreds of calligraphic designs, from detailed and complex ketubot to simpler and smaller pieces. Most of the artwork I create are commissioned for a special event, such as a birth, wedding, anniversary, graduation, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or to honor a member of an organization or synagogue. On rare occasion I find time to create a design of a passage that is particularly meaningful to me.
My love of language has pervaded the three professions in which I've engaged over the years. As a Speech and Language Pathologist (B.S. and M.S. from the University of Michigan), I spent 23 years working with and learning from preschoolers to adults exhibiting language disabilities. As a technical editor in a computer software company, my language skills helped the writers become more aware of their use of language, and my visual sense heightened their awareness of how to present information on a page. As a calligraphic artist and graphic designer, I enjoy translating the words of a passage into a pleasing visual form.
Despite preplanning, I rarely know exactly how a completed design will look until my pen and brush come in contact with the paper. Each new facet of the design tells me what needs to follow. I like to keep the tension alive until the last stroke is made. I love the challenge of discovering new and different designs, whether they feel more geometric and traditional or more free-flowing and abstract. Although I like to think that I dont have a particular style, people constantly recognize my work. They say it is the freshness and dancing spirit that come through.
It is very satisfying to learn how recipients of my art work respond to it. When I hear that a Bar or Bat Mitzvah feels that the calligraphic representation of his or her portion is the best gift he or she received ... or that someone who has commissioned art work to give to a friend or relative is proud and pleased to be presenting such a beautiful and meaningful gift ... or that a couple for whom Ive created a personalized ketubah feels that the process of creating the ketubah was the most meaningful aspect of their wedding preparation ... or that parents who were presented with a family tree cried upon seeing it, then I know that the sense of joy I feel as I create a piece has been transmitted to someone else. For me, that's what it's all about.
As letters drop off my pen, I am mindful that I am carrying on an ancient tradition of the Jewish People. The scribal arts, particularly in the form of ketubot, represent one of the earliest forms of Jewish art. Scribes have been calligraphing the same beautiful Hebrew letter forms for thousands of years. As I study copies of centuries-old Hebrew manuscripts, it is apparent that each scribe's designs and illumination techniques reflect the general art forms prevalent in their respective countries at the time they rendered their work. I love to borrow some of their beautiful designs and techniques, knowing that I am extending their work to the present so it will not go unrecognized or be forgotten. I am constantly surprised by how fresh and modern some of their designs were and how well they combine with my contemporary approaches.
Our tradition tells us that we are connected to our biblical ancestors ldor vdor, from generation to generation. I am privileged to be able to experience this link through my art and through lectures on the history of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts and ketubot. How fortunate I am to be connected to happy people at happy times in their lives.