Jewish Art Workshop - Leonard Baskin

This will have been my third art session in my new job as art teacher at the Glen Rock Jewish Center hebrew school. For the first lesson I made the obvious choice in teaching about Marc Chagall. The second lesson was around the time of Passover, so we learned about illuminated manuscripts with a focus on the haggadah. For the third lesson (and the last one of the school year since I began mid-year), I chose to focus on the artist Leonard Baskin. I've always liked his work and in addition, since I like to introduce new techniques, I liked the fact that he's primarily known for his woodcuts. 

Since I myself am a printmaker, it was great to be able to bring in my own carved woodblocks, prints and tools to pass around. Although the kids were slightly disappointed when they realized they'd be "carving" foam rather than wood, they still seemed to love the lesson, and the results.

ARTIST OVERVIEW:

(Excerpted from encyclopedia.com)

Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) was one of the twentieth century's greatest sculptors and printmakers. Railing against the trends of the time, he maintained a focus on figurative art. Strongly influenced by classical forms, his work reflected his interests in Greek mythology and Jewish tradition and culture. Baskin is also known for having founded one of the longest-running arts presses in the United States.

Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on August 15, 1922, his father was an orthodox rabbi, and his brother became a rabbi, too. The family moved to New York when he was seven, and he attended what he later called a "dark, medieval" yeshiva in Brooklyn. When he was a young man he worked in a synagogue for extra money. This strong Jewish upbringing would eventually form the foundation, or context, for his artistic vision.

Baskin founded his own press, called Gehenna Press, in 1942. One of the nation's first fine art presses, the Gehenna Press printed over 100 books and became one of this country's longest running private presses. It ran until his death in 2000. 

Baskin illustrated poet Ted Hughes's words at the Gehenna Press for over three decades. One of the best-known collaborations of Baskin and Hughes was Crow in 1970. The work was a result of Baskin's suggestion that Hughes write an entire book of poems about the bird. The book was followed by three more limited editions on the same theme. They also collaborated in 1981 on a Primer of Birds, which the Press released in a limited edition of 250.

Raptors were central to Baskin’s work throughout his career. His winged creatures stood on their own, as subjects in their own right; Baskin also incorporated them in other images, most notably his human figures.

Birds of prey – owls, herons, eagles, pelicans – encapsulated his antithetical understanding of the human race: noble and base, common and heroic, tender and brutish, vulnerable and ruthless. With that in mind, the crow is a frequent subject in his work. Outcast because of its scavenging ways, the crow stands in for the downtrodden, the common people who survive by their wits on society’s castoffs.

In the 1950s, he was the first artist to create oversized woodblock prints. Indeed, he has been referred to as a pioneer in large-scale printmaking. His work was always figurative, whether mythical or commonplace in subject matter.

He was also influenced by his Jewish upbringing. His religious art such as illustrations of the Haggadah and of the Biblical Five Scrolls was informed by his knowledge of Jewish tradition. This influence carried over into later works, such as the "Angels to the Jews" series, as well.

Baskin's Holocaust Memorial resides at the First Jewish Cemetery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Memorial, unveiled in 1994, is a sculpture of a robed, seated man, seven feet high. With one fist over its face, and its other hand stretched toward the sky, the figure is a dramatic reminder of the anguish of the victims of the Holocaust.

Baskin created a series of woodcuts about the Holocaust during the mid-1990s. One, more than five feet in length, portrayed a skeleton rising, surrounded by crows and owls. Printed on the work is a Yiddish proverb written by the artist: "The resurrection of the dead; we don't believe in it. In any case, the owls and the crows will represent us."

BORN: 1922 in New Brunswick, NJ.

RAISED: In Brooklyn, NY.  Son of a Rabbi. Yeshiva education.

ART FORMS: Sculpture, printmaking, painting, illustration, art books.

STYLE: Figurative. Leonard Baskin's artwork is mostly dark. It reflects the inhumanity of the time period during which he lived (World War 2 and the Holocaust).

THEMES: Family, birds of prey, flora & fauna, mortality & war, bible, religion, mythology.

QUOTES:

“Art is one of man’s remaining semblances to divinity.”
“Being Jewish confounds things. The people of the book are intelligently defined as a religion. I, a believing atheist, proudly declare my jewishness. It is to Yiddish that my spirit warms; to that heritage of persecution and sensual denial, that Yiddish so richly expresses. Not religion, but religious texts: not beliefs or superstition, fear or malignant custom, but the literacy, artistic, cultural and human relics of that religion.” 

"My sculptures are memorials to ordinary human beings, gigantic monuments to the unnoticed dead: the exhausted factory worker, the forgotten tailor, the unsung poet … Sculpture at its greatest and most monumental is about simple, abstract, emotional states, like fear, pride, love and envy. "

ADDITIONAL INFO: 

• Collected disparate objects (paintings, drawings, etchings, small bronzes, casts of reptiles and crustaceans, skulls, dried pomegranates and lemons, dolls’ heads, medals, inlaid boxes, carpets, shells, thousands of books) and displayed them together.

VOCABULARY:

Yeshiva - An Orthodox Jewish elementary or secondary school that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah.

Wunderkammer - Also known as Cabinets of Wonder. Encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were (in Renaissance Europe) yet to be defined; precursors to museums. In modern times, objects would fall into the categories of: natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art, and antiquities. Regarded as a microcosm of the world, and a memory theater.

Figurative - Representing forms that are recognizably derived from life.

WOODCUTS:


ART PROJECT

Supplies: 

  • pencils
  • scratch paper
  • foam printing plates
  • printing paper
  • acrylic sheets
  • brayers
  • printmaking ink
  • palette knife
  • paper towels
  • windex

Lesson Plan:

ART & POETRY

Just as Leonard Baskin created artwork to accompany poems, for this project students will do the same. 

Before reading the poem, tell students to observe the imagery that pops into their minds as they listen. Have them close their eyes as you read the poem "Sabbath Queen" by Hayyim Nahman Bialik, below, or another poem of your choosing. When you are done reading, have them open their eyes and sketch what came up for them.

 

Sabbath Queen

Hayyim Nahman Bialik

 

The sun has already disappeared beyond the treetops, 

Come let us go and welcome the Sabbath Queen, 

She is already descending among us, holy and blessed, 

And with her are angels, a host of peace and rest, 

Come, O Queen, 

Come, O Queen, 

Peace be unto you, O Angels of Peace."

 

We have welcomed the Shabbat with song and prayer, 

Let us return home our hearts full of joy. 

There, the table is set, the lights are lit, 

Every corner of the house is shining with a divine spark. 

A good and blessed Shabbat. 

A good and blessed Shabbat. 

Come in peace, O Angels of Peace.

 

Sit among us, O pure Shabbat Queen, and enlighten us with your splendor. 

Tonight and tomorrow–then you may pass on. 

And we for our part will honor you by wearing beautiful clothing, 

By singing zemirot, by praying, and by eating three meals. 

And with complete rest. 

And with pleasant rest. 

Bless me with peace, O Angels of Peace.

 

The sun has already disappeared beyond the treetops. 

Come let us accompany the Sabbath Queen’s departure. 

Go in peace, holy and blessed. 

Know that for six day we will await your return. 

Yes, till next Shabbat. 

Yes, till next Shabbat. 

Go in peace, O Angels of Peace.

How To:

There are so many amazing tutorials online that explain the process of foam printmaking, you will find TOO many when you look, but this one is straightforward and does the job:  FOAM PRINTMAKING TUTORIAL

Whether you do this project with a classroom of students, or your own children, I hope you enjoy learning about Leonard Baskin and creating your own Shabbos inspired prints! See our results below...

"In the Beginning" Baby Quilt Tutorial

If you are reading this, you may be considering making this quilt. Of course, most quilt designs can be made from an existing stash of fabric, so before you go any further, I just want to give you a heads up that the making of this quilt requires a purchase at my Spoonflower shop (see below).

If you're up for that, read on! If not, please check back at some point in the future - because I have some designs brewing in my sketchbook that won't require a Spoonflower purchase...

This tutorial explains how to make the quilt pictured on the right, but it doesn't teach how to quilt. If you've quilted before, this will be no problem for you. If you've never quilted, check out the amazing tutorials you can find on YouTube, or better yet, take a class at your local quilt shop or community school (and then come back here!) Finished size of quilt is approximately 28"x38". 

IMG_3541.jpg
 

SUPPLY LIST

"In the Beginning" whole cloth quilt top

1 yard of turquoise 100% cotton fabric (I used KONA - turquoise)

1 yard of batting (I used Warm & Natural)

quilters ruler

rotary cutter

self healing mat

basic sewing supplies


 
 

STEP 1

The first thing you'll need to do is purchase the "In the Beginning" quilt top fabric which is available in my Spoonflower shop. You can do that here.

When making your selections from the pop-up menus in the shop (see screenshot below), make sure you select as below:

1. Choose Fabric: Kona Cotton Ultra ($19.00/yd)

2. Choose Amount: 1 (quantity), Yard (42" width)

When the fabric arrives from Spoonflower, machine wash, dry, and iron it.

 

 
 

STEP 2

Cut a piece of batting several inches larger than the fabric on all sides and smooth it out flat on the floor or a table top.

Take the fabric outside and spray the back with quilt basting spray.

Bring the fabric inside, center over batting, and place directly on top of batting.

Starting from the center of the fabric and working your way out towards the edges, use a circular motion to smooth the fabric out over the batting. The two layers will adhere.

Flip so that the image is facing down, and from the center

 

 
 

STEP 3

Using a quilter's ruler, rotary cutter and a self-healing mat, trim the edges of the fabric and batting. Leave a 1/4" white border around the entire perimeter.

Turn trimmed piece over (so that the image is facing down) and place on a large flat surface. Pat down (rather than smooth out) any areas that aren't lying flat. Spray with basting spray.

Lay backing fabric (wrong side up) on a large flat surface. Center quilt top with batting (image side up) over the backing fabric and place directly on top.

Flip entire sandwich so that image is facing down. Starting from the center of the backing fabric and working out towards the edges, use a circular motion to smooth the fabric out over the batting.

 

 

 
 

STEP 4

Trim the edges of the backing fabric. Leave a 1" border around the entire perimeter.

 

STEP 5

At this point you can quilt the three layers together by hand or machine. I did some light free motion quilting and just followed along the lines of the illustration, but you can do anything your heart desires!


STEP 6

To bind the quilt, follow the steps below...

A. Fold backing border in half so that the raw edge aligns with the edge of the quilt top. Then fold border up and over the quilt top to cover the white border. Pin in place approximately every 2".

A. Fold backing border in half so that the raw edge aligns with the edge of the quilt top. Then fold border up and over the quilt top to cover the white border. Pin in place approximately every 2".

B. When you get to a corner, fold corner fabric on a diagonal so that the bottom edge of the triangle that's formed sits parallel to the edge of the quilt top as shown.

B. When you get to a corner, fold corner fabric on a diagonal so that the bottom edge of the triangle that's formed sits parallel to the edge of the quilt top as shown.

C. Hold the corner fold in place while you fold the backing border in half as (as shown in photo above) Then fold up and over the quilt top so that the inside border edges meet.

C. Hold the corner fold in place while you fold the backing border in half as (as shown in photo above) Then fold up and over the quilt top so that the inside border edges meet.

D. The fold should lie on a diagonal and the corner should come to a neat point. You may have to play around with steps B and C to make this work just right!

D. The fold should lie on a diagonal and the corner should come to a neat point. You may have to play around with steps B and C to make this work just right!


STEP 7

Hand sew along the edge of the binding using a slip stitch to secure it to the quilt top.


I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and that is was helpful for you!

Designing on a Grid

I recently began a 100 day project called "100 Days of Hand Stamped Fabric". Every day I carve a rubber stamp, print it on graph paper in a repeating pattern, and finally, print it on fabric. Whether I'm stamping directly on graph paper, or on fabric with the faint lines of the graph paper showing through from beneath, the placement of my stamp is guided by a grid.

This project is not my first use of the grid in my artwork. Initially I was inspired by the painter Adolph Gottlieb. It was several years after graduating RISD. I was living in NYC, working in publishing, and attempting to build my freelance illustration career on the side. At that time, I was working towards developing my visual style. I began an early morning routine in which I'd wake up, make myself a coffee and pick an art book off one of my bookshelves. Then I'd spend an hour looking the artist's work. If there was some element of the art that I loved, I'd make note of it so I could experiment with it in my own work. That particular morning I picked Gottlieb. 

In many of Gottlieb's paintings I'd noticed that he'd used a grid to compartmentalize the space. Within each compartment was a some type of sign, symbol, or design. I was immediately drawn to these images. First off, aesthetically I was attracted to his use of:

1. A limited color palette

2. Two dimensional space

3. Flat, textural color

These elements struck me as bold and modern. I remember feeling so inspired and intrigued....

 
Vigil, 1948

Vigil, 1948

The Seer, 1950

The Seer, 1950

T, 1950

T, 1950

 

Additionally, I was captivated by:

4. The mysterious signs and symbols

5. The assembling of individual elements into one image

6. His use of a grid-like layout to compose the space

As my hour with Gottlieb's book of paintings drew to close, I'd made note of my observations to come back to them at a later time.

Several days or weeks later, while working on an illustration to use as a self-promotion, I incorporated several of these stylistic elements into my design process.  My illustrative style had already made use of the first three elements listed above, but the image below was my first to make use of symbols to represent the idea and/or feeling I was trying to convey, as well as the use of a grid to organize them into a cohesive whole.

 
 

Designing on a grid was somewhat of a breakthrough for me. After releasing this image as a self-promotion, I received more calls and assignments than I had from previous promos. This allowed me to dedicate all of my time to my freelance illustration business (rather than work in publishing as I had been, and illustrating on the side in my free time).

This series of paintings that I'd felt such an affinity to are referred to as Gottlieb's Pictograph paintings. You can see more of them on my Pinterest board "Art on the Grid" (along with some other works of art that make use of the grid.) If you'd like to read more about the artist, The Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation is a good place to start.

How I Make My Hand-Stamped Fabric

 
 

Let me start out by saying that this is how I hand stamp fabric. It's not necessarily the correct way or even the best way. I haven't had too much experience with stamping on fabric, but I do have experience with relief printmaking. In general, I prefer to explore a process (as long as it's fairly simple) before learning the proper way to do it. That way, I'm driven by what works for the specific needs of my project, with the added result of keeping my mind open to exploring alternative routes.

 

Quilting by Hand

I've been making quilts (sporadically) over the past 15 years, and had never attempted hand quilting until I'd completed piecing the top for this black and white. Stitching an entire quilt by hand had always seemed too time consuming, but somehow, this one seemed to cry out for the human touch. I'd already deprived it of curves and color, so I thought I owed it at least this much.

Turns out I LOVE the process, even more so than machine quilting. I found myself looking forward to working on it all day, a reward for completing all of my menial labor. Normally, at this time of night, I'd hold my computer on my lap and catch up on e-mails (which I now realize is a task better suited to my crisp, morning brain). At the end of a long day, I now find, nothing beats relaxing on the couch with a needle in my hand, and a quilt in my lap.

Quilting with the Girl Scouts

My daughter is a Girl Scout. She and her troop are so lucky to have two amazing women who volunteer to lead their troop. It's a major time commitment to be a troop leader, which is why I've never done it, but every year what I do do is volunteer my time to do an art based project with the girls. Last year it was nature journaling. This year - quilting! 

Time was limited to an hour and a half for our first meeting, an hour for our second meeting, and five minutes for our third and final meeting.

In the first meeting I planned to teach them to how to hand sew a four square block, in the second how to hand tie the quilt and make the quilt label, and in the last, a final viewing and photo before donating it to the local hospital. In between the meetings, I worked on the quilt at home to have it ready for the next. 

Here's how I prepared for our meeting #1:

First I cut four square pieces of fabric for each girl. I selected a range of fabrics from my stash, limiting the color range to that within my "yellow through red" drawer in order to have somewhat of a cohesive look.

In order to have some movement throughout the quilt, I chose both lights and darks. (If they were all light or all dark, it would have flattened the design which was not what I was going for).

Then, I cut each fabric into strips (I believe they were 4" wide) using a rotary cutter, and each strip into squares.

Since I'd be teaching them to sew by hand, I drew 1/4" seam allowance around the perimeter of each fabric square using a white chalk pencil (which doesn't seem to show up in photo above). This way they'd have a guide for sewing a straight line.

I then selected two light and two dark pieces of fabric and pinned them together using four pins and one needle. This saved time in having to distribute the pins and needles to each girl during our meeting.

I forgot to get picture of our sewing session, probably because I was very busy! Even with the help of both troop leaders, teaching 16 girls (9-10 years of age) how to sew was a great challenge.

The difference in sewing skills amongst the girls in the troop made teaching them a challenge.  But these same differences are what gave the quilt it's uniqueness.

The difference in sewing skills amongst the girls in the troop made teaching them a challenge.  But these same differences are what gave the quilt it's uniqueness.

There were different skill levels across the group; a small portion of the girls had had sewing lessons in the past and knew the basics (how to thread a needle and how to align and pin right sides together). Most of the girls hadn't sewn before, but seemed like they'd had lots of experience with crafting in general, and were able to catch on quickly. For the remaining few, this seemed to be one of their first experiences making something with their hands. For their sake, I wish we'd had a smaller ratio of adults to children. One on one would have been best for them.

Even so, the girls couldn't have been more enthusiastic about the process. They were interested, engaged, and loved the experience. Better yet, most of them were able to complete their sewing by the end of our meeting.

At home I machine sewed all the blocks together, added a bright orange Kona cotton border and backing with a layer of Warm & Natural batting in between, and pin basted it all together in preparation for our next meeting.

Pin basting the quilt with the help of my Girl Scout.

Pin basting the quilt with the help of my Girl Scout.

Pin basted quilt ready to be hand tied in meeting #2.

Pin basted quilt ready to be hand tied in meeting #2.

Meeting #2 went a little smoother than the first. I'd explained the steps I'd taken at home to get the quilt to it's current state, and pointed out the three layers. 

Then, the main portion of the troop went on to an (unrelated) activity while another mom and I worked one-on-one with two girls at a time teaching them to tie the quilt.

Towards the end of the meeting, we all came together to make the quilt label. I had prepared the label fabric by ironing a piece of wax paper to the backside to stiffen the surface for writing on. Also, I had drawn out guide lines with a fabric pen to keep things neat.

The troop decided what the quilt label would say, and then each signed their names.

The troop decided what the quilt label would say, and then each signed their names.

Knowing that we'd be donating it to our local hospital where it would be given to a sick child, they came up with the wording you see above. I wrote their message onto the fabric using a permanent pen, and then they each signed their names (going a little overboard with their decorative accents!) 

At home I finished the quilt by machine quilting three lines around the perimeter of the patchwork, sewing on the binding, and attaching the label. See end results below!

Future generation of quilters showing off their first finished piece.

Future generation of quilters showing off their first finished piece.

Nature Studies

Drawing and painting from nature is one of my favorite things to do. I get so wrapped up in observing the details of the object, that the usual static in my head completely subsides. It's my personal form of meditation. 

These nature studies are from different times in my life. I painted the first (above) with india ink on rice paper while taking an art class at the Brooklyn Botanic gardens. The second is india ink as well, and the third a seedpod drawn with charcoal. Seaweed from a Cape Cod summer, india ink, and lastly, a budding branch in watercolor.

My 100 Day Project Exhibit

 
 

For the month of March I'm showing my illustrations in our town's public library (along with my sister's beautiful oil paintings which are hanging in the next room!) If you're in the area of Glen Rock, NJ, stop by! If not, no worries, I've included my art shpiel below...

 

 

ARTIST STATEMENT

The 100 Day Project is “…intended to awaken, nurture and sustain your creative spirit through the cultivation of small daily acts for 100 days.”

Have you heard of The 100 Day Project? It’s an online challenge that anyone can take part in.

Several months ago I began my own 100 day project. For my small daily act, I decided I would create a cut-paper illustration. I limited myself to the use of one sheet of black origami paper and two pens - one white and one black. Subject matter was left open, to be decided on a daily basis.

I started the project with several goals in mind:

  • I wanted to establish a habit of making artwork every day.
  • I wanted to explore the use of limited art materials over an extended period of time.
  • I wanted to develop a visual language with a cohesive style.

I am now close to finishing my project (will be done mid-March), and am happy to say that I (mostly) accomplished these goals. 

  • I’ve established an ‘art habit’ - although it’s not every day, I make artwork most days, which is much more than I did before starting the project.
  • I’ve stayed within the limits of the art materials I set out to explore, using only black origami paper and two pens (with only a small amount of cheating - at times I used more than one sheet of the black paper, and for a period of time I added the use of kraft paper, just for fun).
  • Over time, I developed a visual language (a collection of icons and symbols I feel an affinity with) and I believe a cohesive style emerged. I ended up favoring bold, simple shapes of cut-paper combined with a spare white line with which to add detail.

What you see here are a collection of ten images from my 100 Day Project, digitally reproduced. Not only are these some of my favorite illustrations from the series, they also represent the range of subject matter I tend to be drawn toward, which includes plant-life, animals, architecture, Judaism and African art. 

If you’d like to see the entire collection of images from start to finish, they can be found on my Instagram account: www.instagram.com/vickykatzman/

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Vicky Katzman is an artist and illustrator living in Glen Rock, NJ. She earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, after which she began her career as a freelance illustrator. She currently enjoys designing and making quilts, teaching art, and creating illustrations (on a regular basis, using only black origami paper and white pen!)

 

I bought the frames online and am happy with their quality and overall appearance. I think the simple style suits the work. 

The 100 Day Project Update

I'm three quarters of the way through the 100 day project. I think it's been really helpful limiting myself to just two materials (black origami paper and pen) in terms of clarifying my style. I especially like the use of bold, simple shapes (which have graphic impact from afar) complemented by spare use of the thin white line which allows me to define and clarify the image. 

Post Humous Portraiture and Epitaphs at the American Folk Art Museum

In search of some quilt inspiration, I decided to visit the American Folk Art Museum in NYC. I hadn't been in many years, in fact, the last time I was there it was located next to the MOMA. Turns out the new space is much smaller than the last, and there were only two exhibits on display. Also, I was wrong to assume that they'd have quilts on display!

The first exhibit I saw was called Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America. It was extremely depressing, but somehow I was compelled to keep looking. The portraits were mainly of children, rendered as they would have been in life. What I found most interesting were the various toys, objects and flowers they were pictured with, and attempting to interpret their meanings (before reading the accompanying description). Some of the paintings for instance, had a piece of dangling cut thread or unspooled thread. In my mind, I've always associated thread with repair and healing, but in these paintings it represented a life cut short.  

The second exhibit was the epitaph project. It was basically a singular blackboard in the shape of a tombstone with some chalk set nearby. Visitors were invited to write their own epitaph, which I did after viewing the posthumous portraits of children. Even without a post-viewing heavy heart, I would have written this....

IMG_1404.JPG

It's just the first thing that sprang into my mind.  

After that I NEEDED to go to the gift shop. Had to perk myself up, plus, I never miss a museum gift shop - I look forward to them almost as much as the exhibits themselves. Bought myself a little book called The Language and Sentiment of Flowers. Originally published in Victorian times, it's a dictionary (more like a listing) of flowers and their meaning. In those stuffy times, rather than speak their feelings, suitors gave flower arrangements which the women would then interpret - all through the use of this book. (Looks like we're coming full circle with the use of emojis.) Although I'm all for expressing yourself with words, as an illustrator I can't resist the idea of a visual language.... may have to work this into my illustration somehow!

 

The language and sentiment of flowers interior.jpg

Grayscale Series

This little series of drawings was a sophomore year assignment when I was a student at RISD - interior scenes of the house I was living in at the time. I love working in black and white and shades of gray, so comfortable and easy. I guess I think in black and white.

'Jerusalem' at the Met

If you don't have a chance to check out this exhibit at the Met in Manhattan before it closes on January 8th, I'll share with you some of my faves. Briefly, the show focuses on a broad range of artworks representing a large variety of faiths, created in Jerusalem between the years 1000-1400. I LOVE illuminated manuscripts, so that's about all you'll see here, but the Met's website has a collection of images from the show if you'd like to see more of an overview.

What to Bring to a Quilting Bee

It's been three weeks since my friend and I started a quilting group (which we now call the Glen Rock Quilting Bee, or GRQB) and I love it! We meet every week for two hours in the town library. Each of us work on our own individual projects just as we would at home, except we are together, which is much more fun! I love seeing what everybody's working on, it's sooo inspiring. It's also quite educational - some of the women who have been quilting for many years are happy to share their expertise if one of us should need it. You don't get that when you're home alone in your work space!

The only thing I don't like about this weekly meet up is the fact that I need to pack up all my supplies to take with me, and unpack them all once I get home. But until I have two of everything I need (which is unlikely to ever happen) I'll just have to deal. Waaaaa! 

One think that helps (just like every other routine in life that requires a little thought) is having a list. A list assures that I'll remember to bring everything I'll need, while leaving my mind free to day dream - or whatever. The past couple weeks I've been scribbling my list on an index card and tweaking it. I think it's pretty much complete, but I'll be adding to it if I find there's anything else I need to bring.

If you, my dear reader, would like to print it out, feel free. Just keep in mind - we all have our own sewing needs (depending on the project or working style), so you should consider it a starting point to which you can add and cross off until it works for you.


Quilting Bee Packing List

 

Start off by packing current project including any cut pieces, fabrics, pattern templates, instructions, etc.

MEASURING & MARKING

  1. fabric pencil
  2. fabric marker
  3. pencil sharpener
  4. tape measure
  5. measuring guage
  6. pins
  7. pin cushion

CUTTING

  1. cutting mat
  2. rotary cutter
  3. quilter's ruler
  4. fabric scissors

SEWING 

  1. sewing machine
  2. extension cord
  3. thread
  4. needles
  5. bees wax
  6. thimble
  7. snips
  8. seam ripper

IRONING 

  1. iron
  2. ironing pad
  3. misting bottle

MISCELLANEOUS (for the group)

  1. member list
  2. fabric and batting scraps
  3. quilting magazines or books to pass along

 

 

 

New Challah Covers in Shop

Lately I've been wanting to experiment with different sewing styles and techniques - appliqué, patchwork, fabric stamping, etc... Even though I'm just playing around, I like the idea of actually making a finished piece. The challah cover is the perfect size for this, so it's become my focus. Here are three that I've just finished and added to my shop...

The first has a felt dove appliquéd onto a denim background with hand embroidered text that reads "Shabbat Shalom" both in English and in Hebrew. The backside is a dark blue velvet. It's machine quilted with echo lines.

 

The second is made with denim, twill, chambray, quilting cotton and muslin. It's also hand embroidered with "Shabbat Shalom", but only in English. The backside is an off-white cotton, and there's no batting or quilting, so it's thinner than the previous cover.

 

The third challah cover is quilted like the first, and has a patchwork design like the second, but is unique in that it's made with some of my hand-stamped fabrics. There's denim, twill and cotton fabrics with a white twill backside.

 

Next up will most likely be needle felting.... stay tuned!

 

 

Quilted Bookmarks

My sister Liz loves to read, and often works her way through 2, 3 or even 4 novels at a time. She keeps her books stacked on her nightstand, and on one of my visits earlier this year, this stack sparked a gift idea for her - a set of bookmarks.

Never one to hesitate on starting a new project, I immediately designed three bookmarks, each meant to appeal to her modern aesthetic and love of nature. I selected just two high contrast solid colored fabrics to give big impact to these tiny creations. The nature themed icons are bonded to the fabric using fusible web. I quilted fluid lines over the appliqué in attempt to add a sense of movement to the design. They're also meant to suggest the wind, the flow of water, and the flight of a bird. 

 

The first three quilted bookmarks I made use two contrasting colors of cotton quilting fabric.

The first three quilted bookmarks I made use two contrasting colors of cotton quilting fabric.

vicky katzman quilted bookmark
The middle bookmark is made with wool felt and embroidery. The bookmark on the right is lower in contrast due to the addition of two shades of gray.

The middle bookmark is made with wool felt and embroidery. The bookmark on the right is lower in contrast due to the addition of two shades of gray.

What I love about this project is that it's quick. I finished the three bookmarks I initially set out to make (see above left) and then went on to experiment with contrast, color and construction techniques (see above right). 

I made a pattern and tutorial for this bookmark project which is available here as a free pdf download. If you make the bookmarks, please send a pic of your work - would love to see how they turn out!

Happy Sukkot!

Today is the first day of Sukkot, one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It's sort of like Thanksgiving in that it celebrates the earth's bounty, but it's also a commemoration of the 40 year period the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert after escaping their lives of slavery in Egypt.

The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah, which means "booth" or "tabernacle". The sukkah is a temporary structure with four walls and a roof loosely covered with branches so that the stars are still visible. During the harvest season, farmers would build and live in these structures out in the fields, and during their exodus from Egypt, Jews would live in dwellings such as these.

For several years, I used to build a sukkah of our own in the backyard. My family and I would eat our meals inside, and one year we even slept in it overnight. I stopped building it in recent years because it was a HUGE job, but for the years we did have it, it was a wonderful experience. 

Besides the sukkah structure itself, the holiday includes a ritual which involves shaking the lulav and etrog in all directions (signifying that G-d is everywhere). The etrog is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon, and the lulav is three different plant species all bound together, and named for the largest of the three. Combined, the lulav and etrog are four species, all of which are mentioned in the Torah. There are several explanations as to why these particular species were chosen for the ritual, but my favorite one likens each of the species to a part of the human body. With the etrog as the heart, the willow as the lips, the lulav (or palm) as the spine, and the myrtle as the eyes, it's said that through the use of these body parts we can serve G-d by helping others. 

I don't have a sukkah this year, but if I did, I might use my illustration shown here as one of the decorations. If you'd like to download this image to hang in your sukkah, feel free, you can get it here. Hang as is, or color it in. One suggestion that I have is to laminate it with one of the thicker weight lamination films at your local copy store. This will protect it in the rain, keep it hanging flat, and give you a stiff border through which you can punch some holes to hang it. If you remember, please send me a pic of your sukkah, would love to see it. Chag Sameach!

RISD Craft 2016

I participated in a craft show last weekend at my old alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design. I'm so glad my sister Karen agreed to help me out (along with my daughter and her son who are 9 and 10 respectively). Not only was it way more fun to have the company, but I actually needed the help since my booth was busy ALL DAY LONG! This was a huge surprise to me based on the previous three craft shows I'd done earlier in the year (which were a big yawn), and I am now left with a small amount of hope for some future success in the craft show market.

What was especially nice to see was that there's a market out there for my newer work (which is mostly black and white). If you take a look at my last blog post, you can read about the project from which they born... but if you'd rather not, all you need to know is that they are cut-paper illustrations made from black origami paper and a white pen. Below you'll find some of my favorites.

Of course, in all the hectic happiness, I neglected to get a picture of my booth. Luckily,  this photo of my wares was posted on instagram by Print Club Ltd. shortly after the show (check out founder/artist Elizabeth Corkery's beautiful handmade silkscreen prints here). Thanks for the photo Elizabeth!

I'm currently preparing to show my work at the Glen Rock Farmers Market on October 23rd, right here in Glen Rock, NJ! I'm especially excited to be a part of this because it was started in part by my friend Alison, who brings a positive vibe to all that she does. If you live in the area, I hope you can stop by and check it out, and if you do, be sure to come by my stand and keep me company for a little while...

The 100 Day Project

What is The 100 Day Project? Click the link to find out the details, but here's the short answer from the website:

It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process. 

For me it about all that, but especially the showing up day after day for the SAME process. This is a great contrast to my typical working style in which I go from one project to another, each one entirely different from the next.

My process for each of the 100 days will be to cut shapes out of one sheet of black origami paper, paste shapes onto a sheet of graph paper, and finally, to add detail with a black and / or white pen. Supplies shown in photo above. In photo are some sheets of colored tissue paper which I included in case I should feel the need to add a spot of color. 

I'm currently on day 8 and have been enjoying my new morning ritual (wake, prepare iced coffee, retreat to studio for 30 minutes). One thing I feel This project is lacking is a theme to tie it all together, and also to make it easier for me to decide the subject each day. Perhaps I will within the next couple days... 

 

Day 4

Day 4

Day 5

Day 5

Day 6

Day 6

Day 7

Day 7

Day 8

Day 8