Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Apples & Roses

Apple Rose Plate - $400



Just completed.


Gardener that I am, I was thinking of all things garden when this design dreamed itself up. What you see is a food functional brass plate with an apple tree and a rose - symbols from the Song of Songs of love and union

I could see it filled and placed on the table for Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot,  TB'Shevat and all joyous occasions that combine food with love and celebration.  


A 14" diameter brass plate (easier to come by and considerably more affordable than copper) served as my canvas for this etching.  Colorful metallic waxes give it a kind of folk-artsy feel.  I did seal the surface with a clear shellac to preserve those colors and then added a removable glass plate that fits into the center section (not seen in the photo), to keep usability pretty simple.  The glass can be washed after use and the brass plate can be lightly cleaned with a soft damp cloth.


The Hebrew verses around the raised border come from Shir Hashirim and Shir Hama'alot (126): “As an Apple amidst the trees of the forest (right); "As a Rose among thorns”(left); “those who plant in tears" (lower);  will harvest in joy” (upper).  These sweet references speak to earthiness - of  our being both planters and that which is planted. They speak of envisioning ourselves as uniquely beloved and they point to the sacred nature of life that conspires for our happiness, carrying us through trials of tears and hard work towards wholeness and fulfillment.


May your plates be filled to overflowing with a joyous new year and a fruitful harvest.


L'Shana Tova!


Monday, July 31, 2017

Love Tokens


The more I considered the Yizkor candle settings I was creating the more I began to focus on life.  To be honest, I wasn't getting much pleasure out of focusing on death, grief and the initial moments of being torn apart.
There needs to be incorporated, not initially perhaps but down the line, a sweetness of remembrance that evokes the stories of connection - the living part of a relationship that doesn't cease when one side of the bond steps over the boundary of physical existence.

When my father died, even decades later, people would find out that I was his daughter spontaneously tell me their most beloved stories about the life he shared with them.  I searched out his desk after he died and found a whole page of sayings that he had assembled like "An atheist is a man with no invisible means of support." Of course I've updated that one to be somewhat more inclusive but continue to delight in having one in my back pocket.

I have my mother's recipe for Passover popovers, the seeds from a Cinderella pumpkin that my beloved buddy Yoanna brought back to me from a roadside farm stand in New Mexico, the silk robe of my dear friend and mentor Jacob Goldberg, z"l , falling apart after all these years.  Legacies. Stories. Love tokens.

A woman named Wendy Rosen, whose husband died four years ago, told me recently that she's come to the conclusion that what really matters after someone has passed can easily fit into a small box.  I was bewildered at first, but the more I thought of it the more joy it gave me. I started to make a list of the sorts of things of real significance I could fit into a small box.  Here are some of the things I came up with, though each person I have loved would have chachkis included that would be particular to themselves:
  • tickets from a ball game or Broadway musical which we attended together
  • a snippet of fabric from a favorite dress or old tee shirt
  • a favorite recipe
  • some idea or thought written on a paper napkin 
  • a word or phrase from a magical moment that would bring it all back
  • a dried flower from a garden; a seed
  • stories written on a sheet of paper and folded small from those who were compatriots
"one rubber band, a hand full of sand and even a rusty nail" are song lyrics from Bruce Kates about the stuff of stories that he packed up in his valise.

I'd love to hear what you'd add to this list and the story that goes with it.

As you can tell from the top image, I have redesigned the Yizkor candle settings to include a box - a Living Memory Yizkor box.  I changed out the base as well and am making it from aromatic cedar, which in many cultures is identified with the Tree of Life.  With the help of a 1/2" square of plywood wrapped in copper foil it now serves as the lid for the memory box.  I also updated two of the copper backplates to include the word "L'Chayim" - "to Life."





I realized that the added advantage of the plain box with a 4"x5" space is that there is now room for some personalization which couldn't happen on the copper backplate due to the height of the candle.  I'm not thinking of a whole megillah - call it 3 words: "My Beloved David", "Grandma's Memory Box"...    Something simple, like the things inside.  Whatever the phrase, I can write it on the front with a copper ink pen in Celtic style lettering.

I've finally gotten these as well as the Tikkun Olam settings up on my Etsy store: Moresca   Since they work so beautifully on their own, I'm also offering just the lids of the boxes as candle settings. 

I've changed the base of Tikkun settings over to aromatic cedar as well: 



Ritual Well will be having all of the above available in their shop as well. I'll be sending them the updates today.

Love,
Shahna

Monday, July 10, 2017

Children of the Palace

B'nei heichala dichsifin l'mechezei ziv d'z'eir anpin.
Yahon hacha b'hai taka d'vei malka b'gilufin.

"The children of the palace yearn to see the splendor of the microcosmic mirror.
They are gathered here, at this table, in which the King is engraved."

These are the first two lines of a medieval Aramaic mystical poem attributed to Isaac Luria, the Holy Ari.  Bnei Heichala - The Children of the Palace, is chanted at Seudah Shlishit or Shalosh Seudos - the third Sabbath meal that begins in the late afternoon as the sun is setting or just before the sun sets and continues until the stars are visible in the sky and the beginning of Havdalah, the closing ritual of the Sabbath.  It is a way to push the boundaries of the sacred to their outermost edge.  This holy moment within the timeless is the hour of Ra'avah (Resh Alef Vav Hei) - seeing deeply into the dimensions of time and space. The Zohar hails it as not just Ra'avah but Ra'avah D'Ra'avah - a time of seeing to the depths. 

I have translated Z'eir Anpin (the Little Face) of the original Aramaic text as "the microcosmic mirror."  That is how my dear friend and Torah Chaver, Jacob Goldberg z"l, translated it.  Just as an entire room is reflected within the back of a polished silver spoon, so is the feminine nature of divinity a Microcosmic Mirror of the Real.

The image of noble children seated around a table in which the King is engraved waiting anxiously for a vision of splendor, as you might have guessed, has my name on it.

In March of this year I happened upon three solid copper West Bend serving trays from a 1795 farm house estate in New Hampshire being offered for sale. I made an offer.  My offer was accepted.  

The copper on all three had darkened significantly over time, but all are perfectly etch-able once I go in with an enthusiastic effort of elbow grease, which I have applied to platter number one.

See, then, the table in which the King is engraved:


B'nei Heichala Tray- acid-etched copper with ink oxides

14 1/2 " in diameter.  The handles extend to 16 1/8".  Wonderful original wood handles.  Oak, I believe.


The wonderful base I found at a Habitat for Humanity Restore in Alamosa.  Had been the base of a bird bath. Very heavy.  30" high.



The tray itself photographed quite well without its glass covering which protects it during use.



With the glass it is quite beautiful in person but has too much reflectivity for a  good photo.




May that day arrive when we may come together and see each other deeply.




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Healing Hand

Now that I have begun creating hiddur mitzvah - a beautiful object that enlivens ones bonding with divinity - it has been my deep request to be the vehicle for such an object that would address my own need to be a participant in restoring the ripping fabric of this world that we are all witnessing at this moment.  My request was answered on the fourteenth day (Yud Dalet) of the counting of the Omer, just short of two weeks ago. I clearly understood that I was to make a votive candle setting with a hand. 

The words I was to place upon the hand I have known since I was a little child. They come from one of the myriad versions of Henai Ma Tov.  This particular version has a Klezmer feel, is a call and response punctuated with a fast chorus. The words of the chorus are: Ve'al yidai zeh yushpa shefa rav - "by means of this (hand) is caused to flow a great Supernal flowing."  I never knew where those words came from and never saw them written.  Over the years I have tried to find their source with no luck.  Nevertheless, these words sang to me and became the theme of a mezzuzah I created for my own door. That mezzuzah is also inscribed with the Arabic word "shifa" which means "healing." What an elegant confluence of meanings from the same 3-letter root. This instruction for this setting however, precluded the use any Arabic, which frankly left me bewildered about the meaning of this assignment.

It's been a few years since my last search so I gave Google another shot, and this time struck a gusher!  An off-hand reference was made to the source of the words, which I followed to the very end of the counting of the Omer.  I don't know if it is in all siddurim but it was in mine (Siddur Rinat Yisrael, Nusach S'fard):

"...And by means of this (hand) there is caused to flow a Great Supernal Flowing in all the Worlds. To repair the 3 aspects of our human souls: Nefesh (Vital Life Energy), Ruach (The Motivating Spirit), and Neshama (Divine Spark), from all dross and scar and to cleanse us and make us holy by means of Your Supernal Holiness.   Amen, Selah."

"...in all the worlds" - yes, the 4 cosmological worlds of Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah and Asiah, but I'm thinking of the worlds both personal and public, physical and spiritual of politics, emotion, inter-personal relations, bio-sphere, finance, family ... ALL the worlds that need to be washed clean.

"To repair our own Nafshotainu, Ruchotanu and Neshmotainu" from scum and scar so that we can, each of us,  evolve into true humans, reflective of the holiness of which we are made.

Yes, let us rally in front of the offices of our congressmen, join the resistance, but also light a candle for the inner transformation that will make the ultimate difference in the future of the "worlds" and this planet.

Tikkun Olamot - "Restoration of the Worlds":


Available through Ritual Well










Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Life Cycles

Chaim - "Life" is structured in the Hebrew form of a double plural. Just like yadaim - "hands," oznaim - "ears"... (yes, mayim - "water," has the same form).  The single word for LIFE carries an intrinsic implication of two lives.  Does it perhaps imply an internal and external reality?  Does it speak to this life and a life hereafter? These are the thoughts that circulate as I've been working on Yizkor candle settings.

Mishlei (Proverbs) 20:27 speaks of the soul: Ner Havaya Nishmat Adam -"the candle of Havaya is the soul of a human being."  In our tribal tradition, consequently, a candle has come to symbolize a soul. The yahrzeit candle brings the memory of a fragile life to to fore and accompanies that memory with the recognition of the continued life, in whatever form, of that beloved soul.
So, I have begun creating theseYizkor candle settings - a simple concept that provides a place setting for that memory candle with a kind of meditative focus that reinforces life. Made from copper and cedar, they are a small addition to the world of hidur mitzvah - "Beautification of the Connective Tissue between ourselves and the Source of our being. Three etched designs inked in various colors with optional text.  If you get a chance you can check them out at AmericanJudaica.com under Life Cycle - Yahrzeit.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Venus Infusion - decoding

The job description I accept as an artist is:
to be a faithful encoder, expressing the archetypal language that arises from some cellular or inter-cellular space to the best of my understanding.  

The decoding of Venus Infusion has been another matter. 



 I have sought help from many sources I consider to be in tuned to this sort of 
symbolic expression.  Several individuals saw their present "in-the-moment" personal experience depicted along with the individual story that accompanies it.  Karin DiGiacomo was able to give me an extraordinary alchemical summary. I have received some astrological associations.  Poet Morgan Crowley wrote the following:
 I see movement, centering and also shining outward,  communication in the shining out, vital messages. A kind of explosive force, the wild feminine being spoken, yelled, howled out. Un-restraining.

For me this description rings pretty true except for one thing - the "wild feminine."  Hot, dynamic, active, powerful, directive, radiant, commanding even, but not frenzied or out of control. 



Taking a walk with my walking buddy JoAnne K. brought some light to my struggles with the series of the three Venus symbols flanked in the primary orbit  around the central hexagon by bees.


  

JoAnne has always been helpful with references from the epic poem Savitri by Sri Aurobindo.  Somehow much of my work resonates with imagery that comes up in that source, though I am personally unfamiliar with the text.  In this case JoAnne brought up the Triple Soul-Forces met by the heroine Savitri as she traveled with her beloved Satyavan to met the god of death. The soul-forces she identifies with herself, she refers to them as "Madonnas"  and recognizes that each is incomplete in themselves. She promises to return with their missing parts.  They are Compassion without Power, Might without Wisdom and Light without a forward moving Inspiration.  I could feel a bell ring as she described them.

This morning, in the shower, thoughts came flooding in.  I now believe that Venus Infusion is a messianic message, though not in the way you may think. 

As I stood under the shower flow my mind wandered to the number 6 and the hexagon.  In my inner vocabulary, "Life" is 8, as in the eight-fold form of the Breath of the Compassionate. 6, in this case, is a subset of 8.  It is messianic - from the Hebrew mei-si-ach, "the One who causes conversation to flow" - the same 3-letter root as ma-shi-ach with a repositioning of the dagesh from the right to the left (feminine) side over the SHIN.



Venus Infusion is about conversation, communication, the six-sided Holy of Holies; returning the work/worship (AVODAH) to the DIVIR - the spoken word.

Six is the water molecule - fluidity, fluency

Six relates to the conjunction symbols that reside within the outer orbit: the alchemical symbol for conjunction, the Hebrew VAV and the Arabic WAW, both of which equate to the number 6 and express the great and.





Here the bee's waggle dance that points towards the Flower Source leads to the production of bee pollen and honey - delectable nurturance and the sustainability of the community. 

The feminine force is infusing into the conversation - is infusing communication into the conversation. Communion. Community



Compassion with Power, Might with Wisdom and Light with Inspiration.


That is my best shot at decoding the ineffable.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thoughts for the New Year

These are the notes that I prepared for my class exploring aspects of the Hebraic Mystical Tradition.  As the year turns to 5777 at sunset, I'm focused on the implications of shattering as sounded by the shofar during these High Holidays.

Here are some thoughts to root to in times of chaos, trauma and transformation.

Shattering towards Wholeness
Shatteress“With shattering was the world created..” 
 Genesis 1:1 
"Beraishit" using RESH SHIN SHIN as the 3-letter root

The letter cHET derives from the root cHET TAF TAF = terror, shatter, dismay

Each level of transformation begins from an initial point of “shocking the vessel” into a state of pulsation. 


Excerpt from The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra:

Non-equilibrium: Tektology, the science of structure
“(Alexander Bogdanov) emphasizes in particular that the tension between 
crisis and transformation is central to the formation of complex systems.”

Page 191:
“A bifurcation point is a threshold of stability at which the dissipative structure may either break down or break through. At the bifurcation point, the dissipative structure … shows an extraordinary sensitivity to small fluctuations in its environment. A tiny, random fluctuation, often called 'noise,' can induce the choice of path.”

Cognition – The Process of Life
“(Gregory) Bateson thought that in order to describe nature accurately one should try to speak nature's language, which, he insisted, is a language of relationships. Relationships are the essence of the living world.”





The Hebrew letter tzadi is the 18th letter of the Alef-Bet - 18 representing "life." Tzadi means "hunt" as in "hunting for fallen sparks." 

“Tzadik” refers to a person who walks in balance, having a mobile fulcrum which adjusts authentically to the demands of the moment. This balance evolves, not out of identity with virtue, but rather, through the integration of chaos. It is this redemptive processing of the murky, personal underworld which empowers tzadikim to raise the fallen sparks of consciousness to the benefit of all humanity. 


Akeidat Yitzhak 14:
No one is wise in Torah but the master of traumatic experience.
Wisdom is a function of becoming adept at integrating traumatic experience.


Nachson ben Aminadav was the guy who saw the Egyptians in hot pursuit of the fleeing Hebrew slaves and made the choice based on inner direction to “plunge” feet first into the Red Sea up to his nose – whereupon the sea parted. Nachson was a descendent of Judah and Tamar and the forebear of Boaz in the line-up to David - all players in the messy stories of shattering that, when internalize, symbolically lead us toward the unfolding of our own redemption.


Pashtus: Acting out of appropriate unreasonableness

Pashtus is the path of simple, direct and unsubstantiatable clarity.

It is for each person to perceive and follow their own pashtus, as it is entirely personized and precise. Pashtus requires you to listen and act upon the promptings of the internal voice of direction - the “Voice of the Silent Moment“– Kol Dimama Dakah. 

The Rav (Tzvi Kahana) called this a dangerous path. Our minds contrive grandiose plans and desires to confound the Voice. The Powers-that-be are threatened when they have no jurisdiction over those who acknowledge the authority of their own choices.

Buckminster Fuller said in his Critical Path:

“I am convinced that human continuance depends entirely upon: the intuitive wisdom of each and every individual  . . the individual's integrity of speaking and acting only on the individual's own within-self-intuited and reasoned initiative . . . the individual's never joining action with others as motivated only by crowd-engendered-emotionalism, or a sense of the crowd's power to overwhelm, or in fear of holding to the course indicated by one's own intellectual convictions.”

Essentially, pashtus is the personal expression of Divine Authenticity within each moment.



The Colors of Sound of the Shofar Blast by Jennifer Jones

Sounding the Shofar


Tekiah: “blast,” one long blast with a clear tone

Shevarim: “shattering,” sighing sound of three short calls

Teruah: “alarm,” a rapid series of nine or more very short notes

Tekiah Gedolah: “The Great Tekiah,” a single unbroken blast, held as long as possible



Other Notes:

If you'd be interesting in participating in a once-a-month online class via Skype let me know and I'll see about setting one up.


I'm participating in the annual Crestone Artists Open Studio Tour tthis weekend,October 8th and 9th from noon to 5pm both days.  Would love to see you If you can make it. Here's the link for more info: http://www.crestoneartists.com/crestone-studio-tour-2016.html

With a call ahead of time, if I'm here, my studio is almost always open for a visit throughout the year.


L'Shana Tova!