Sunday, December 14, 2014


Another gorgeous sunny day. Shoshi had arranged for us to go on a tour with the Israeli Designer Craftsmen's Association, we had a quick look on the internet at the artists, but nothing prepared me for what I was going to see this day.

Julia, whose quilts are stunning,  and we had several in Ailsa Craig, met us, and we went to the Bus station together. We were not hard to miss, a group of thirty women or so, which soon swelled to fifty, all chattering excitedly, and waiting to board our bus. On we climbed and settled in for the journey to our first stop which was in Ramla.  I was delighted to see Orna again as she was one of the organizers of this trip. I had been introduced to several people and I met one of the quilters who had been one of Nava's students, her work was quite lovely and I was able to tell her how much I liked it, she was delighted.

So, there we are just about arriving in Ramla which is an Arab town, some of the architecture was quite lovely, and the bus wound its way down some very narrow streets, finally ending up in a sort of parking lot, where we all disembarked, and our host at the first stop, was waiting to meet us. I'm glad I wasn't driving the bus, as I really wouldn't have wanted to turn it around!!

Anyway, I'm rambling. The first artist we were going to meet was Nihad Dabeet who is a wire sculptor.

I loved the street signs and you can see the buildings are quite old 

Nihad welcomed us and expressed delight that he was hosting 50 women!!!! He was charming, very unassuming. Shoshi and I stood at the back of the crowd, and she translated for me. We then took a short walk down a couple of small streets and arrived at his home and studio.

I have no idea how old it was but it was fascinating to walk through this doorway which led into an area where I could smell coffee!

We then moved through another doorway and found seats had been put out for us in a courtyard covered with an awning and surrounded by four walls with doorways leading to different rooms. If I remember rightly, I think there had been five families who lived here all together, and Nihad has slowly taken the whole place over renovating as he goes. As you can see, the building is very old, and there were some carvings over one of the doorways, but not sure I could tell you what century they were from.

He was so interesting to listen to, (although I was having it translated, learning Hebrew is on my to do list.) He explained that his mother had died at the age of 30 in 1977, and the sculpture outside the front entrance was a celebration of his mother, the stone inside represents her womb. Nihad went on to tell us that he was sent to boarding school, and was in fact the first Arab to go to Art School in Tel Aviv. He won a scholarship to study in Bulgaria, and then trained in Greece. 

He used to work with salvaged wire, but now he buys it all, and sprays it to rust it.

The dolphins were lovely and had such grace and movement, I just wanted to reach out and touch them

I loved this figure which sat propped up against the wall, his sculptures of the female form were very celebratory 

The small olive tree pieces were exquisite, he cut each leaf out individually and patinates them.

I went into his workshop area, just because I am very nosy, but is was fascinating!

He was kind enough to answer questions and generous with his time, we eventually all filed out and helped ourselves to coffee and a cookie and then headed back to the bus which was waiting for us.

I have to tell you that I found this a real eye opener, my fellow travelling companions were quilters, artists, mixed media artists etc., having this sort of access to all forms of art was exciting, and we had only done the first stop! I was eager to see what else the day was going to offer.

Once back on the bus, we headed to Rehovot, which wasn't too far away. This time we were going to visit a potter. We got to Rehovot, negotiated some back streets and the bus came to a stop, we disembarked and followed the others to........ a bunker. One thing you have to know about Israel is that there is a bunker on every street corner, you have a limited amount of time to get somewhere if under threat, so there they are. I have to say that half the time you don't even notice them, but you had better know where they are.

We headed through the door and down the stairs....

and straight into a potters studio. This time our host was Simcha Even-Chen.  She had retired from the University, and now worked as a potter full time. She rents the bunker and it is used, such as this past summer when there was a spot of trouble, people just head on down there until the all clear. The walls are lined with her wares and her materials, and it was interesting to hear how she works as they are quite amazing pieces.

These were some of her earlier pieces which look Raku fired, and she had a technique of wrapping the pieces to give them this pinky tone

Simcha talking to some of her guests

I really loved these pieces which were a study in balance, I don't know how she managed to not have the collapse on her in the kiln. They really were very beautiful.

Again, she was generous, as they all were with her time and knowledge, and answered our questions, I picked up a lovely catalogue of her work. Again, there were drinks and cookies for our consumption. 

If you think were not taking all this stuff in, and moving on quickly to the next spot, I can assure you that we all had to be dragged away as we had to get to the next studio! But, a pit stop was needed so I joined the queue for the bathroom as we were about to exit the bunker.

Ah, that's better, right now, where are we going next? Oh yes, the Dan Dikov Gallery. We had been join at this point by Rahelli Rogell. A very bright, funny sparky lady who had a wonderful sense of humour. Shoshi told her that Moshe had been my guide for a couple of days and she nearly swooned, she told me he was hers, (I hasten to add that she is married, it's just that Moshe has an excellent reputation as a guide, that if you don't take a tour with him you really are missing out.) She passed around some of her work for us to look at, beautiful small quilts, 8x10 inches, all of which told a story, but included small dolls from Guatemala, beads and buttons. I have to admit that I took not one photograph of her beautiful work, but will try and get a couple from her if I can.

We again disembarked the bus and entered the gallery.  

This time we were going to be seeing the Hidden Stitch exhibit. It was a small building but very light and airy. I have to tell you that the show was quite a feast for the senses, and I was busy with my phone taking pictures, (I hadn't yet got round to getting a camera, and we had planned to go out that evening to the Mall to sort that out.) The curator, Ora Kraus, came out and gave a short talk of welcome, and explained that five of the artists would be available to give a short talk on their work and answer any questions we might have. 

Prior to this, we had walked around the gallery and looked at the work all of which was just enough to send me over the moon, where do they get their inspiration? What drives them to create these pieces? I couldn't get over the work, it was wonderful - and I know I say that a lot, but it truly is. Anyway, there was Anat Negev who talked about her ceramic works which were very interesting, Dalia Barkey who had two interesting books you could flip through which featured works with pulled threads, and another artist whose name escapes me, but the artists who both excited me and kept drawing me back to look at their work again and again, were both men, Miki Ohana and Amnon Lipkin. So what? Men have painted for centuries, yes but how many work with embroidery hand or machine? Yes I know there are some that are well known, but this isn't somewhere I would expect to see work like this. 

The first to talk to us was Miki Ohana, a very quiet unassuming man who told us that this was the first time he had ever been asked to talk about it, so he was quite nervous.

I had a quick chat with him afterwards and told him that I was really excited by his work for which he thanked me, and signed my catalogue for me. He works I think with just an outline, and then just uses the machine to do the work, wonderful studies. I also loved the way that the pieces were just clipped on a line, nothing was backed, no batting or bindings, I love the freedom of the work, and I try and free mine when I make a piece as I don't want it to be bound and tied within a boundary. I was working on a piece the other day and stupidly put batting into it. Why? It would have been better with ought and I will now have to paint the edge to get rid of the batting, I think I am am going to pin some of these photos to my wall to remind myself that I can do as I please - to a point.

The other artist was Amnon Lipkin. Again, I wasn't expecting to see such amazing work from a man, the way it was done, the finishing treatment and the composition just took my breath away. Amnon explained that he had been a mathematician but now devoted his time to embroidery. In fact, Shoshi and I had seen him the day before in Nahalat Binyamin where he was sitting on the street working away on his sewing machine at a cityscape, I really wish now that I had asked him how much the piece he was working on as I really loved his work.

This piece was fascinating, a mathematical equation, hand stitched incredible work. He gave an interesting talk and at the end, came into another room as I had asked a couple of questions of him before he was about to give his  overview, so there were Shoshi and I. He explained that he wasn't sure how much time he would have, but he had brought  some samples of his work to show. Well! We were the only ones who got to see them! These are exquisitely beautiful pieces and he very kindly allowed me to photograph them and told me that he has no plan, just sits and stitches. Really? I wish.....

It was so exciting to see this work and to have an explanation from the artist himself. He gave Shoshi his address and phone number as we would be very welcome to visit his studio....

to be continued............

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