May 17th, 2013
Last Sunday I participated in an event that was totally against character for me. I spoke in public, telling a fairly personal story about my life. The event was called Herstory and it involved a bunch of women entrepreneurs speaking about a part of their lives in a ‘I used to… and now I….’ format. I agreed to do it because I was afraid to. One of the reasons I like my job is the oodles of alone time I get to spend. To say I’m an introvert is, well totally true. Speaking in public is not necessarily something I fear intensely, but certainly not something on my life list. I would simply prefer not to in general. Marianne, who runs the program, asked me to participate right after my birthday and I had been thinking about pushing outside of my comfort zone right then. So she caught me at exactly the right time and I agreed to do it.
I have to say there was a lot of support getting to the podium. Marianne arranged a bunch of phone and in person meetings where all the participants could hash out ideas and get them in order. It started with making long lists of ‘I used to and now I’s and them whittled from there. About a dozen women participated and we all told each other our stories. It was kind of amazing what started to come up. I started the project thinking I didn’t have much to tell. I’ve had the odd adventure or two, but between feeling like there was an awful lot I wanted to keep private and feeling like maybe if I did not have a triumphal message to relate, I wasn’t sure what I was going to tell.
After a bit of meandering I realized that the story I wanted to tell WAS about meandering! I have had a lot of different jobs throughout my career and lived in a lot of places. After landing in a place where I could no longer hop away when the going got tough, I finally had to face some demons. And while the odd demon pops up on a pretty regular basis, I can honestly say I am at least in place where I am ready to face it down rather than pack my bags and find another new beginning.
So that was the story I told, in a nutshell. I practiced a lot to feel comfortable speaking in front of an audience. I have to admit I was a bit nervous as my turn approached, but when I got up there, I felt alright. Not awesome, but good enough. There’s that line from the Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall- I’ll know my song well before I start singing. I was thinking of that, to a less epic extent.
I wasn’t surprised I got through it ok, but what surprised me was how many women came up to me afterwards and told me that their stories were very similar and they could totally relate. That was super cool, finding out how not alone I am in this.
May 2nd, 2013
I have been thinking about control and letting go and the flow between the two. This week I am working on a new ketubah design and the process can be a dance between reigning in and releasing. It reminds me of something I struggled with recently.
Years ago I watched Martha Stewart decorate a Barbie birthday cake on her show. She had a little girl there to help her and they each had their own cakes to decorate. I watched Martha hover and micromanage the child as she exuberantly threw handfuls of sprinkles on her cake, ignoring the tasteful restraint Martha was trying to impose. Let me just say, I laughed.
And let me just say also, that that laugh came back to bite me in the butt.
Mena had her 5th birthday party a week or so ago- flower theme, flower cake requested. I almost bought a shaped cake pan but decided I didn’t want to own it after the event, so I used Illustrator to figure out the pattern I needed to turn a 9″ cake into 5 petals. Email me if you want the pattern. I used this canned colored frosting that I swear glows in the dark. Mena of course was so excited but the frosting part proved to be too tedious for her. I gave her the sprinkles and thought I’d let her go to town.
What emerged from some dark place in my psyche was the ghost of Martha Stewart.
I had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands as I watched my delighted 5 year old throw caution to the wind and toss handfuls of the stuff willy-nilly over the surface of my beautifully frosted cake. I know. This is crazy. It’s her cake and it’s being presented to a bunch of sugar-crazed five year olds. Still I had to admit the control freak I had laughed at was rising in me. Ouch. Hello deep dark truthful mirror- where’ve you been?
Flower Birthday cake
April 29th, 2013
Sometimes it’s the littlest things. Even though I keep up a pretty good practice of drawing and painting as a ketubah artist, I never feel like I have given my craft its due focus. Of course, in my pre-mom life I could stay up ’til all hours and sleep waaay in if I so desired (and I often did so desire), nowadays I have a fairly rigorous non-creative schedule to keep to. Between preschool drop off and pick up and household-y errands, I have a few hours to get ketubah biz done and that might be the work day until tomorrow. Creativity can often get lost in the day to day-ness of life and before you know it the thing you love, the thing that brings you such joy is withering on the vine.
Around the new year (I know, that’s a long time ago) I vowed to get back to drawing for reals. Though there was nothing stopping me from leaving my cozy house in the evening and getting to a class, I simply did not go. I continued to announce my intention of going each week and then would faithfully not go each week. At least I was consistent in my failure.
Until finally I did go. I made a date with a girlfriend (and granted the first attempt ended up with us getting cocktails around the corner, but eventually we did get our butts there) and I got the old tools out of the shed and started drawing again. For real.
I can go on and on and quite rhapsodically about the rhythms of the hand and the eye and the constant inner mantra of ‘is it true?, is it true?’ that happens when you get in the zone. It roots me in the world like nothing else and why the heck has it taken me so long to get back home?
lady drawing- by rachel deitsch
April 19th, 2013
This week has been busy. Had my bff Jeri in town. We ran all over the place. Then it was Mena’s 5th birthday party involved her entire class- mostly girls. [There was a bouncy castle, pink of course, a flower shaped cake, shrinky dink necklaces (flower shaped as well) and a pinata. 25 kids.] And this weekend we go camping as a family for the first time ever.
But I wanted to share this at least. I was at the post office, loading up on stamps for thank you cards, and I bought a few sheets of these-
USPS Modern Art postage stamps
Gorgeous, right? I bought some to use and a sheet to save. I am not a stamp collector per se, but really lovely ones feel like tiny pieces of art and I do tend to hoard them. Acquiring these reminded me of a bit of long ago history of my own career. Believe it or not, I too have designed postage stamp art. I dug them up and present them to you forthwith:
I did these back in 1996, the year of the Jerusalem 3000 anniversary celebration. It was a few years before I moved there (that was 2000 and I stayed 2 years) but I’d lived there and visited before and knew the city pretty well. I loved the building all piled one on top of the other into the hillsides of the city, the ancient stone gates, the intense colors the light there engenders. I haven’t specifically depicted Jerusalem in any of my ketubah work yet- some private commissions I think had some of this imagery- but I am looking at this work and thinking… Might be time to revisit this?
Postage Stamp Art by Rachel Deitsch, circa 1996
- Postage Stamps of Jerusalem Scenes by Rachel Deitsch circa 1996
- Collector’s Stamp of Jerusalam 300 Celebration, 1996. Artwork by ketubah artist Rachel Deitsch
April 12th, 2013
Cecil and Rachel- immortalized in wire
One day, when we know each other much better and I am perhaps a little drunk, I will show you my own ketubah. It’s a total shoemaker’s kids going barefoot situation. It’s what happens when you are up too many nights in a row preparing in a panic for your wedding that you are planning yourself. When you’ve lost the original sketch for the design and go way off the deep end with tendrils and details. When you just have zero perspective. Five years later it’s still too soon.
But this is a story I like- how Cecil and I met:
It was a dark and foggy night- no, seriously it was. I was at my studio late and realized I had better get some food now or else that was it for the night. The complex has a bar/restaurant that stops serving at 9 so out across the parking lot I went. Lit by the street lamp, someone approached from the opposite end of the parking lot. I noted the long legs and the loping stride. I might even have said hmm to myself. At the bar we both ordered and started chatting. The Brewery, where I worked, is like a small village. It’s very intimate and generally pretty friendly. Our initial conversation was not particularly memorable except we were both grinning like fools. It was two days before Thanksgiving and I was experimenting with the traditional meal. I was hosting an open house/buffet with a friend instead of sitting down to eat. (it was a nice party, but I never repeated it). I invited this handsome stranger to stop by if he was in the neighborhood and gave him my number and address.
I didn’t really expect him to show up, but he did. And he closed the party down. He told me later that as soon as he walked into my place he felt like he lived there and should be playing the role of host. It flipped him out so much he hunkered in a corner for a bit. I remember walking through a room and him reaching out and pulling me onto his lap. There was so much familiarity already I stayed.
Two days later he sent me an email describing a dream he’d had. He was doing a graphic design layout on an invitation and it was our two names- Deitsch and Schmidt. Neither of us noticed it before, but in him dream he realized that the last three letters of my name are the first three of his- Deitschmidt! Now, aside from the cool coincidence, that was quite a risk, telling a dream after a first date that was essentially a prediction of our wedding invitation. That pretty much broke all the rules of cool detachment in protecting your tender underbelly in early relationship wisdom. It was so open and charming, I was a goner right then and there.
And of course that was our wedding invitation.
April 10th, 2013
I get asked on a pretty regular basis if I do same sex ketubahs. The answer is- of course, with pleasure! I have been making them since I hung my shingle, over 10 years ago. It’s about love and commitment and families and for me that’s enough. I honestly don’t see the argument that someone else’s marriage could affect my marriage in any way. Howcould adding to the sum total of happiness in the world damage us?
E. E. Cummings (1894 – 1962)
Humanity I Love You
Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard
Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps
you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house
Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity
i hate you
April 7th, 2013
- Larchmont Temple rededication artwork- Rachel Deitsch
I had forgotten about this. Back in my NY days, when I was just starting out as a ketubah artist, I got a really cool commission. I can’t remember how they found me, but I do remember some really nice women from the Larchmont, NY Temple hired me to create a fairly large painting for their synagogue’s anniversary. They had a quote they wanted to use and after that they let me run wild. You can see it’s reminiscent of the Beloved design in that is incorporates an abstracted menorah and uses the quote as a background framework. It also has shades of this ketubah, Traditions. At the time I was also still making steel furniture, and was using text as a construction element. (This piece below is from a gazillion years ago, but got a nice amount of attention in the design press at the time. That was cool.) Anyway.
I like the colors on this one and am less crazy about the heavy-handed bottom strip. It’s nice to look at old work and have a little more perspective. There are many thing I look at and cringe, so it’s refreshing when I can see with fresh eyes and appreciate that I haven’t been just sitting around eating bonbons for the past 40-mumble years.
Makes me kind of want to get that old welding mask out of the garage though…
Poetica Screen by Rachel Deitsch, from about a million years ago. I still love it.
April 5th, 2013
My daughter is in her second and final year of preschool at B’nai Simcha in Arcadia. This year she is in the Coyote class, which jibes with the slightly feral nature of 4-5 year olds. She’s lucked into a really nice group of kids, mostly girls. Last year she was a Dinosaur- no idea about that name’s origin, and there are two younger classes, the Frogs and the Poohs. I am puzzled at calling the non-potty-trained wee ones Poohs, but I think it’s more about Winnie. It’s a very sweet school and we are happy to drive the 40 miles a day required between drop-off and pick-up.
For some reason I cannot understand, I was elected to the school board this year as a member at large. Basically it means I can pick and choose what I contribute and that always means art and design work. I am most comfortable behind my desk and will do any amount of layout and drawing to avoid making calls for donations or whatever else the really productive members of the board do.
In February the school had their annual fundraising event and made it a wine-tasting/silent auction party at a private home. It was called Wine without Whine, meaning leave the kids at home and get shnockered. Awesome. I jumped in to do the invite and I thought I’d share the evolution of the design here.
Since it was wine tasting, I thought I’d emphasize that. ‘Mommies love wine’ is a cliche for a reason. Wine bottles and glasses are beautiful objects, so I started there. First I played around in Illustrator, drawing glass and bottle shapes, fiddling with transparencies. I ended up with something that felt too seventies in palette and line.
So I went another route. I grabbed my paintbrush and made very quick one stroke paintings of bottles. I did about 20 of them to end up with 5 I liked then scanned them in. I also used a wine glass to create a ‘stain’ letter O that I scanned in as well.
Then I moved over to Photoshop and played with a few versions before I got what I wanted.
This version was close but didn’t hang together. It got kind of a meh response which told me to push further.I went further after getting merely ok responses until I hit on the layout that gave me that ‘aha’ feeling and raves from the committee. At last! I printed the invitations up with the same awesome printer I use for ketubahs and art prints on some heavy textured paper and the result was a nice, substantial-feeling invitation.
The evening was really lovely. I had donated some prints which set off a very gratifying bidding war, and we drunkenly bought a bike for Mena. We had some laughs with the other parents, mostly at the expense of our kids, and did some good for the school.
April 1st, 2013
It’s the wee hours back here in Mayberry. We returned yesterday from Miami Beach and still wrapped in cozy memories of all the cousins, sister and grandparent time we’ve had. While I was there I revisited one of my first ketubahs and thought I would share the romantic story of its owners with you.
My sister lives in Miami now after years in Brooklyn. It didn’t occur to me until we were down there that in a way she’s come full circle, living there. H has been married for 17 years to the love of her life, Z. I have always been happy to say I was there at the beginning. It started this way:
In the winter of 1994 I was living in NYC with two of my sisters in an apartment on the west side of Manhattan. H was in college still but didn’t care for her dorm and stayed on our couch so often that she eventually just migrated there permanently. When I noticed one day that all of her things were piled in our living room she casually mentioned that yes, she’d moved in with us. Oh. She was and is lovely company so it just made the place happier and we were glad to have her. That winter was snowy and cold and we’d had enough so we got ourselves a drive-away car- it’s a deal where you drive someone else’s car to where they need it. It was a cheap way to get down to Miami, where our grandparents stayed for the winter and were willing to put us up for a few days. There was the sketchy car owner and his creepy admonishments not to look in the trunk and adventures along the way and we arrived five days later tired, not terribly clean and looking for some fun. My grandmother insisted on covering the bed with a towel before allowing us to nap on it, we were so gross. The one sister who drove with us got right on a plane back to NY, leaving me and H to entertain ourselves. We borrowed our grandfathers car and trolled the strip to look around. We had not gotten too far when H said- I know that guy! It was a cute boy with bright red hair I’d never seen before. It turned out he was the brother of one of her high school friends and coincidentally was there with someone I knew from childhood. Small world! We stopped and chatted and ended up at Wolfies, a Miami Beach institution where Lou and I caught up and talked and H and the boy sat mutely staring at each other. What was wrong with her? I barely noticed, even when we continued with the boys to the beach and the two of them lagged behind. It wasn’t until we were back home in NY that it finally dawned on me that this boy was special and something had happened that night. They were instantly a couple and H was crazy in love (still is).
H is the 4th sister of our 5 but was the first to marry and about a year after that night she did. Both families are enormous and the wedding was packed with relatives. It was a huge and delirious and exciting event and we partied to the wee hours. I had just begun to play with creating ketubahs and I put special care into making hers. The design references the old city of Jerusalem, where both had spent time, and is hand painted and meticulously detailed. What I like about it and why it’s so resonant with me even after all these years is that it has a very loose, lively bright painting as a base and then has an intricate, highly detailed overlying structure. I wish I could say I intended that metaphor all along, but that wouldn’t be true.
This week as I looked at the framed ketubah on the living room wall of her beautiful home in Miami, it occurred to me that it’s a true reflection of her life as she’s built it in the years since I painted it. Energetic, bright and colorful, with a structure and pulls it all together beautifully. She’s my little sister but in so many ways has been a mentor and model for me my whole adult life.
my sister’s ketubah
March 25th, 2013
I have referred to our neighborhood as Mayberry before and that is certainly true- of an evening we are out front, kids running from yard to yard or zipping by on their bikes and scooters. Being a former New York apartment dweller, I didn’t think this sort of street existed except on tv. The twist to the Mayberry model here is that while the openness and neighborliness of the street definitely harks back to fifties America, the specific neighbors we’ve lucked into are waaay cooler. As sheer dumb luck would have it, we ended up right smack in the middle of a community of artists, writers and scientists and just generally awesome folk.
I’ve been looking around my house lately, appreciating what a damned pleasant place it is to live in, and I’d like to start sharing a few salient features. In regards to both nice neighbors and our pleasant home, I’d like to present one of the prized features of the house- our in-progress Dave Muller mural. Dave is our next door neighbor. He’s a lovely, modest, generous man with an equally fabulous wife, Ann, an artist and writer, and two delightful daughters who are worshiped as minor deities by my own daughter. This image derives from a larger mural Dave painted in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Here’s an interview the NY Times
did with him about that. The image is called ‘Another Green World’, from a Brian Eno album. Dave often uses music and record albums as inspiration for his work. In case it’s not clear, the painting is an orb of clover. There are lots of different greens in it and every once in a while, Dave will come by with a cup of green paint and fill in a little more of the globe. I love the teeming mass of green and the humor and serenity of this painting. I kind of hope it never really gets finished.
In the corner above the window is a little stuffed bird and actual nest we installed there about four years ago. I made a bunch of the birds intending to make a mobile over Mena’s crib and never got around to assembling it.
another green world by Dave Muller- Deitschmidt house dining room