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Hebrew Workshops

— Learning Hebrew Calligraphy

Today’s calligrapher wishing to learn Hebrew calligraphy encounters a wide array of styles from which to choose: the manuscript tradition, contemporary variations of these styles, and ‘purely’ modern designs. Formal manuscript styles from the Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions are most familiar and perhaps define Hebrew calligraphy for many; however, their sophistication offers more frustration than foundation for beginners. Fortunately, these styles represent only a sliver of the spectrum of Hebrew script and calligraphy (see Publications section of website). To help guide students into this fascinating world of form I have designed two attractive, straightforward alphabets which allow students to concentrate on basic elements including: letter structure, stroke motif and stroke juncture, the unique letter-to-line relationship and spacing. To cultivate vitality of letterform we will engage in guided exercises for developing our tactile and kinesthetic senses in relation to pen, ink and paper. If there is interest I will demonstrate special techniques for creating more sophisticated historic and contemporary styles. Finally, we will write a text, focusing on spacing between letters, words and lines. Brief slide presentations will place the Hebrew letter in its historic, cultural and religious context and offer examples of its usage in the traditional Jewish marriage document, the ketubah.

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(Hebrew letter forms with their Hebrew names will be sent to students prior to class. You don’t need to know Hebrew, but you do need to become acquainted with letter names.)

II — The Ketubah

In this class we will explore the design legacy of the centuries-old Jewish marriage contract known as the ketubah. This document, in a single-sheet format, will be viewed as both an artistic expression and an artifact; it was created historically within a rich global array of cultural contexts including the aesthetic, social and religious. A few decades ago the ketubah was rescued from artistic oblivion — it had become a standardized, printed form — when contemporary calligraphers recognized its potential for integrating text and decoration into a unique and meaningful work of art.

This class is also open to students who wish to explore decorated marriage vows without Hebrew, and to those who wish to work with the design of the long text, accompanied by decoration, in a single-sheet format. Creating a long text affords the calligrapher time, in both rough and finished steps, to write extensively, to concentrate upon rhythmical movement and stroke gesture. I hope in this workshop to stimulate thought/creativity regarding the meaning and potential of the ketubah, specifically, and long texts in general, for contemporary life and self-expression.

(Further details happily provided upon request.)

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