Eva Strauss-Rosen, born 1948 in Copenhagen, Denmark and
emigrated to Israel in 1968. She attended Kunstskolen Holbæk,
Denmark ( Ceramics/ Fiber Art 1965-66). She studied with Raymond
King in Denmark and Israel ( Figure drawing/ Painting 1967-73).
She studied at Avni Institute of Fine Art, Tel Aviv ( Figure drawing/
Painting 1977-78), and at Bezalel's Jewelry Department in Jerusalem
( Basic Jewelry technique 1978-79). She studied with David Kopievker
in Jerusalem ( Diamond Setting 1979-80). Eva created designs and
models for Hannah Eliav Jewelry at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem
(1980-84). Presently Eva lives in Willits, California, where she
has maintained a studio since 1984.
Festival of Jewish Artisans, Temple Isaiah: Booth and with my Family.
Reflections from the small town of Willits in Northern California. Here I have maintained a studio since arriving from Jerusalem in 1984. My mind is always occupied with the artistic transforming properties of three dimensional materials. For the past eighteen years it has been jewelry, but it could as well have been any other material or art form.
My journey has been an unbroken thread from Copenhagen to Jerusalem and now Willits. Denmark stimulated my mind's eye with its extremely well designed and orderly world. The journey to Jerusalem was an exploration into the roots of my being. Here was a challenge to find order (some sort of) in this diverse and incomprehensible setting. It was instinctive that it all connected here, but it wasn't obvious. The search was on!
I attended Machon Avni, art school in Tel Aviv. I still remember and work by the principles of my drawing teacher. He could spot your straying thoughts in a minute, and could detect when you were performing at less than the best you were capable of. Other excellent teachers have sharpened my skills, when I needed to brush away stray judgments and thoughts about shortcuts when following the creative path. I am only interested in striving for the best. It can be quite frustrating and maddening to be true to what you choose to do when everyday life comes along and interferes.
How did I become a jeweler? I think that it was the little capitalist deep inside me that was pleased to work with precious materials. I remember with satisfaction the day I sold a piece of jewelry, for more than triple the amount of its material value. The value was in the idea and shape that I had given the material! Though continuing to work in gold and silver I had a secret attraction to make something of great worth out of material that was worthless before it reached my hands, such as drift wood or found objects.
I don't recollect while living in Israel any specific wish to make Judaica. The word as such didn't have much meaning to me at that time. I was surrounded by it, carefully studying intricate details on silver objects in window displays as well as museums. Here was something very different from the modern Danish silver smith tradition. Objects were filled with intricate designs and meaning whose beauty grew with age and use. Wear and tear was an enhancing dimension.
The first piece of Judaica I created was a hamsa hand. It makes me laugh when I think back on how it was done. Sometime before, I had come to the conclusion that I could do this, though the how was not too clear. The material and tools for the hamsa pendant were bees wax, a pocket knife and a small screwdriver. I used a candle to heat the tools and thereby apply my will to the wax! At that time the casting was done by a local casting house. I did the polishing with a brush wheel inserting into my table saw. More pieces followed in rapid succession. With these in hand I received a government grant to study basic jewelry technique at Bezalel's Jewelry department in Jerusalem. After I left school in 1979 I worked as an independent designer and created wax models for jewelry. I must have had at least five thousand hours of wax work behind me.
Moving to Willits in 1984 was interesting to say the least. To live in the woods of Northern California was a far cry from my dreams of endless hours of creativity interspersed with pulling fish out of the pregnant rivers. Here was my first conscious choice to make Judaica, inspired by other local Judaica artists (at the time of this writing there are five of us here). There are great opportunities to travel from coast to coast and participate in Judaica shows. Making a living from my work was important in the sense that I could spend my time on what I liked to do.
My interest in Hebrew texts, Torah and commentary was an attempt to connect with my Hebrew heritage. The connection was very tenuous, and it was a lonely and arduous journey for many years. It was a calculated guess: If the Jews had survived for so many millennia, then...... what was the answer? It soon became apparent that the only language for study was Hebrew. I also have an intense love of nature and my first Judaica pieces were scenes of Jerusalem, the Judean hills and trees in any shape and form. I became immersed in finding information about the "Tree of Life," which led to the Kabbalah and thoughts about the creative process. "The thought of creation was and is the seed of the Tree of Life." Creating jewelry with the lost wax process was not difficult, but the Hebrew letters were impossible to carve with any degree of accuracy. It took many years before I found a technique that enabled me to render them in silver. It was a delight to work with the Hebrew alphabet. I could now combine inscriptions with the wax technique. The Hebrew amulets started as an inspiration from the works of other Judaica artists. I was fascinated with the visual image of them and later became more knowledgeable about the significance of the amulets. I must emphasize that I am but an artist following the guidelines as was laid down by the Mecubalim (a person who is learned in the mystic doctrine conserving G-d and the universe). During my last visit to Israel I was able to gather a vast amount of information about Hebrew amulets. It is not my place to make personalized amulets, but rather redesign amulets with general protective inscriptions that have been used for centuries.
I could never have guessed how long and amazing the journey would been from the first hamsa hand to hamsa.com! It started with an undefined dream and a shoe box of tools. They didn't even cover the bottom of the box! Now I have a well equipped workshop, casting equipment, reference books enough for a long life and an "electronic command center"( Mac) that was unthinkable just ten years ago. Besides doing Judaica shows and wholesale, my web site www.hamsa.com has become a powerful tool. Here all my work is displayed in color with lots of relevant information. The internet have become a wonderful source of information and contact with other artists. Who knows, maybe I will move further out in the woods, study Kabbalah, be creative and have time to listen to nature.
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