experience Judaica design with your eyes and your touch

Our friend, Avichay shelley, came over for a visit. when he reached his hand to the doorpost to kiss the Mezuzah he said, surprised: “What’s that beautiful thing?” and asked us to pack some mezuzahs, one for each door in his newly redecorated apartment.

This was a ceramic mezuzah,  inspired  by origami, an item from our Judaica-for-design-lovers series, it was one of the most special  and exciting feedbacks  we recieved in more than 10 years we design modern  Judaica. Avichay shelly, talks regularly about his life story and about believing  in willpower. He works in the financial market, did his IDF service in the intelligence  division (Modiin)  and is a former winner of the International  Bible contest. During Hanukkah, a holiday of awareness of blind people,  he is especially busy and a sought-after speaker. He travels throughout

Israel riding trains, visiting schools, working places and prisons.

The story of the Mezuzah  design  and Avichay made us to stop for a moment  and think, who are we designing  for and what senses  are we aiming for? This story highlights the idea that design can be perceived  by all of our senses.

This is interesting, when we talk about designing products for people with special  needs or handicapped  people we tend to think about useful and technical  aids, which  aren’t necessarily  refined or beautiful.  This story poses the question -How can one design a product that causes aesthetic pleasure to everyone,  even to people who can’t see, or to people who can ‘see differently’, as Avichay proclaims.

Another artist who is very busy this time of the year is PatriciaO’Donovan,  a puppeteer  who presents  a one-woman  show “A Touch of Light”, based on Louis Braille’s  life. Braille lost his sight when he was three years old and invented the Braille writing system. We had met her in a special day for school kids, which included her one-woman show and our presentation about our Menorah design. We had a pleasant conversation and shared experiences while Patricia ended hershow and we were getting organized for our workshop.

Zelig segal is a great  artist and inspiring  silversmith  who designs  contemporary Judaica. He has designed some exemplary Menorahs, but in this context we remember his work “To Touch

Zelig Segal - 'to touch the light'

‘Zelig Segal – ‘to touch the light

the Light” as providing a

direct artistic experience for people who can not see. Segal wrote:

(This statement is a transcript from the artist’s statement at The Adi Foundation’s website. Segal’s work of art has won the Adi Prize for Jewish Expression in Art and

Design for the year 2003)

“In my work, I wanted to explore the absence of light in the world of the blind person and I wanted to bring him into contact, via touch, with the concept of light. I designed and sculpted six letters in Braille that comprise the words from the verse above; yehi or (let there be light)… The connection between light and matter and the connection between the blind individual’s touching of the letters in relief, bring the blind person and us close to the abstract world, to wisdom, to understanding and to knowledge – light via contrast and touch”.

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