Local Artists Offer Handmade Crafts for Chanukah

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While Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be the first occasions that come to mind when planning holiday shopping, there’s another day wedged in between that’s of note.

Nov. 30 is Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to supporting local sellers throughout Greater Philadelphia. Many artists and crafters from the local Jewish community sell their handmade goods online on websites like Etsy or even have their own studios.

Here’s a rundown of a few of them.

Danielle Brief holds a Hamsa
Courtesy of Danielle Brief

Danielle Brief

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Brief wanted to give something special to her twin sister as a wedding present. So she took shattered glass from her wedding ceremony and made a mosaic. The craft was passed down to Brief from her father. Recently, she started HamsaMade on Etsy, selling mosaic wall art. A lot of her work involves taking broken plates or glass from customers and upcycling it into art. Previous commissions include Shabbat candlesticks, picture frames and succulent planters.

“I love working with people who have a specific vision in mind, who have that antique plate that shattered and they were so upset and then I could bring that back in a new way and a new life,” Brief said. “I want all of my customers to be 100% satisfied with the end result, especially if it’s taking something that’s so personal and carries so much history and their memories. I really care about honoring that.”

Brief lives in East Passyunk Crossing and attends services at the South Philadelphia Shtiebel. She is a Drexel University graduate and 2019 Tribe 12 Fellow.

Sonia Gordon-Walinsky holds one of her pieces
Courtesy of Sonia Gordon-Walinsky

Sonia Gordon-Walinsky

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Gordon-Walinsky was encouraged to pursue art at a young age by her parents — an art teacher and a professional pianist. But it wasn’t until after attending Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies that she started pursing calligraphy. Using “The First Jewish Catalog: A Do-It-Yourself Kit” as her first guide, the self-taught artist has been commissioned for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and bar or bat mitzvahs. Much of her work consists of writing out Torah verse and name pasuks, hence the name of her Etsy shop and business, PasukArt.

“Finding a verse that connects to someone’s name would be a beautiful gift for Chanukah,” Gordon-Walinsky said, adding that her passion is “bringing the words of Torah and our literature to life and making it beautiful and accessible for people.”

Gordon-Walinsky lives in Mt. Airy where she attends Germantown Jewish Centre. Her wares include handmade blessing bowls made by her mother and calligraphy prints featuring handwritten blessings or Torah portions.

painting of a house
Courtesy of Rachel Marks

Rachel Marks

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When Marks, of Mt. Airy, couldn’t find the right ketubah for her wedding in 2009, she decided to make her own. Now under the business name Tallulah Ketubahs, she works as a professional painter and calligrapher full time. The Maryland Institute College of Art graduate moved to Philadelphia in 2013 and is a member of Germantown Jewish Centre. She specializes in ketubahs along with portrait and landscape portraits.

“I pride myself in offering the highest caliber of artwork that I can,” she said. “I am a painter through and through, and so this business gives me an opportunity to paint and create and draw every day. And I love that I have found an avenue where I can create meaningful works of art for people.”

For Chanukah gifts, she offers greeting cards, pet and house portraits along with calligraphy workshops.

a woman wearing a tallit
Courtesy of Heather Stein

Heather Stein

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Stein describes herself as a crafty person. So when she couldn’t find the right tallit for her eldest daughter’s bat mitzvah, she made her own. Soon requests came from others and eventually led to the launch of an Etsy shop in 2013, Handmade by Chana. When not looking after her three kids in her Ambler residence or attending services at Tiferet Bet Israel, Stein spends her time sewing custom prayer shawls for women.

“I just absolutely love the idea of wrapping women in their own private prayer space,” Stein said. “It’s a beautiful thing to wear one. When I put mine on, I feel protected from the universe in that moment. It’s a peaceful thing to wear. I connected to it in a way that when I made my daughter’s, I thought this is something I’d like to do, I could make more of these.”

Stein described her artistic style as feminine and romantic. She enjoys meeting customers, such as older women who never had the chance to wear a tallit before or one customer was a cancer patient and wore a tallit to chemotherapy.

Joy Stember
Courtesy of Joy Stember

Joy Stember

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Stember’s passion for metalworking was first forged by her father, a fine jewelry designer. But it wasn’t until after a Birthright trip in 2010 that the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University graduate started making Judaica. Today she operates Joy Stember Metal Arts Studio in Abington, where she crafts pewter works like menorahs, dreidels, mezuzahs and seder plates.

“It felt good to make Judaica, it was more of a passion,” Stember said. “All of the work I ended up making in my studio after I got home from the trip was all Judaica, kind of subconsciously. And so I took that as a sign that this was what I was meant to do, and I quit my job as a picture framer and dove head first into making a body of work.”

Stember describes her work as timeless, with a contemporary style that is sleek and modern. Her goal is to make heirlooms that will last for generations. Studio visits are by appointment only, as Stember has her hands full with her infant son.

menorah
Courtesy of Jennifer Wankoff

Jennifer Wankoff

Website: Jenniferwankoff.com

Wankoff’s original plan after finishing school at Muhlenberg College was to become an art therapist. But a trip to Israel in 1997 changed that. It was at Kfar HaNassi where she took several pottery classes that inspired her to pursue the craft.

“I love the freedom of making anything out of a lump of clay. I like the aspect of designing new forms,” Wankoff said. “It’s very inspiring to know you can create something out of nothing and it’s wonderful to help other people to be able to do the same.”

Upon returning to the U.S., she got a job at The Clay Studio and has since moved on to operating her own studio in Roxborough, Jennifer Wankoff Ceramics. Wankoff, a member of Adath Israel on the Main Line, offers art classes and produces a variety of plates, cups, teapots, Kiddush cups, challah plates, candlesticks and various other Judaica for sale.

seder plate
Courtesy of Judy Wilson

Judy Wilson

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There are two hobbies Wilson loves above all else: fly fishing and pottery. She has worked with clay since taking her first ceramics class in the 1970s at Dickinson College. In the 1990s, she took a break from making ceramics to focus on her business and raising her two adoptive children.

She returned to selling her art in 2011 when she opened her shop on Etsy, Judy’s Ceramic Studio. She sells handmade Kiddush cups, Shabbat candlesticks along with secular bowls, mugs and plates.

Wilson resides in Mt. Airy and is the daughter of Al Wilson, founding president of Congregation Beth Or. She enjoys making items that are simple, functional and affordable.

“The world goes away when I work in clay, and that’s what I love about it,” Wilson said. “I make functional stuff, stuff to be used every day. I started making a line of Judaica a couple years ago after I noticed on Etsy that a lot of the stuff is incredibly expensive — and incredibly ugly. I like simple designs, and a lot of it was ornate and overdone, the kind of stuff I would never want.”

[email protected]; 215-832-0751

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