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The California Sunshine and The Leaf and Vine Art Nouveau Ketubah

14 February 2013



We’ve got the ocean, got the babes

Got the sun, we’ve got the waves

Best Coast, “The Only Place”

The notion of writing on my patio in February seemed a fantasy for six years of my life. Living in Portland, Oregon, February was most dreary, dark, lonely and bone-chilling cold. One year was so particularly miserable that we had a “Heat Wave” party replete with beach balls, sand, palm trees and towels in an 750 square foot apartment with the thermostat turned to 85 degrees.  We wore bikinis and swim trunks drinking fruity cocktails with paper umbrellas watching the windows fog and the sweat bead.

I now sit perched atop my hill in Marin County, California sporting a tee shirt staring at 150 year old palm trees and listening to the hummingbirds buzz not 5 feet from the milk crate on which I sit.

I write long-hand, my preference as a professional cursive-maker, unable to shackle myself to my large desktop inside; my drafting table a forgotten mess.

In Portland, February would be a most productive time. Unable to venture out, all one can do is stay warm and create.

Yet I persevere in my new sun-drenched existence. I must not allow the sun temptress to flirt with me, cajoling me to play with her.

Custom Ketubah commissions await; projects in various stages of development must be completed and sent out to their respective clients. Etsy orders need to be filled.

Thus I bring the flora and fauna of my new land to the Art Nouveau Leaf and Vine Ketubah I created recently for a wedding in Lake Tahoe. Forging a new identity in a new land.

The Ketubah – A History and Definition

29 January 2013



Thirteen years ago I created a ketubah for a close friend. Knowing I knew Hebrew calligraphy and could draw, he asked me to use my artistic license and create a piece of art for their traditional Jewish wedding. Word spread and suddenly I had a new career for myself. 

Never have I fully explained exactly what a ketubah is. So here it goes.

The ketubah is a marriage contract that the groom is required to give the bride spelling out the husband’s obligation to his wife. Originally, it was considered so binding that a couple whose ketubah had been lost was forbidden to live together until a new ketubah was written.

Although the ketubah is not mentioned in the Torah, the first reference to a deed associated with a Jewish marriage ceremony is the 5th century BCE. Written in Aramaic, the spoken and written language of the period, it specified that a groom must provide his wife with “food, clothing, and necessities” and entitled him to her earnings. It protected her from arbitrary divorce and guaranteed her alimony.

In the Middle Ages it was standardized and used throughout Central and Western Europe. In 1492 after the Spanish expulsion, the Jews who resettled made slight departures from the standard text by adopting local customs.

When Israel was established, ketubah text was standardized. During the 1970’s, illuminated ketubot experienced a resurgence that has continued, not only among Jewish couples, but among others who wished to have a custom written document celebrating their marriage.

Many couples commission ketubot with traditional language using both Aramaic and English while others choose their own special vows. 

Pictured is my Art Nouveau Custom Ketubah.

The Japanese Lantern Ketubah

24 January 2013



It’s been a while…

I find it difficult to summarize my life thus far. I moved into an 1889 Portland Alberta Arts District Victorian until California came calling. I am now in Marin County perched upon a hilltop . No longer residing amidst bars, coffee shops and perpetual multiplying of bespectacled hipsters, I now find myself surrounded by fruit trees and baby boomers. A different life.

Creating art is the only constant. Much of my focus on Ketubah, I find refuge in creating illustrations based on Art Deco and Art Nouveau sensibilities. I find solace in the minute movements of the calligraphy pen and in the sheer concentration (followed by instant gratification or impending doom) it takes me to ink a piece of my own artwork. Without mistake.

Pictured is “The Japanese Lantern Ketubah.” It is the first time I inked directly onto the paint (gouache) itself rather than containing the calligraphy to a text box. It was intensely stressful as any false move could mean disaster for a completed 22″ x 30″ painting. I endeavored and proved successful.

The wedding was an elaborate Art Deco affair held in the stunning Edison Ballroom in Manhattan. A gorgeous affair, a beautiful couple, and, I must admit, a sense of pride in accomplishing something new.

Haute Couture Steampunk Neo-Industrial Goth and The 1950s Taxi Service

26 March 2009


Last evening I watched the Paris fashion week slideshows. The Alexander McQueen collection blew me away. Haute couture steampunk neo-industrial goth fashions graced models with oversized shiny black lips reminiscent of the piles of tires that lay scattered atop the stage. An apocalyptic post-millennial celebration of black and white, the fashions, while not wearable by the likes of most, spoke to the current sense of global economic meltdown. Spectacular.

Thus, in honor of beautiful fashion, I present “The Black and White Taxi Service” notecard sets. A hand-painted, hand screenprinted, original illustration, they are available in sets of 6 on 100% recycled paper with matching envelope. Perfect for the fashionista and available through my Etsy shop.

And packing continues despite the ever-increasing list of reasons I find not to, including setting up a new Facebook Fan Page. If you are on Facebook, you can now fan me by clicking here and receive updates on all things Octavine: amazing links, bohemian musings, sales and incredible DIY projects will be exclusively available to all fans.

Okay, the boxes are not filling themselves. Back to it…

An 1889 Victorian

23 March 2009


The housing hunt is over. I (along with Belle, the mastiff-lab, my husband, and my new roommate, the Professor) will soon be living in the most gorgeous little 1889 Victorian.

I could not ask for more. Packing boxes and cleaning closets seem rather insignificant knowing my new residence is everything I could hope for. Surrounded by an enormous lush Oregon garden my summer afternoons shall be spent drawing in the sun and picking strawberries, kiwi, raspberries and grapes. Barbecues shall abound and Belle can run around like a wild monkey.

My anxiety assuaged, I am packing up shop. Treasures abound as chaos ensues. Thank you to everyone for their well-wishes during my housing crisis.

The Art Nouveau Ketubah

21 December 2008


Finally, after three odd years, I sifted through all my Art Deco wedding photos. Despite a constant conversation with myself about why I chose to wear that particular hairstyle, I love my wedding pictures. Reminding me of joy and insanity, friends and family, the photos serve to highlight that blur of a day. I do not know if I would have remembered Uncle Stu wearing a tuxedo with a clown nose or “Redbeef” (my husband’s roommate from college) donning a kelly green suit and matching top hat.

However, while photos jog the memory of a place and time, the ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, serves to remind the couple of the emotion felt, the feelings had.

The Art Nouveau inspired Ketubah pictured is just that. An original design painted in gouache, the stylized waves are reminiscent of the bride and groom’s time in Santa Cruz, where they met many years ago. Contacting me personally to execute both the text and design, it was a joy to create. The text, Art Nouveau inspired English and Hebrew calligraphy, is their vows: promises to each other to be met over a lifetime.

Free Shipping, Crafty Wonderland, and Starving Artists

8 December 2008


The craziness has officially arrived. Holiday madness. In honor of this, I am offering *F R E E * S H I P P I N G* through December 18 in my Etsy shop. You may find the perfect gift for your loved ones, work colleagues or yourself from Octavine Illustration.

In addition, I will also be at the amazing, incredible, utterly spectacular craft fair held only in Portland, Oregon: Crafty Wonderland. Outgrowing every space it has occupied, this year, on December 14, you will find me, along with 140 of Portland’s best artists and crafters, at the Convention Center. It promises to be a rip-roaring good time replete with goodie bags, gift wrapping and the best handmade gifts out there.

The Moleskine journal pictured is a hand-painted, hand-screenprinted, original illustration by me. It is available through my Etsy shop and makes a wonderful gift for the note taker, poet, aspiring novelist, musician or artist in your life.

Back to work I go, tying ribbons and sealing envelopes, giving each and every package sent out care and love. So remember, this holiday season, *B U Y * H A N D M A D E* and feed an artist.

Play It Again, Sam. And Again. And Again.

5 December 2008


So I am in a rather esoteric debate with my husband about the nature of music. He read an article recently recalling a study stating that when one listens to a piece of music that they totally groove to, endorphins are released. However, with repetition of said tune, the endorphins subside.

Excited to relay this information to me as I always have a new favorite song that I listen to without pause until I sicken of it and move on, we discussed the matter at length during a recent road trip.

Certain songs speak to me. I want to own them. This can only happen through perpetual play. I cannot help this habit. If I like something, and I have the power to bring joy into my little world, how can I resist?

So here’s my argument against this so called “scientific study.” Because I listen to songs repetitively yet finitely, those particular songs become a part of my living history. They denote a place in time, a feeling, a person, a series of events that occurred during the time in which a particular song served as soundtrack.

Despite my decrease in endorphins leading to a song’s eventual discontinuation, the endorphins increase exponentially when hearing this song much later as the memory it brings back is vivid and sentimental.

This is why I disagree with him and will continue to listen to songs on repeat. Currently it is Furr, by Blitzen Trapper (a Portland band!). I saw them in concert last night at the Wonder Ballroom. I love it. The soundtrack of my life. Right. Now.

If You’re Feeling Sinister–Traveling Part II

19 November 2008


We left London, but not before dancing on stage for the encore of my favorite band (Belle and Sebastian) singing my favorite album in it’s entirety (If You’re Feeling Sinister). The concert was covered in the London Times; my stage dancing captured eternal.

Finding cheap a fare to Paris and with a free place to crash, the City of Lights was magnificent. Whilst trekking the tourist circuit, we found a Moroccan travel agency specializing in charter flights. Our first destination, Essoueira, a Moroccan beach town made famous by Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand” (there is indeed an ancient castle on the beach, made of sand and completely crumbling) was a labyrinth of artisan stalls and fish markets. To Marrakesh and Fez we sojourned, riding buses and donkey cabs (click here to read diary entries and see pictures).

Renting a car for a week to tour the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert is not recommended; a guide or group is advised as our destination was just a few kilometers from the Algerian border. But we did not know that. Although there were close calls (it is considered a given to be lost as many Moroccans change the road signs in order to direct you to their towns), we spent an incredible night under the stars atop a dune in the middle of the Sahara (the sandstorm and the camel stench could not spoil it). Never have I seen so many stars.

We walked across the border to Spain ending up in Sevilla where we found a flight back to London and a plane ticket home.

London Calling: Part I

11 November 2008


My honeymoon was fabulous. I mean truly wonderful. As rough and ready world travelers, we sought the exotic. We knew we had the chops; we met as travelers in the mountains of northern Israel (our first “date” was two weeks in northern Egypt along the waters of the Red Sea). Little did I know we would traipse through Paris, see the Southern Cross descend upon a Saharan night sky and dance on stage in London with my favorite band.

We have camped in the Pyrenees, bartered in the markets of Istanbul, walked the walls of Dubrovnik, partied in Barcelona, explored the castles of Prague, the churches of Italy and the pubs of London, but nothing quite prepared us for the honeymoon.

We never plan. Anything. Even plane tickets. This unnerves most, but we find it exhilarating. There are no hotel reservations, no itineraries, no way home. Adventure on the fly, we call it.

First, we went to London. You can do anything, go anywhere from London. I have always managed to find some sort of last minute deal to London. For very cheap. We stay in the same Bayswater hotel each time and do nothing but walk. I have an extensive collection of London walking tours and historic pub guides. As we walk we look for travel agencies buying tickets to wherever is most inexpensive, interesting or a free place to crash.

So we went to Paris. (To be continued……)

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