Interview With the Artist

Gary Rosenthal | Ayala Bar | Michal Golan | Eduardo Milieris | Emily Rosenfeld
Steven Bronstein | Jan Marie Lanier | Jami Miyamoto

Read the artists' answer to: "What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?"

Jewish Gift Place is very excited to introduce you to our artist interview series. Below you will learn more about an eclectic group of artists who talk about their interests, their inspiration, and their passion - and how they turned their passion of art into a business. These talented artists handcraft the most incredible Judaica - from mezuzahs and dreidels, to tallit and watches. Our artist interview series will continue to grow as new interviews are conducted. If you know anyone who would like to learn more about the life of an artist, please share the artist interview series with them. We have also written an article, "Artists' Advice," which compiles the artists' answers to the following question,"What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?" Below are highlights of the interviews:

Gary Rosenthal Interview


Gary Rosenthal's work is truly incredible! Not only is he an inspired artist, but he is a person who cares deeply about others and making a difference in the world. Although Gary Rosenthal is best known for creating one of the most popular lines of Judaica in the country for almost 30 years, many are not aware that he is the CEO of Art as a Catalyst, which empowers special needs groups through training and employment. In fact, Gary's beautiful new line, the Woven Collection, is woven in his studio by two autistic workers.

“All of my staff/associates do what they do better than I would do,“ says Gary. “Nowhere is this clearer than with my autistic associates. Everyone is different, but John and Tim love to work on repetitive tasks where precision is critical. Weaving is a favorite task in which they excel, and the more the better. They are very proud of the finished product.” Read the entire Gary Rosenthal interview.

Ayala Bar Interview


Ayala Bar, an internationally renowned Israeli jewelry designer, is an incredibly prolific artist - she introduces new designs in her collections twice a year. An Ayala Bar necklace, bracelet, pin, ring, or pair of earrings, is immediately recognizable. With the most intricate and ornate beads, combined with the dramatic design of how pieces are assembled into the jewelry, Ayala Bar's jewelry line is a modern work of gorgeous art. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Ayala Bar:

Who or what had the greatest influence on you as you developed as an artist?
Artistic inclination was in my family. I started with mosaic-like creativity following a vivid childhood memory of my uncle Moeez. He used to immerse objects in fresh cement: photos, sea shells, ceramic parts, evil-eye beads. As a child, this was fascinating. I was in awe. As a young adult, this memory surfaced and served as a reference. At that time, gold and silver dominated the world of jewelry, but I wanted to break loose and expand. Obviously, cement was not the direction, although I must admit that the concept of using adhesive to form a miniature collage of assorted stones and beads on metal parts wasn't that far from that childhood vision. Anyway, memories such as this gave me inspiration, and in a way, encouraged me to generate my own path. Read the entire Ayala Bar interview.

Michal Golan Interview


Michal Golan has the most gorgeous collection of hamsas, mezuzahs, and jewelry. Covered with pearls and semi-precious stones, her pieces radiate color and elegance. With designs and colors inspired by Middle Eastern mosaics, Victorian jewelry, and Byzantine art, each piece is an eye-catching work of art. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Michal Golan:

Your pieces are sold around the world. Did you have any idea that you would be this successful? What do you attribute your success to?
As a graduate student I never predicted I would be so successful in the jewelry world. I believe I have found success because I love what I do. I hope the joy that I experience creating the pieces shows in the works themselves.

What do you do for fun? Where do you like to travel?
When I am not designing I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I also love to travel. My most frequent travel destinations are Israel and Europe. I visit Israel every year and still have many friends and family members there. I also visit Paris frequently to find inspiration for my work. Some of my other favorite pass time are skiing and walking my dog. Read the entire Michal Golan interview.

Eduardo Milieris Interview


Not only do we LOVE Eduardo Milieris' watches, but what a nice, interesting guy! Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Was this always your career?
This is really my first 'serious' business. Before having children, before getting married, I always worked just enough to get going and maintain an easygoing lifestyle. Kind of like "The Dude'' on the Big Lebowsky. I was the photographer who walked into an ad agency with his two big dogs and a pigmy monkey riding one of them. I have a picture of Margaux (my monkey) spilling a cup of coffee on one of the director's desk.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
If you have kids, you have an obligation to put food on the table everyday, to put shoes on their feet. Get a job at the Town Hall, be a Fireman or a landscaper. If you are not a mom or a dad, you are free, do what you love even if you have to sleep under a bridge and eat the bad lunch served at the local church. The price not to be yourself is too high. Read the entire Eduardo Milieris interview.


Emily Rosenfeld Interview


Emily Rosenfeld is a sweet and soft-spoken woman who charms and delights with her beautiful collection of pewter mezuzahs, silver necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. She also creates the most fabulous key chains, tzedekah boxes, candlesticks, kiddush cups, and baby spoons. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Emily:

Where do you get your inspiration?
That really is a mystery, but, I get a lot of inspiration from feelings, ideas and even relationships which I then translate into a visual form. The new Song Bird arose from my son's and my love of bird songs and our evenings listening to their calls. When I sat down to design a new Mezuzah that is what happened...

What do you enjoy most about this career?
Everything. I love that in my day I get to focus on the creative, whether it is designing, making or getting the work out to customers. Because it is all about sharing my work, a large part of my day is also about relationships the people I work with in my studio, my retailers and my customers. I feel really blessed. Read the entire Emily Rosenfeld interview.

Steven Bronstein Interview


Steven Bronstein combines passion and craftsmanship in his modern and beautiful designs made in his blacksmith shop in Vermont. Steve brings the age-old sturdy workmanship of blacksmithing to his customers, who enjoy solid and timeless metal pieces. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Steve:

Where do you get your inspiration?
I love how lines can cut through space and, in the process, create new spaces. I often just have a vague sense of the final image and just start by moving a piece of metal. The concept usually reveals itself as I continue to move.

Who or what had the greatest influence on you as you developed as an artist, or did you always have your own style? How would you describe your style?
When I started I had no sense of myself as an artist and no sense of a personal style. I began with a greater interest in process, moving hot metal. I started out making historical reproductions. As I acquired my skills, I also acquired my own sense of style and began to follow it towards my current unique sense of design. Read the entire Steven Bronstein interview.

Jan Marie Lanier Interview



Jan Marie Lanier and her partner, Nicole, make the most beautiful handpainted silk tallit, yarmulkes, and scarves. With the soft, delicate designs of Jerusalem, or women dancing, or trees, painted on luxurious silk in the most striking and pleasing colors, Silk Bijoux makes Judaica that is treasured by all who wear it. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Jan:

Where do you get your inspiration?
There isn't one source. Most often, new designs are working in my mind for a year or more, then I will snatch an image from odds places, the curve of a scroll or the leg of a chair - somehow one day they come together like the switch of a light bulb - hopefully in time for the next wholesale show! There's a lot of pressure from those deadlines.

What inspired you to design Judaica?
We had been exhibiting at the NY gift show for several years and several buyers had suggested it. Soon after I was exhibiting at an art show in Michigan when a young girl asked if I would make her a tallis. I told her I would give it a try. My neighbor brought her husband's tallis over and I spoke with their Rabbi. I researched tallis and their history for several months before I completed her design. I knew it was to be a meaningful piece for her and it was important to me to make sure I honored Judaic traditions. I told Sara Beams about the tallis and she was the one that encouraged me to exhibit them at the show. Read the entire Jan Marie Lanier interview.

Jami Miyamoto Interview


You can tell from Jami Miyamoto's pewter mezuzahs what an inspired and fun person Jami is! With her attention to detail and her beautiful shapes and designs, Jami has created an absolutely beautiful line of creations. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Jami:

Who or what had the greatest influence on you as you developed as an artist, or did you always have your own style? How would you describe your style?
One of my influences was an art teacher in college who taught me how to think about the process of creating and who also taught me a lot about the history of design in the context of it's era. My style is fun and funky sometimes serious.

What do you do for fun?
Fun is hanging with my daughter and my crazy dog and doing yoga and biking at the beach.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Don't try and copy what's out there but take time to experiment because that's where the ideas come from. Don't be afraid to have a lot of duds. It's part of the process. Read the entire Jami Miyamoto interview.

Read all of the interviews in our "Interview with the Artist" series:

Learn more about our artists:

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