A Contemporary Look at Judaica


Years in the past, close to the financial institution of Lake Balaton, Hungary, a four-year-old Zsuzsa Ujj was once enjoying with the clay that she discovered on the backside of a puddle. Squeezing the rainy earth between her palms, she knew she had fallen in love. By the point she was once 14, she was once enrolled in a specialised highschool to review ceramic arts, adopted via a tenure on the Hungarian Academy of Crafts and Design. Lately, she works full-time to craft porcelain Judaica with a uniquely fresh however undying taste. 

Ujj’s works mix easy magnificence with completely satisfied party. The sleek curves of her porcelain candlesticks and goblets could also be cool to touch, however they exude the inviting feeling of heat. And as useful, religious gadgets, they aren't simply artworks, however essential pieces in any person’s house, which the artist has handled with deep care. Some are ornamented with swaying leaves and vines; her Etsy store warns that “the hand painted traces apply my breath and my heartbeats, so minor variations would possibly happen.” Many others are left naked of any floor design, permitting their delicate geometry to talk for itself. 

Zsuzsa Ujj, “Havdalah Bessamim holder handpainted spice container,” (2022), porcelain
Zsuzsa Ujj, “3 handpainted pomegranate vases,” (2022), porcelain

One form repeats itself over and over again in Ujj’s items: the type of a pomegranate. Ujj recounted that during Jewish custom, “the pomegranate is a logo of prosperity and fruitfulness.” An outdated Jewish educating holds that the pomegranate has 613 seeds (in fact, an approximation, because the collection of seeds varies from fruit to fruit), which correspond to the 613 mitzvot, or commandments laid out for the Jewish other folks within the Bible. 

Ujj is not only interested in the standard Jewish symbolism of pomegranates, but additionally to the mathematics in the back of their globular form. A former geometry trainer in an arts faculty, she has a deep figuring out of sine waves and parabolas, and is desirous about the numbers on invisible axes that resolve natural curves. “They at all times glance harmonic,” she informed Hyperallergic. For Ujj, the pomegranates are like unending makes an attempt to unravel a math downside. “What I at all times love to play with in my paintings is to glue those sure and unfavorable shapes,” she mentioned. “I nonetheless haven’t discovered the perfect answer.” 

Crafting porcelain is a protracted and tough procedure, so each and every of those experiments represents many weeks of labor. After hand carving and pouring casts, porcelain calls for a kiln that may hearth at temperatures over 2,600 levels Fahrenheit (1,427 levels Celsius).

Zsuzsa Ujj, “Blue Chicken Menorah,” (2022), porcelain

“This type of paintings with porcelain in a small studio like mine has most effective been conceivable for the reason that ’90s,” mentioned Ujj. That was once when NASA evolved a ceramic coating for insulating their spacecraft, which when made to be had to the bigger public, allowed smaller kilns to succeed in the ones prime temperatures with out permitting warmth to flee. Earlier than that, most effective rich, non-public manufacturies may produce porcelain via strategies they regularly saved most sensible secret. Hungary is house to mythical workshops like Herend Manufactory and Zsolnay, the latter of which was once famend for generating sinewy, Artwork Nouveau masterpieces, lined with gleaming, iridescent glazes. Ujj takes inspiration from this Hungarian Artwork Nouveau legacy as neatly, as obvious in her undulating, life-like bureaucracy.

Ceramic Jewish artwork itself is a extremely fresh phenomenon within the diaspora, and till not too long ago, had little precedent in Jewish historical past. Cross to any Jewish historical past museum, and also you’ll typically to find cabinets of menorahs and spice bins made with metals like pewter and silver.

“This type of porcelain assortment has no custom, as a result of those items are very fragile,” Ujj informed Hyperallergic. “Within the historical past of Jewish other folks, there was once numerous shifting from one position to every other. In fact, steel survives that. However glass and ceramic, now not such a lot.”

Ujj sees the marketplace for ceramic Judaica as an indication that, compared to much more turbulent instances in historical past, the shoppers really feel safe of their properties. “When other folks purchase this, I feel this can be a signal that we really feel very secure, now that we will make investments into items that aren't really easy to hold. I am hoping that this secure duration lasts lengthy.”