Even intimate celebrations are worthy of a cherished artwork to commemorate them. Such is the case with Alexandra & Shawn's destination wedding to Florence, Italy.
Alexandra was not my usual client as she wanted me to emphasize not nature but rather the spectacular man-made structures of Florence, Italy - namely the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio. From my past work you'd assume this is not in my wheelhouse, but now, Florence is my dream vacation destination! I'm an art history buff and the Italian Renaissance is my favorite art era so I understood why she wanted to feature them in her ketubah. I knew these buildings would carry my handmade style well and I was thrilled to have this little bit of Italy in my studio!
As with all custom orders, we delved deeper into the couple's vision for their ideal ketubah. After our 1-on-1 consultation we added more elements to the design: like the statue garden of the Four Seasons Hotel they'll be married at, the logo for the local restaurant where they'll be having their rehearsal dinner, the couple's initials, the bride's flowers, and the lace pattern of Alexandra's wedding gown. All in a white and gold color scheme worthy of a Medici. Or at least a modern descendant:)
My favorite detail of the design is the gate peeking from the tree foliage, which is the central gate in the hotel gardens. That's just the illustrator in my, though. The design went though several variations in my studio because I couldn't decide on the placement of the structures - each is such magnificent masterpiece in itself! But I made it in the end and sent it to the client who luckily quickly approved of my choice.
Because the ketubah will be flying from the US to Italy the bride asked me to have the text layer separate from the papercut layer, a request which also informed the design I created. It's sad for me that the entire piece will not get to bask in Italian sunshine, but no-checked-luggage is always best.
For more photos of this and other custom design ketubot GO HERE
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____________________ F E E D B A C K ____________________
I am obsessed with our ketubah
____________________ C O U R T N E Y & S A U L ____________________
Courtney & Saul's ketubah order was very straight-forward. They opted for the easy, no-fuss route of choosing one of the bespoke designs from my shop - the ORCHIDS.
A quick consult with me on the color options (mockups included!), and the couple chose the Orchids in timeless ivory and silver. They also provided their own Egalitarian text for the ketubah, which I personalized with their details and font choice. A quick proofreading by them and off their ketubah went. Four days later they had it in their hands!
Courtney & Saul's elegant wedding was featured on the wedding blog Smashing the Glass. They read their ketubah aloud to their guests, so this cherished handmade artwork will undoubtedly always evoke those heartfelt memories for them.
Even though my work is very crafty and old school - there's no machine cutting these papercuts for me! - I do rely heavily on technology for my business. All my clients are from overseas after all! But man oh man, the magic of the internet escapes me sometimes. For some reason every year or so I suffer through a mysterious bout of disappearing emails and bad connection. It always takes me a few weeks to realize the dearth in customers isn't a natural occurrence and then I scramble to make heads or tails of what's happening. It happened to me again over the holiday season and the start of this year, but this time I solved it with some coding mumbo-jumbo and managed to recover at least 2 weeks of emails (older ones were gone for good, sadly).
This commission here fell victim to that internet void, but luckily Zan believed in me enough and persisted through network glitches and missing emails to share with me her vision for the ideal wedding keepsake and cherished artwork.
S I D E N O T E | It came out so well. So please don't give up on me if I fail to reply, I lost your email and can be reached over on instagram and etsy!
Every time anew I am humbled by the trust and respect clients put in me to commission a wedding art piece that will not only stand in a place of honor in their homes, but in their hearts as well. There's a special kind of power in that artwork, which I feel comes from the shared affinity I and my clients have for Mother Nature. Its regenerative powers of healing and hope go hand in hand with that of Love, and what I strove to convey with this design of an idyllic view.
From the pinterest board (I should recommend more clients make these!) I knew Zan & Daniel were looking for a 16X24" big design in golds and greens that will have the atmosphere of scenic bicycle trails and specifically feature windmills, cherry blossoms, peonies and field flowers, Oregon mountains view, a violin, and pomegranates. For further inspiration I used the verse they asked to include with their text, which is not the usual verse people ask for but one that exemplifies Zan & Daniel's awe and respect for nature so well:
"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;"
After I finished drawing the papercut I decided adding colors to the leaves would really make them jump off the paper, as it were - so I spent a few hours assembling these like a puzzle underneath and over each other. It was strangely therapeutic, and the impact of the different golden shades shimmering in the sun cannot be disputed!
I always liked lush designs with a lot of detail. A good example for an amazingly full and lacey design is this one, commissioned by Lev for his wife Jamie. Lev asked for an anniversary ketubah to celebrate their relationship milestone. Our starting point was his proposal, which was written in the stars across the planetarium's IMAX dome (be still, my heart!) but we added in so much you would need to look over the papercut several times before seeing it all!
A sharp eye will catch the couple's pets, monuments of Washington DC, references to their Charleston wedding venue, Jamie's favorite flowers, wagon wheels and the landscape of their Texas town and more…
Looking back on the many commissions I did across the years, I spotted a trend in my papercuts. My papercuts were always lush in design but subtle in coloring but last year I noticed my papercuts had more details, more layers, more color - an evolution seen most clearly in this papercut for a wedding that took place earlier this year.
Alexi & Benjie actually contacted me after seeing another beach design I did for their friends, so they wanted something in that same grand scale with multiple layers only they wanted theirs in a lighter color palette. Somehow, from the client's wish for a sunset snapshot of Santa Barbara by the beach (emphasis on the ocean) and all the elements that make up their love story in the city, came out this 11 (that's ELEVEN!) layers colorful artwork. I surprised myself with this one!
This commission couldn't have come at a better time, it was freezing where I lived and I needed to warm up. Santa Barbara looked like a Mediterranean beach town, and a papercut of it deserved all the light-catching colors in my stock.
Alexi & Benjie met fell in love in Santa Barbara. It is their home and a backdrop to their love story so I was worried about capturing it and and all the details that make it special to them, but after a few late night sessions with reality tv playing in the background inspiration struck and I think I did well.
I was lucky that Santa Barbara has Mediterranean architecture so I had a lot of familiar angles to pull from - including that of the sandy beach. The cobalt blue dome of the local Hillel center was a starting point, actually. I decided to frame the wedding text with driftwood after they shared with me that for their first date they went to the beach and sat on a log for seven hours talking (can you imagine that connection)! To balance out the cityscape on the right I filled the left portion of the papercut with sea life - from shells to sunset sailing - with the local fruit and flora bridging the gap top and bottom. Terracotta rooftops, bicycles, palm trees, and roses (Benjie likes to buy Alexi rose sculptures so they always have fresh flowers at the house) completed the design. I especially like the addition of the couple's silhouettes gazing at their vows.
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A custom design concept often begins with a list. What the couple wants to see in their ketubah? What do they definitely don't want to see? And I proceed from there. As a designer it's my job to flesh out the clients' vision and bring it to life in an edited, beautiful design. And I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I struggle with editing, myself. To have many ideas - same as to see many color variations - can often be too many ideas. More times than not I drive my assistant crazy because I work in tandem on 2 to 4 designs - sometimes to completion - before I can decide on the design to show the clients. It's not good time and labor management, but it's my creative process. And I definitely went through about 6 versions of this design before I settled on the one I showed Holly & Bill. (I still have the other versions in my back-pocket, waiting for their day.)
Holly & Will wanted their papercut ketubah to encompass their relationship across the years. It's a beautiful concept and oh my gosh we had a lot of pretty imagery to pull from! Holly gave me a list that included: lace, Chicago Musical Theater, castles, pumpkins, the Scottish Highland games, Superman, the ship necklace Will gave her, 'Safe in the Waves' motto, and more. A lot, right? Sounds random but she included a backstory and reason for every element to explain the emotional connection. The challenge for me was to pick and choose what to include and to create a cohesive composition that worked together not only aesthetically but also story-wise.
The two biggest elements I needed to feature were the bridge in Cedarburg, Wisconsin where the couple got engaged (Bill actually proposed to Holly there!) and a cutie-patootie otter couple (they mate for life!) - besides the ketubah text, of course;) Through their symbols - personal and universal - their love story needed to be told with a beginning, middle, and future. That the artwork came out so adorable is just a great bonus!
With designs based off real locations, sometimes the design depicts the scenery, and sometimes I stylize the elements to create an image that will evoke the memories and feelings the clients are looking for. Annie & Zach wanted a papercut artwork to represent a location close to their hearts: their favorite hiking spot in The Three Sisters Park in Colorado.
From all the papercuts I did featuring state park forests I know it's a landscape that resonates with many -myself included!- and it's a challenge for me to create this response anew, without repeating myself. I believe I succeeded with this commission:
Our Favorite Hiking Spot is a 16X22 inches big papercut made out of four layers. It's a landscape design that draws you in - and to me is reminiscent of The Secret Garden imagery - a gateway to another world. The papercut is full of details from the different landscapes that brought Annie & Zach together - flowers and trees and mountains and bears. The illustration frames the text, but I think in this case the text is truly secondary to the intricacy and beauty of the papercut layers. It's one of those papercuts I like to say has hidden treasures, so the joy of viewing it extends with every new discovery. My personal favorite are the little mice!
Lisa & Marshall wanted a design that married her love of tranquil nature with his wish for a vibrant Jewish style. She likes organic, subdued designs, he likes colorful and lush designs. My challenge was to come up with a comrpomise that would appeal to them both.
The design is purely symbolic for the couple. As Lisa wanted a no-fuss design, everything featured within had to hold meaning for the couple. I knew I was going to do a reference to Hanukkah as they were getting married on the eve of the holiday, so I hoped it will satisfy Marshall's wish for the Judaica style. I turned to the Bible for nature references that will appeal to Lisa and fit within the nature-theme, as well as connect back to Israel for Marshall. Bonus: the elements will symbolize all the principles for a loving union and work kabalah magic to strengthen their bond!
I made two versions eventually. The first papercut design featured the miraculous oil lamp of Hanukka (hope & resilience), from which a symbolic tree of blessings bloomed forth with the strong-rooted trunk of an olive tree (peace and health), the twisty, graceful vines weighted by grapes (love and fertility), and cascading blossoms of figs (prosperity and modesty).
Their feedback was that it needed to be more colorful, and they wanted to get rid of the oil lamp and replace it with a big menorah. I decided to alter the design to a frame of leaves and fruit so the combination of the different trees (and values) will be even more seamlessly organic. A few more mockups to tweak colors and the new design was approved - my most colorful papercut yet!
All the colors in this papercut are made of different layers. Assembling everything together was an unusual experience for me, it felt almost like piecing together a puzzle! It was labor intensive - I think it took about 6 hours all together - and it's not because I work slowly! I thought it would go much quicker, honestly, which goes to show that after 7 years every commission is still a unique experience.
The photo to the side was taken pretty late at night - maybe early morning? - when I was finally finished and tiredly packing the ketubah for pickup the next day. I was sad to see it go. Also, I clearly work nights pretty often, you can see I have another papercut on my desk in the beginning stages, and a movie cued up on screen.