Celtic Mizrach

What do you contribute to a fundraising auction for a progressive Jewish community held at an Indian restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day? How about a Celtic Mizrach. (To quote Dave Barry – I swear I am not making this up.)

Traditionally a mizrach is a piece of art that hangs on the east wall of your house so you know which way to face when saying certain prayers. And while I do know a historical decorative technique that was typically used in Hebrew manuscripts, I’m not Jewish. I’m a Celt. Well, technically an Anglo-Saxon Celt. And yes, I know you can be an Anglo-Saxon Celt and Jewish. But I digress.

Kadima is a pretty eclectic group of people. I figured they could appreciate my cultural-stew-as-art. The woman who bought it is a practicing Catholic from Germany and as far as I know, her Jewish husband is non-observant. My wife’s comment about this whole thing?

“All is well with the world.”

Now on to the geeking out.

The ink I used was just plain Calli brand calligraphy ink, no geek points there. The paint, however is all hand-mixed, natural pigments. Dry powdered pigment that I add gum arabic to and grind with a little, tiny muller. I don’t know the source for all of the pigments, but the indigo and cochineal were made by an acquaintance in Canada and the Naples yellow is from Rublev pigments and is pure lead antimonate. The other colors were gifts and so remain a mystery.

I kept the palette simple because of the intricate design and also time constraints (start to finish was less than a week). The knot-work is Naples yellow, vermillion, and cochineal. The pattern is from the Lindisfarne Gospels, folio 211r; though the colors are my choice. The wiggly bits inside the letters are also derived from the same page. They were done in Naples yellow, viridian mixed with zinc white, and ultramarine mixed with zinc white. I used some of the blue mixture and added it to indigo for the border and it still came out almost black. Lastly, all of the dots are vermillion.


3 comments on “Celtic Mizrach

  1. kecain says:

    Thank you. I’ve been doing Celtic knot work, off and on, for the last 35 years. The best guides I have come across are ‘Celtic Art: Methods of Construction’ by George Bain, and ‘Celtic Knotwork’ by Iain Bain. I strongly recommend getting both books.

    • Andy in Germany says:

      I have a copy of the George Bain book (it’s what got me started) and yes, it is an amazing work. It’s getting quite dog-eared and paint spattered from all the handling. I’ll look for the Ian Bain one as well: thanks for the tip.

  2. Andy in Germany says:

    I’ve just landed here after looking for celtic art ideas. I really like the design and it isn’t as random as you may think: the Celtic church never seems to have been tainted by the ugly anti-semitism of the other churches in Europe and they always understood themselves to follow a Jewish faith, so a Celtic Mizrach may well have existed before.

    I look forward to the day I can produce work of that Quality as well. Thanks for sharing.

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