Just the past weekend, Dec. 2 marked the first day of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. Observed for eight days and eight nights, the festival is celebrated by lighting the nine branches of a menorah, a long-time symbol of Judaism and Hanukkah. On the first night, one flame is lit, one the second another and so on, until all eight lights are kindled throughout the celebration.
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Traditional menorahs typically have eight branches, with the ninth branch being placed above or below the others as it is then used the light each one throughout the holiday. However, modern Jewish artists and artisans have been pushing the boundaries of what a traditional Hanukkah menorah can look like, using new designs and materials to create their ritual objects.
In recognition of Hanukkah and the importance of having a diverse design community, we’ve rounded up several designers, some based in the U.S. and some in Israel, who use their skills to create contemporary menorahs that put a spin on what tradition has to look like. From hand blown glass to cut metal, see our picks below.
Peleg Design Studio was founded in 2004 by Shahar Peleg, who studied design and interior architecture are the Holon Institute of Technology in Israel. Shortly after his studio’s opening, Peleg designed a u-shaped menorah that features anamorphic mirrors and a flat metal back that reveal a classic menorah shape when lit each night. While it was designed to hold oil, it can also be modified to hold candles. Now, Peleg creates quirky products that are designed to be used in homes, offices and other living spaces.
Sidney Hutter is an artisan based in Newton, MA. Since founding his studio, Sidney Hutter Glass & Light, in 1980, he has spent the last few decades creating sculptures that combine fine art and glass craft with commercial processes used in architectural glass, adhesive and pigment industries. His interests in fine art and and glass are displayed in his Judaica series, which combines his Jewish heritage with his glass working practices to form a line of Jewish ceremonial art. Each item from his collection incorporates Hutter’s personal design and offers a contemporary look to traditional ritual objects.
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Another glass artist, Benjamin Silver is a maker who channels his experiences from traveling throughout Europe and Asia into his work in his studio based in Eugene, OR. His work includes vases, sculptures, office accessories and several different glass menorahs. The most striking is the Wall, which incorporates the technical aspects of glassblowing and laborious process of cold-working to put a new spin on ancient oil lamp menorahs. Heavy yet stable, this menorah is composed of mostly solid glass with just a tiny tube of transparent color coming down each branches center.
Born in Ukraine, Marina Zlochin moved to Israel with her artistic family in 1992. Still there, she works as a self-employed artist and creates metal cut sculptures for Joy Art, an art gallery located in the heart of Ra’anana, Israel. Her metal cuts take cues from and give life to her graphic illustrations, which she specialized in for several years.
For example, her Hanukkah series showcase different scenes like a parade, a wedding, butterflies in a tree, a girl swinging from bird-filled branches, a woman hanging laundry and more. Through metal cutting, Zlochin has found a way to transform her illustrations into three-dimensional ritual objects full of artful expression.
Joel and Candace Bless
Joel and Candace Bless are a glassblowing couple who operate Glasslight studio in Saint Peter’s, PA. Joel has had a lifelong passion for the practice, while his wife, Candace, began her career in printmaking before making the transition to glassblowing. The two create a variety of floor and table lamps, pendants, glass decor, art glass tile and even menorahs.
As each menorah is made by hand by the artists in Pennsylvania, no two are exactly alike. This holds true for the Shofar which cradles clear cast glass reminiscent with waves, as well as Glasslight’s S’ menorah, which has a graceful s-shape and turquoise or blue undercurrents.
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