Friday, December 23, 2011

The URJ Biennial

Last week I had a wonderful time at the Union of Reform Judaism Biennial Conference.  I was part of the vendor's in the Exhibition Hall which was open during the conference.  My booth was simple and I sent most of the display materials via Fedex to the hotel a few days before I arrived.  I think that it turned out pretty nice, but I should have invested in some lights.

The event was at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland.  This beautiful Hotel located in a artificial community called National Harbor which is full of shops, restaurants, hotels and residences.  The hotel atrium house a 15 story atrium with a beautiful faux candy glass Christmas tree.  There are overpriced restaurants and shops beneath but a nice place to people watch or grab a snack.

After the first night of the convention I invited to a meeting for the American Guild of Judaic Art .  It was wonderful to finally meet all these people I have admired for the last couple of years.  The Guild provides a support system to the artist involved and also information and inspiration for artists and collectors alike.

Another exciting event at the Biennial was that Pressident Obama came to speak.  The security was high, and to tell you the truth, the sales at the Exhibition Hall that day were pretty dim as most of the attendees were in line starting at 10am.  Still, the president's speech was a highlight.  Although I didn't actually go into the hall to see him speak, I watched it  on a computer hookup with many of the other Exhibitors.

Saturday the Exhibition Hall was closed for Shabbat so I went into Washington DC with a couple of fellow Artists to visit some museums.  First we went to the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian's American craft museum, which featured pieces from the white house collection.   It was wonderful.  Then we visited the Textile museum which had an exhibit of African textiles from the Kuba people who reside in area of the Republic of Congo.  The textures and designs of the weavings were so inspirational.

I met so many great people at the conference.  I have many new customers and I loved to hear their comments about my work.  I also met a lot of  artists.  I want to thank each and everyone of them who were so forthcoming with information and help.  I feel as though I have many new mentors and I am so grateful.

Next to my booth was Claude Riedel, who makes the most beautiful Eternal Lights (Ner Tamids) for Temples and Synagogues.  The lamps are a combination of metal and glass.  He works closely with the temples and their architects to create a Light unique to the space.

Karla Gudeon's hand colored engravings are incredible.   Her artwork is featured in musems and galleries as well as books. There is. nothing else like it.

Speaking of unique, check out Joan Edelstein's scarves.   They are so amazing I had to get one for myself.

Simcha Textiles is the name of Elaine Phillip's work.  Her  handwoven tallit and wraps are are luxurious.  When Elaine and I visited the Textile Museum we were like kindred spirits.

Finally, I want to thank Jim Cohen for all his support before and during the show.  I had never met Jim before, but had bombarded him with questions via email which he gladly answered for me.  Jim is a master metal smith.  His designs are what I can only describe as modern classics. 

I also want to thank my sister in law, Francie Kranzberg for her incredible help during the show.  Francie got me to and from the airport, helped me unpack and pack, and kept me company during most of the show.  Franice knew a lot of the Biennial attendees due to her work at Washington DC's Jewish Federation.  It was a pleasure to have her with me.

Well, I am already excited to attend the URJ Biennial in two years, which will be in San Diego. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

URJ Show

Well I'm packing up for my biggest and most exciting show of the year.  It's the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial Conference in Maryland.  December 14th-18th at the Gaylord Hotel Complex in National Harbor.  This important Jewish convention is a great opportunity for me to expose my artwork to 5000 plus people from all over the United States.  President Obama will be speaking at the conference as well as other Political, and Spiritual leaders.  I am especially excited to meet my fellow artist from the American Guild of Judaic Art.
If you, or anyone you know, is attending the URJ Biennial this year, please drop by booth #323 in the exhibition hall and say hello. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

announcing the new rachelmilllerartist website!

I am so excited about my new logo, branding and website.  Now it will be easier to find me on the web and be able to see everything all together.  At you can find galleries of my past and present pieces in Judaica and Jewelry.  There is also my bio, my artist statement and resume of my work.  Plus there is an easy link right to my Etsy shop to purchase items.  On the home page you will also be able to see exactly were I will be exhibiting and selling in person.  And I especially excited to have this blog linked to the rest of the site, so you can read about all the new creations and inspirations.  Special thanks to Ran Mano of for putting this all together.
Please let me know what you think of the site.  Comments and criticism are welcome!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

questions answered

I've been doing some local St. Louis craft show and I get a lot of comments and questions from people.

What are you doing here?  This is a craft fair.
Well That's true, my things are more artwork then craft and the prices are a reflection of that, but most of the local fairs I participate in are in Temples and Synagogue.  That a good place to meet Jewish people who are more likely to purchase my mezuzahs, yads and Jewish star necklaces.  Even though they may not be interested in buying anything today, they will take my card and remember me when they want to get a special gift or piece for themselves.

Is everything you make Jewish?
No it is not.  I make a lot of jewelry.  My fine silver jewelry is a reflection of my personal style and aesthetic.  I like jewelry that is causal.  I am a former sportswear designer so I keep current with the trends and try to incorporate styles that are up to date but still stand the test of time.
There are a lot of wonderful Jewelry Artists out there who work in PMC.  One reason that I started to concentrate on making Judaica is to keep myself unique and find a niche in the market.  Of course, through that process, I found I was able to express myself even more creatively and making the Judaica became my focus.

Your stuff is so beautiful, why are you not showing at Laumeier or the St. Louis Art Fair in Clayton?
Well, first of all thank you.  I really appreciate that you like my work.  I would love to be a part of those shows, but there is a short answer on why I am not.  I do not have a booth.  A proper tent (booth) with lights and display costs $2000-$4000.  In order to be considered for these shows you must have a picture of your booth in your application.  These shows are juried and the competition is fierce, especially in the Jewelry category.  So you must have a professional display and booth to be considered, and no you can't just rent one.  Buy my work and I will invest in the booth, I promise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

busy in the studio....

Ive been very busy working in my basement studio making all sorts of pieces for my upcoming shows, especially the URJ show in December in Maryland.  It has been incredibly fulfilling to be creating all day.  I just hope everyone likes the pieces as much as I do.
I haven't added anything to my etsy shop yet because I have too many local shows coming up, but I thought I'd just post a few pictures to show you what I have been up to.  I also have been experimenting on some new ways to photograph the mezuzot, I like to show them hanging instead of lying flat.

mezuzah with amythest

This ancient building necklace opens up
If you are in the St. Louis area I will be at the Bnai Amoona Chanukah Bazaar, this Sunday October 30th, 9-1.  Come by and see me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a work in progress

Well, my daughter's Bat Mitzvah is behind us (she was awesome, by the way) so it is time for me to concentrate fully on my metalwork.  There are a lot of changes in the works, a new logo and branding, a new website, and probably a new destination for this blog.  It's a lot of work, both inside and outside the studio.  I've been constructing some new awesome mezuzot and yads and some have been snatched up even before I could post them or add them to my etsy shop.   I am mostly preparing for a big show in December.  It is in Maryland at the URJ Convention, Union for Reform Judaism.  But I have some local St. Louis shows coming up in the next couple months.  So I better get back down to the basement studio and start creating!! The I hope to unveil what I have been working on in the next few weeks.  Please stay tuned.  I plan to return, even better.
I want to post a picture, but seriously I haven't actually photographed my work for months..... so much to do, so little time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

it's never good enough....

Recently, I a couple of my mezuzahs have been getting some attention.  Having a picture of one of my pieces in print or on the web is a real honor and a thrill.  The Brownstone mezuzah, which is a part of the Mizel Museum's collection, has in featured in Metal Clay Magazine, The Metallurgy Online Exhibit on Crafthaus, and was chosen to be in the 2011 PMC Annual Book.  The Zentangle Mezuzah is also featured in these publications.  I am very proud of both of these pieces, but I suffer from a common problem many artists have.....It's nice, but the next one I made was so much better. 

When I finish a piece, at first I am usually a bit disappointed.  Most of the time, the result isn't quite the same as the original vision.  Maybe I am a bit hard on myself because after a couple days, I get excited about the piece again.  Sometimes I have the piece professionally photographed.  Getting a professional pictures taken of your work is always a good idea.  I wish I could afford to do it more often.  I am quite sure that the quality of the photographs of the work was as important factor as the work itself in getting it published.  But as I examine the work I am constantly looking at the flaws in workmanship, and the improvements I could make in the design.   And, if I make a new piece based on what I think I have learned from the previous, it too has it's own list of flaws and design problems.  I guess this is what artist go through and why we are constantly challenged.  It one reason I love my work.  I love to create, improve, problem solve and then make more problems for myself.

Here is a new version of the Brownstone Mezuzah, fresh out of the kiln and ready to be patinaed and polished.  Don't even get me started.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Well, it's Bat Mitzvah time for me again.  This time it's my daughter Tamara, who is an extraordinary artist.  She is very talented, but I am most impressed by her lack of restraint.  She always is coming up with a new and different way of looking at things.  I have to admit that I wish I had a bit more of this quality.  She does not always follow the "rules"which makes her work magical. 
Tamara designed original artwork for her invitations, and is now helping to create the centerpieces which will be used at the Luncheon following the Bat Mitzvah service.  We have decided to use butterflies to symbolize the metamorphosis that has occurred this past year as Tamara studies for and becomes at Bat Mitzvah.  Tamara created the colorful butterfly wings using window paint and copper wire.  I will fashion then into butterflies and then make then "fly" on branches (some of which come from our own garden).

2011 pmc annual

I got news this weekend that two of my mezuzahs will be in the the 2011 PMC Annual book!  I am so honored to be a part of this collection of artists.  The mezuzahs featured are some of my favorites.  The Zentangle Mezuzah. which features a doodle texture I created with symbols of Israel and Judaism, and the Brwnstone Mezuzah, which is part of the permenant collection of the Mizel Museum of Jewish Art in Denver.

Monday, May 9, 2011

my mezuzuah is part of a museum collection

I am honored to have my brownstone mezuzah selected by the Mizel Museum in Denver to be a part of their permanent collection.  The mezuzah is fine silver and is inspired by brownstone homes that I used to walk by in Boston and New York. It features a bay window and a street lamp.  I am honored to be a part of this wonderful Jewish Museum.  The mezuzah will be displayed as it was meant to, on a doorway. 
To read more about please check out the museum's newsletter, The Mizel Tov, and click on the link for the museum newsletter (It is the Spring 2011 edition).

Monday, April 25, 2011

new mezuzah

My latest mezuzah case takes the form of a house.  The original texture of the walls of the home I created myself.  It is a wallpaper like pattern of flowers reminiscent of the arts an craft movement in the late 1800's.  I also included a raised scroll design.  There are three arched windows, one of which is open so one can see the scroll that would be put inside the mezuzah.  A dormer juts from the left wall of the structure and a chimney is on the roof.  But the most spectacular part of the mezuzah case is the door, which I made tiny silver hinges when opened reveals in Hebrew, the word,"Shema". 

As usual, piece is one of a kind, fine silver.

Friday, April 8, 2011

the price of silver :(

I just checked the price of silver and it is hovering just below $40 an ounce.  The cost of silver has sky rocketed in the last year, with no sign of slowing down.  The predictions on just how high it will go are frightening!  I regrettably, have had to adjust my prices accordingly.  I love to work in silver and would like to continue to do so.  I hope that my customers will understand the what I have to do in order to be able to function in this market.   Silver clay or PMC, is nearly twice as expensive as sterling silver.  But the wonderful detail and technique I am able to achieve with this medium is definitely worth the price.  Some metal clay artist are switching to copper or bronze clays.  So far I have been disappointed in my results in this medium.  But I will continue to explore the possibilities.

 I hope that you will drop by my shop and check out what things I have been working on.  I just completed a couple of new yads and I now can personalize your yad in both English and Hebrew!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What does it mean to be an artist?-the artist statement

I have been struggling the last few years to first of all be able to confidently call myself an artist, and then to define what exactly that means.  It is something that many creative people go through.  I have been successful and able to feel comfortable calling myself an artist.  Partly because it is what I am passionite about and also because I have had some degree of success. 

Being successful commercially can be tricky.  I spent a lot of time this year making jewelry this year that was pretty, fashionable and relevent.  But I have to say it was not an artistic experience.  I mean it did not satisfy my need to create from the heart or to express myself.  I find that when I make a piece of Judaica, for example a mezuzah, I am much more engaged in the process.  I am happier with the results, and people are much more affected by my work.  So I have desided to concentrate on working on art pieces and judaica ritual objects.

I have just completed writing my artist statement, which I am sure, will be revised as time passes.  Special thanks to my dear friend Andew Raftery, who encouraged me and helped me through this process. Let me know what you think:

Artist Statement

Judaica is the vehicle that brings together my creative energies and my personal values. Tapping into the history and traditions of Judaism gives my work tremendous significance. Artistic relevance emerges from the link between my creative vision and my understanding these traditions. I respect the laws of the Jewish faith and create art which can be used as ritual object or symbol of faith.

My design process begins with sketching, working out major design decisions and dilemmas with pen and paper. The medium of silver clay informs the next steps. Silver metal clay starts off soft and pliable. Its unique qualities allow manipulation throughout the construction of the piece. The consistency of the clay changes as it dries which gives me the opportunities for building, texturizing, shaping and carving. After the clay is fired and becomes solid silver, the surface can be worked by chasings, polishing and patinas.

I am influenced by art, architecture, and even pop culture. My collection of Mezuzahs based on classic architecture are not rigid copies. Through the use of custom textures I transform these building into fluid objects of art, free zones for the viewer's imagination. Many of the original textures I create are inspired by calligraphy, illuminations, art nouveau and Moorish and Islamic art, and the arts and crafts movement of the late 1800s. I make a piece that is relevant in our time but also brings these ancients values to the present.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I finally conquered the hinge, thanks in part from the wonderful advice and encouragement of my colleague of the emc team.  The result is this pseudo locket which has a hidden star of David inside.  I mainly followed the instructions on how to make hinges from Hadar Jacobson's book, The Handbook of Metal Clay,textures and forms.  The book doesn't go into super detail so you just have to go for it and work things out as you go.  The hardest part for me was lining up the hinges with the "pin" after everything was fired, but I finally was successful and I was very happy with the result. Check it out in my etsy shop.  I can't wait to make more hinges pieces and as looking forward to incorporating hinges into my mezuzah designs!

Now I wonder, what is the next challenge?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I am featured on Crafthaus!

Check out tis wonderful website dedicated to connecting artists all over the world.

Friday, January 28, 2011

new work- stars

This week has been very busy for my mom.  She's sculpted, put together, fired, oxidized, and polished seven new star necklaces.  I really like these stars in particular because my mom used some new textures she made, so they're very unique.  My favorite new star necklace is the one that uses the texture with the vines, scrolls, and pomegranates.  From far away, it just looks like pretty swirls and lines, but close up, you can see the detail very well.  I also like the star with the double layer and the star.  It's simpler, but it also has the Hebrew letters in the background, which adds a really elegant design. 

You can find many of the new necklaces on her Etsy Page.

Abby Miller

Sunday, January 23, 2011

festival of jewish life

I have been asked to be a part of a presentation and discussion on Jewish art with three other local artists.  This is all part of The St. Louis Rabbinical Association's Festival of Jewish Life which takes place January 29-February 3rd.  There are lots of very interesting and impressive lectures, demonstrations,  films and workshops at the event.  Tickets are $20 for the whole series which gets you into most events, or $5 for individual events.

I'll be speaking Monday January 31 at 7pm along with Ilene Berman, Jeane Vogel and Helen Schwartz.  I'm sure we will all have a unique perspective on the art scene and how Judaism affects our work.  If you are interested in tickets or more information please go to festival website.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

tamara's yad

My daughter's bat mitzvah is coming up in September and she has been studying and preparing for it.  I decide to create a very special personalized yad for her and give it to her now so that she could use it during her practice sessions.  She was so excited with the gift.  The yad has her name wrapped around it and also the date of her upcoming Bat Mitzvah.  I designed this yad with her personality in mind, with a whimsical top and a butterfly, which is a theme throughout her invitations and decorations for the lunch after the service. 
Personalized yads are always available in my etsy shop.  You can discuss exactly what you would want to include on this very special gift.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

mezuzuah project-2010

My completed year of Mezuzot for 2010......

2011 promises to be even better.