New Judaica Art Print: A Wonder(ous) Woman  אשת חיל

Let the valorous woman in your life know how Wonderful you find her!

Blue and gold Hebrew text from Psalms 31 in the shape of the Wonder Woman logo

How It Came To Be:

Sometimes Ariela’s creative brain is tripped by odd prompts. She began searching for a way to put a particular Jewish spin on Wonder Woman after seeing a woman put a Wonder Woman bib on her daughter at kiddush* lunch at synagogue on Sh’mini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Assembly). Once she thought of referencing Proverbs 31:10-31, an acrostic poem that begins with the phrase “A Valorous Woman,” the connection seemed obvious.

Hebrew art has a rich history of micrography, tiny calligraphy formatted so that it makes up a picture when you stand back, so the first plan was to fit all 21 verses into the logo. This lasted until Ariela actually thought about the message we wanted to send with the piece. Then most of the poem - the parts that talk about a woman’s value deriving from what she does for her husband and children, frequently in terms of her skills as a housekeeper or acquiring wealth - got cut. Even Terri’s favorite verse, the one that says "Many women have been made great, but you have surpassed them all,” was subjected to the sword. We at Geek Calligraphy do not embrace the Smurfette Principle** in any form - we will not condone the idea that there can only ever be one awesome woman at a time.

While Terri’s recent love of Wonder Woman comes largely as a result of the amazing 2017 film, the logo that Warner Bros. redesigned for Wonder Woman was deemed too angular and complicated. So instead, we used the classic DC Comics logo, with its clean silhouette and iconic red, yellow and blue.

The version up top has yellow text, but we also have an extra shiny (literally) version with gold text.

Gif showing the gold foil on the print reflecting the light.

Each print is matted on a black, archival-safe mat and comes ready to hang. The matted dimensions are 8”x10”. Prints with yellow text cost $30, prints with gold text cost $40. Ships flat.



*Kiddush literally means sanctification. In this case, it refers to the food served at synagogue after the sanctification of the Sabbath or a holiday is said over a cup of wine.

**Note - there are two links here, because one is to an old NYTimes magazine article and may be behind a paywall. The second link is to a TVTropes article, where you can explore all sorts of other lovely tropes about women in fiction and media.


Why You Shouldn't Wear Tefillin with Wet Hair

By Terri

As part of her scribal apprenticeship, Ariela is learning how to repair tefillin. The only English word that exists for these ritual objects is phylacteries. And you guessed it, that's not English!* Jews are commanded to bind certain words of the Torah "on their arms and between their eyes." The traditional** way to fulfill this commandment is to write the specific words on teeny tiny parchments and put them into square rawhide boxes, which are then attached to leather straps. The straps are how the words are bound to one's arm and between one's eyes.*** And when I say square, it really means square. We make every edge flat and every corner a 90 degree angle. 

Rawhide being shaped into  tefillin .  [Image shows large sheets of ivory colored rawhide with vague and then more precise box shaped protrusions in one end. In the front are unpainted  tefillin  boxes]

Rawhide being shaped into tefillin.  [Image shows large sheets of ivory colored rawhide with vague and then more precise box shaped protrusions in one end. In the front are unpainted tefillin boxes]

How do you transform rawhide into neat square boxes? You wet it and either mold it over a wooden block in the correct shape, or you put it into a special metal press which squishes the soaked rawhide into the correct shape. Tefillin are worn during morning prayer.**** If you're running late, that sometimes means that your hair doesn't have time to dry properly between getting out of the shower and donning your tefillin. What do you think happens when that same shaped rawhide is put on wet hair?

 

 

 

An example of healthy  tefillin.  [Image shows a very angular black  tefilah*****  for the arm. It is comprised of a cube on top of a stitched regtangular base, with black leather straps running through it.]

An example of healthy tefillin. [Image shows a very angular black tefilah***** for the arm. It is comprised of a cube on top of a stitched regtangular base, with black leather straps running through it.]

And so we present the visual essay of why leather boxes on wet hair is a supremely bad idea. 

Upright side view of a damaged  tefilah   shel rosh  (the one for the head). The black paint is worn away in many places and the bottom is no longer flat - though it is resting on a cutting mat, the bottom layer of the base is actually curled.

Upright side view of a damaged tefilah shel rosh (the one for the head). The black paint is worn away in many places and the bottom is no longer flat - though it is resting on a cutting mat, the bottom layer of the base is actually curled.

Upside down front view of the same  tefilah shel rosh.  The bottom is so warped that it is almost entirely convex. In addition, much of the black paint is worn away.

Upside down front view of the same tefilah shel rosh. The bottom is so warped that it is almost entirely convex. In addition, much of the black paint is worn away.

These are sad tefillin. Please don't wear your tefillin on wet hair and makes yours sad like them. It won't happen instantly, but it will happen over time.

The good news is that this sort of problem can be fixed! You can take them to a scribe, or some other person who knows about both leatherworking and the laws of tefillin and they can re-mold them. However, this is not an excuse to be lax about drying your hair.

This is the same tefilah shel rosh pictured above after Ariela finished its rehab job.

Side view of the upright repaired  tefilah shel rosh.  The straps have been replaced and are now shiny, all of the  tefilah  is properly black, and the bottom is now resting flat on the cutting mat.

Side view of the upright repaired tefilah shel rosh. The straps have been replaced and are now shiny, all of the tefilah is properly black, and the bottom is now resting flat on the cutting mat.

Overhead view of the upside down repaired  tefilah shel rosh.  The bottom is now entirely flat, and the stitching holding the entire object together has been replaced.

Overhead view of the upside down repaired tefilah shel rosh. The bottom is now entirely flat, and the stitching holding the entire object together has been replaced.

 

*Though it pleases me to refer to a large workshop for making tefillin as a "phylactery factory." 

**The tradition in question is the rabbinic tradition.

***"Between your eyes" doesn't actually mean what it sounds like. The tefillin worn on the head are centered between the eyes, but the bottom edge should be flush with the hairline (or the original location of the hairline, if it has receded).

****Mostly. Tefillin are mostly worn during morning prayer. There are exceptions.

*****Tefilah is the singular of tefillin.

New Judaica Product - Mezuzah Parchments

Were you looking for the only place you could find a Spanish & Portuguese style mezuzah written by a woman? This would be it.

Image is a watermarked 12 cm mezuzah parchment in the Spanish & Portuguese style of ritual calligraphy.

Image is a watermarked 12 cm mezuzah parchment in the Spanish & Portuguese style of ritual calligraphy.

How it Came to Be:

You might think that a mezuzah parchment,* being small, would be the easiest of all of the ritual scribal objects. You would be wrong. The technical aspects and rules pertaining to the mezuzah make it actually quite difficult to write.

The first mezuzah size we will be offering is the largest size typically available - twelve centimeters (approximately five inches) tall. Since Terri thinks S&P ktab** is much fancier than Ashkenazi, we will not be offering a "mehudar" or "fancier calligraphy" option

The text on each parchment is scribed by hand by Ariela, and as such will differ slightly from the image. It may take up to 6 weeks for your mezuzah order to ship, depending on the volume of demand at the time. You may notice that the parchment in the image contains faint gray spots. Not every parchment will look like that, as not every parchment comes from a spotted cow.

Important Note: Ariela adheres to strict halachic*** standards when writing her mezuzot. However, not everyone accepts women as kosher scribes, and anyone who does not will not accept this scroll as kosher. If purchasing the scroll as a gift, please be certain to ascertain that the recipient accepts women as scribes.****

 

 

 

*That would be the bit that goes inside the fancy case you were given as a housewarming present.

**Style of calligraphy for ritual objects

***Jewish legal

****Information on women scribes courtesy of Hasoferet

New Product: Police Box Mizrach (מזרח טרדיס)

by Terri

Have you been searching for the right piece of art to indicate your love of a certain Doctor? No matter which one is yours, his iconic Police Box can guide your prayers in the right direction.

Police Box Mizrach - Art Print by Geek Calligraphy

How it came to be:

Since the Jewish diasporas began in 8th-6th century BCE, Jews have been turning towards Jerusalem and the site of the Temple Mount there to pray. Much of the diaspora has sent Jews westward of Israel, and thus that means facing east.* Typically a synagogue will put the aron (cabinet containing the Torah scrolls) on the eastern wall to remind the congregants which direction to face during prayer. But in a home, especially modern apartments which don't always have windows in the right places, intuiting which direction is east can be difficult.

Thus a decorative, yet functional piece of art came into existence - the mizrach/מזרח.** Usually containing the Hebrew word, it is a pretty thing that you put on the eastern wall to let you know which way to face while praying.*** Many of them feature pictures of Jerusalem, for the obvious reason.

Ariela had been wanting to do a geeky mizrach for a while but was stymied as to how. Inspiration struck in a most unexpected form: at a shiva minyan, one of the mourners was wearing a Karen Hallion t-shirt, and it suddenly occurred to Ariela that perhaps a certain Police Box-shaped object might visit Jerusalem.

The Police Box Mizrach will be available in two sizes: 8" x 10" and 11" x 14" (matted dimensions) for $30 and $45 respectively.

 

 

 

*Of course now we can live in really cold climates, and are often more northeast than actually due east. Someday you can ask me about shenanigans involving prayer in Poland.

**The Hebrew word for east. Pronounced miz (like a married woman keeping her maiden name) rakh (cheerleading RAH with that guttural sound at the end)

***Of course, it doesn't have to be the eastern wall. Our friend Liz embroidered the Hebrew word tzafon/צפון (north) with a decorative border and framed it. You can find east if you know due north. Pedantry can be fun.

New Product: Aliyah Name Cards

By Terri

Tired of playing broken telephone with the gabbai of your local minyan? Out of town and unexpectedly get called up to the Torah? Keep this card in your siddur and you'll always be addressed by your actual name!

Image shows Ariela's hand holding Terri's name card. Letters are in purple (of course) with gold  tagin /crowns.

Image shows Ariela's hand holding Terri's name card. Letters are in purple (of course) with gold tagin/crowns.

how it came to be:

When Ariela moved to her current community, she noticed that they kept a box of file cards on the bimah with member's names in order to call them up for aliyot. Of course, since she was only there on Shabbat, she never got a chance to fill one out for herself. So she made one. And then (because she is a very lovely person), she offered to make one for her spouse thinking that he might like one. And then the natural realization that other people might want one followed. The idea for a sleeve to keep it inside the siddur came from the card being used as a bookmark and then falling out all the time.

Image shows a siddur with a name card in a sleeve attached to the cover.

Image shows a siddur with a name card in a sleeve attached to the cover.

They are available in 5 different colors, with ornamental crowns in either the color of the letters or gold or silver. The cards are laminated so that they are durable. The corners are rounded so that they do not poke you. 

At the moment, if you would like to order more than one, you need to add each card to your shopping cart individually and fill out the personalization form. If you would like to order a large batch, please use our website contact form and request it. We will work with you.

Aliyah name cards are $45 each. We are also selling extra sleeves for $4 each here.