Aug. 17, 2001
Art Beat - Wosk ketubot
A new marriage of styles
Knack for art and calligraphy opens doors for Wosk.
PAT JOHNSON REPORTER
More than a quarter-century of working in various artistic media
has led Marcie Wosk to her latest endeavor. A calligraphy expert
who has created the scripts for Golden Books, proclamations and
other ceremonial documents, Wosk is turning her attentions to creating
uniquely expressive ketubot, ceremonial Jewish wedding contracts.
The traditional documents undergo a modern twist in Wosk's hands.
In addition to the conventional ketubah wording - rendered in exquisite
Hebrew calligraphy - she likes to include artwork that is particularly
expressive of the couple for whom the contract is being prepared.
For instance, a family kiddush cup might enliven a corner of the
parchment, or perhaps a tallit or Shabbat candlesticks. Wosk stumbled
on her new craft almost by accident. She has done a wide range of
calligraphy work, not only in Hebrew and English, but in such tongues
"The characters are unlike anything you've ever seen,"
she said of that venture.
So, when someone called her out of the blue asking if she did ketubot,
she admitted she hadn't tried it, but was willing to try. "I'm
always willing to take up a challenge," she said.
Wosk's enthusiasm for the craft stems from her view that a ketubah
is much more than just a piece of paper.
"It's a marriage contract, but I think it can be something
more," she said. "I think it's the very first, very important
pledge of love and life to each other.... I want to make them very
personal. I want the artwork to be special for the couple."
Something she has not attempted yet, but which seems only a matter
of time considering her excitement about the idea, is a West Coast
ketubah, illustrated with the mountains, trees, water and wildlife
that define this part of the world.
The ketubot that Wosk creates are done on acid-free, smooth mats,
brought to life with watercolor paints and ink that will not fade
in the sun. Each requires around 14 hours of painstaking work.
"I've always had a fairly strong background in art,"
she said. Calligraphy is a particular strength. "A lot of it
is self-taught, but I did take some lessons in background and theory."
In this world of quick fixes and automated everything, even ketubot
have not gone unhampered. There are now computer programs that emulate
the calligraphers' script.
Understandably, a craftsperson like Wosk is nonplussed by such
"It takes away from the human side of it," she said.
"It's too perfect." There is also, of course, the conventional
fill-in-the-blanks ketubah available at most synagogue gift shops.
It does the deed for a lot of couples, but Wosk thinks there should
be a little more personality in something that will hopefully follow
a couple around for the rest of their lives.
"I'd like to see people have their very own personal ketubah
done, rather than just filling in a line," she said.