In 1998 I spent a two-month sabbatical in Bethlehem teaching students – mostly adult women – to craft new items for the tourist market using broken bottles and glass. In nearby Hebron, the glassblowing workshops provided our class with scraps of broken cobalt glass and cast medallions and fish.
Hebron’s history and current reality is my inspiration. The burial tomb of the Prophet Abraham is the heart and soul of Hebron where the three Abrahamic faiths have lived together throughout their shared history, at times in peace, at times in strife. According to tradition, the evil ruler Nimrod threatened to cast young Abraham into a pyre, but God transformed the fire into water and the embers into fish. This legend is the basis of the fire in the center and the fish and water. The outer white arches reflect the graceful Old City architecture.
The geometric design is a variation of the traditional seven-circles Islamic design and forms a continuous line. The brass pieces with star cutouts and glass cabochons are from a lamp made in Hebron that I purchased in Jerusalem’s old city. Many of the pottery pieces were plates made by the Natsheh family, one of Hebron’s historic glassblowers who also cast the glass fish. The aqua glass pieces were collected along the Mediterranean beach and are probably slag glass from ancient factories along the coast. Hebron hosted, in August 2011, an exhibition of antique Palestinian mosaics that included a wall with broad leaves filled with fruits, simplified for this artwork and representing hopes for an abundant future for the Abrahamic family.
Photo credit: Jessica Marcotte