Sheva Chaya Shaiman is the artist who created the exquisite, spiritual JewishMOM.com logo in the banner above as well as the covers of both my books. I thought it would be interesting to ask Sheva Chaya a few questions about her life as an artist and as a JewishMOM of 5 kids.
Where are you from originally? Denver, Colorado
At what age did you become an artist? I started really getting into painting and drawing in college, at the age of 18.
Where did you study art? I studied painting at Princeton University, and also in Paris, on a semester abroad, which I spent mainly going to various museums. I studied glassblowing, more specifically lampworking, at Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada and privately in my studio in Tsfat.
When and how did you become religious? I started to get interested in Judaism in college, in the mid 90’s. I loved Israel the first time I came (when I was 17) because I saw a great energy and joy for life in the people here. I also loved the landscape of Israel, so colorful and varied. I saw Judaism is “alive” in people, that they “live” Judaism, and their lives were obviously on another level. I started to learn Hebrew, loved the language, and heard about Rebbe Nachman, Rav Kook, Shlomo Carlebach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and found myself blown away over and over again how by beautiful the teachings of the Torah are. After living in the Old City of Jerusalem while spending a semester abroad at Hebrew University I was committed to Shabbos, and learning as much Torah as I could. I loved the chevra (people) so much in Israel, I always wanted to come back until I realized I wanted to live here.
How do you balance motherhood and your art? My children inspire me so much! They have inspired paintings—of them, of mothers with children, of Noah’s Ark. They are like a gateway into a different way of looking at the world, seeing its wonder and simplicity. I am also inspired to make beautiful meaningful artwork which conveys a world of redemption, of joy, and of the Jewish people and the land of Israel shining and thriving.
Of course, I also do art projects with my children, and I’m constantly impressed with their expressions. I find that I need to spend some time alone as well, painting, blowing glass, making videos, and that gives me the clarity and patience to be more present with my children.
As a mom with 5 kids, is it hard to find time to work on your art? Yes! It can be nearly impossible, but I have found that somehow HaShem opens the gates and there are new waves of creative expression through the phases of motherhood and child-raising. I have found that pregnancy can be an ultra-creative time (it is!), and that with every kid, new windows into creativity are opening.
What is your favorite kind of art? I love art that is alive, fresh, fun, full of joy, and helps uplift people. If you mean what media, it is often a toss-up between glassblowing, painting, and videography. At the moment, I love the glasswork because I am able to share it with people. I do glassblowing presentations in my gallery in Tsfat, and simultaneously explain the “deeper” side of glass. By touching on Kabbalistic ideas connected to glass and glassblowing, we can see that the simple act of creating something new can open our hearts and minds to connecting deeper—to HaShem’s world, to each other.
What do you love best about being a Jewish mother? The whole experience is such a gift! Ashreinu! We are so blessed! To pick one thing, I would say Shabbos! It is such an honor to get the opportunity to share and be together, to celebrate HaShem’s creation, to learn beautiful Torah teachings, to sing together.
What do you love best about being an artist? I love that I can give something to people. To gladden hearts, to brighten homes, and to share what I have deep inside—-and, on a simple level, I love to be involved with colors!
What are some of the newest projects you are working on? I started to make chandeliers with glass pomegranates on the lights (see: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=258645&id=641153548&l=1997f0d427) I love seeing the light shine through the glass.
I also recently created a music video
(for women only) for the hit song “Miriam’s Drum” by Tziona Achishena, which shows an array of new paintings and video footage of our recent NY tour. I particularly love the message of the video, which is the circle of women dancing, and I hope to publish a children’s book about Miriam the Prophetess, and paintings in this video will be the starting point.
Learn more about Sheva Chaya in this video: