Heirloom Alert: Dreidel (made of clay!) by Julia Elsas
Greetings, collectors! Our Turkey Day leftovers are just about gone, and the December holidays are upon us. We’ve got an extra special treat for you today, just in time for some early Hanukkah gifting. Let us present ceramic artist Julia Elsas’s debut 20x200 Artist-Made object edition: The All is a Miracle Dreidel, accompanied by a touching intro written by tastemaker (and 20x200 bestie!) Claire Mazur.
Standing approximately 3.5" wide and 2.75" tall on the base, the dreidels were inspired by the exuberant shapes, colors, and textures seen in the sculptures of Peter Shire and Ron Nagel. Each piece is uniquely one-of-a-kind and handmade by Julia, and with only twenty(!) available, they’re bound to go fast!
The text “All is a Miracle,” is from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, and is written in both English and Hebrew on the top of the dreidel. And using richly reflective palladium glaze on a wedge shaped base, Julia cleverly designed her dreidels to rest playfully tilted atop the stand so that the words are mirrored on the surface.
In an effort to honor the traditional dreidel game as well as celebrate the Hanukkah holiday, Julia also sought to create a sculptural object to be displayed all year ‘round. And of course, they spin!
Now without further ado, to properly introduce The All is a Miracle Dreidel, here is author and podcaster Claire Mazur offering her perspective on family, tradition, heritage and art. Read on!
P.S. Our order deadlines are fast approaching, so if you’d like to order The All is a Miracle Dreidel in time for the first night of Hanukkah, get those orders in by 12/8!
I first encountered Julia Elsas’s work during the early pandemic days when I was working on a round-up of good-looking wall hooks—they’d become a hot commodity the moment everyone realized they required a place to hang their growing collection of masks. (Remember when we used to wear cloth ones? How quaint.) Julia’s were a perfect solution: colorful, joyous, full of personality, and hand-built with clay. Ceramics, like wall hooks, boomed during peak Covid for obvious reasons: Not only we were we all desperate for beautiful things to counter the global mood, but we yearned for human touch, and more than most art forms, clay gives us that—evidence that someone’s fingers have molded an object.
Later that same year, her genius would surface again as I searched for interesting menorah designs, which are rarer than you’d think given the glut of Christmas decor on the market. I’m selfishly thrilled Julia has expanded the scope of her Hanukkah line with her 20x200 edition: As the mother of a half-Jewish three-year-old, dreidels are the most obvious entrypoint into the joys of Judaica—they are a toy, after all. And for us non-religious Jews (I suppose “cultural jews'' is the preferred term these days), this one feels especially perfect: The Thich Nhat Hanh-inspired quote “All is a Miracle”, printed in both English and Hebrew (for those who’ve either forgotten or never known the joys of Bat Mitzvah training) blends the universal theme of mindfulness with the traditional dreidel message that “a miracle happened here.”
It’s extremely cliche of me, but my relationship with my heritage has become more important since having a kid. Both of my parents are Jewish and, per 23andme, I am 99.9% Ashkenazi, but we were never a religious household and until recently I’d rarely spent a lot of time thinking about what Judaism means to me. I’m still figuring that out, but I know I want my son to recognize and value this part of his identity, and unlike me, he won’t have the first- and second-generation grandparents and great aunts and uncles around to tell him the stories and send him on the guilt trips that feel so core to my own Jewish identity. It’s rare to find something that I can give to my son at his current age and imagine he might value it well into adulthood—heirlooms for toddlers aren’t really a thing. But this might just be the one for us.