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diary of a sofer - part 33

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

Art in Action is a 4 day event that take place in the grounds of Waterperry in Oxford every year. This year soferet Avielah Barclay was asked to take part in the Abrahamic Arts tent - an interfaith arts exhibition with representatives from the three Abrahamic derived faiths - Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Avielah by her display
Avielah writing the megillah

As well as selling wares, the idea is to have the various artists and craft people creating works of art as members of the public walked by. Avielah sat and tried to write Megillat Esther, I say tried because of the many many questions that people asked as they alighted on the stall. I tried to field some questions so they could watch her write.

Avielah addressing the crowd

After a while, Avielah went off to participate in a talk on whether Art could bridge the differences between the faiths. So I started writing a mezuzah to ensure there was still some 'art in action'. To be honest I was a bit frustrated as I hadn't written for a while, aside from the tefillin (see diaries 30-32) having been working mostly on torah restoration in recent months and a design and layout for a new siddur.

Anyway it did the trick and drew the visitors whilst Avielah was speaking and when she returned we carried on. My first time writing alongside another sofer. I'm sure there were people passing by and gathering round but for a little while we were both in little worlds of own - intense kavannah on our respective writing.

Sofrim a writing

One white haired well spoken visitor to the stall started telling Avielah that they something in common in that he made atsey chayim for a sofer in London Eventually my turner Ken looked in my direction when I said to Avielah - oh that's Ken, the guy who did those atsey chayim I showed you.

It is a small world and there is no such thing as a coincidence.

On one side was Judy Bermant,  widow of the late Chaim Bermant, who I had done a characature of earlier in my illustrating career, so I was able to tell her. On the other was Josh Baum, a piece of who's artwork Avielah had sent me a few week's previous and who had been approached for work on the siddur I have been designing. Small world and no such thing as a coincidence. And he had some fantastic work - one piece with a tiny paper cut sofer in a dome was just so cool.

Across the way was an Islamic calligraphy expert Sorayah Syed (www.artofthepen.com) who used Iranian reed pens. One of these I had to have. Whilst some Sefardi scribes do use reeds, most of us use quills. The only reed quill I had was a rather rough bamboo one. This however was a really good one.
The letters had similar sounding names to Hebrew but looked completely different Sorayah's father taught me a few letter strokes and then asked me to write him something in Hebrew using the reed. I obliged but this vanished as the day wore on. Someone must have taken it. So I wrote again, this time his name.

renaissance article

After the event, I finally got around to reading the programme and the copy of Jewish Renaissance I had been given. Josh had an article but tucked away at the bottom of page 11 was a reference to me and the Megillat Hashoah (graphic?) and that this website was 'well worth a visit'. And now I know why Judy Herman (who had previously interviewed me for the BBC World Service (see diary 29) had asked me a few questions a few weeks back!

Oddly she had mentioned an orthodox scribe called Josh who I hadn't heard of - then! No such thing as a coincidence - or have I said that already?

Anyway a great time, spending time with Avielah, seeing other people's art with the bonus of a lovely visit to Oxford synagogue which is always nice and a big thank you to Sarah Montagu for putting us up when the tent got flooded out!

Mordechai Pinchas

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