Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Visiting a Commissioned Work

Beautiful sunshine streamed through the window and reflected rainbows on a pice of glass commissioned for this sweet spot on the mantle in a lovely home in northwest Portland. It's called Mayim Chayim: Waters of Life.

It's been up for a good bit of time but this was my first opportunity to visit the piece in daylight! The owner tells me she is shopping for the right light fixture to accentuate the rainbow iridescence at night. 

What a joy to visit with her....but also this piece of glass!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jakob Daw

Jakob Daw

Jakob is possibly my most favorite Potok character in the book.

He is a lovable but rather strange character. He seems able to charm everyone with his mystical stories and his gentle manner.
Davita tells us, “He was a small man, not much taller than my mother, thinly boned, with delicate features and white hands and narrow shoulders. He looked fragile and infirm.” 
At first glance his stories seem odd, bizarre. I find them allegorical, mirroring events from his own life. The stories are haunting, as are the events of his life.
Jakob’s stories often speak of birds with large dark eyes and short wings. His imagination seems to somehow help him turn his pain into stories that are both deeply political but also painfully personal.

Jakob doesn’t just write stories…he tells them. Words emerge from his lips and take flight. He uses his stories to connect with Davita who lovingly calls him “uncle.”

Unlike the other masks, I needed Jakob's face mounted on backing so I could surround his head with birds... a key element to his stories. His goatee is made with antique typewriter keys I "won" in an eBay bidding war. I lost 2 other bidding wars before scoring these. Dollar store glasses frame his eyes and comprise his nose.

Scroll down for information about the performance schedule....through April 9. It is a show you don't want to miss!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Meet Davita's Dad- Michael

Davita's father is a passionate man. He loves his wife Annie and daughter, but he is utterly devoted to his quest for social justice. As a reporter, he is committed to reporting on the political climate.

Michael and his wife Annie believe Communism holds the answers for economic and social justice in America.. Politics is religion in the Chandal household. They frequently host house meetings to promote Unionism. Their passionate politics come at a price however when unsympathetic landlords evict them frequently for their political activism.

Eventually Michael finds himself in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.  A supporter of the Republican leftists, he covers the battles in Guernica where he demonstrates his selfless activism.

I chose to use the flag of the Republican leftists of Spain for half of Michael's face, including his nose. The hat band came from an old hat at least 40 years old and is studded with a communist pin (picture of Lenin.) Carrying the communist theme a little farther, I gifted him with a red star left eye. I used calligraphic pen nibs for his hair and mouth. A few old typewriter keys make up his sideburns.

This  and the other masks will be on display at Milagro Theater in SE Portland throughout the run of Jewish Theater Collaborative's production of Davita's Harp. Scroll down to earlier posts for information about this production...or go to the Jewish Theater Collaborative website: 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Door Harp

The Door Harp
I have always been fascinated by these old world instruments, but I never bought one for myself until I first read this book…sometime in the late 1980’s after reading Davita’s Harp.

Nearly everyone who leaves my house feels called to drop the balls against the taught strings,  but the real gift is that every coming and going is punctuated by music. 

Door harps are not “played” directly, rather music emerges when the door is opened and closed. The “song” is always different, unpredictable, sweet.

Jakob tells a story about a bird flying across the ocean, but he is pained by “bits and pieces of broken dreams that kept piercing his troubled heart like shards of glass.”  

The bird hears music but then becomes exhausted, loses interest in the strange music and becomes diminished in size. When this small bird finally approaches land he is drawn to a new and enticing melody emerging from a house. The bird is greeted at the door by a little girl. Taking this as an invitation to enter her home, the bird flies inside and creates a nest inside the music making door harp.

The story concludes; “sweet but not false, a comfort but not a deceiving caress; a music of innocence.” The bird, now tiny, builds a nest inside the door harp, and “there he lives to this day…” 
I dreamt of building a door harp entirely out of glass. What was clear in my dreams….dissolved with the morning light and instead became Davita’s homework assignment.

Here is Davita’s Harp….as I believe she would have constructed it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Meet Davita's Mamma: Annie!

Annie / Channah
Davita’s mother is a fascinating character. She possesses a great intellect; able to speak German, Polish, and English, she also studied Torah, Gemora and Mishnah in Hebrew. Words were important to her and she was a constant resource to her ever questioning daughter.

Annie is a “lapsed” Jew, devoted to social justice through the Communist Party and the Labor movement. She falls into depression periodically, yet she remains a strong woman with a central core that allows her to survive tragedy after tragedy despite her internal pain. She finds eventual comfort in her Judaism and discovers that it is compatible with her commitment to work for the rights of others.

I couldn’t help but “collect” her words as I read through the book:

“Everything has a name , Ilana”

“Everything has a past. . . . If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future. We are going to build a new world, Ilana. How can we ignore the past?” 

“Magic is a very old idea, Ilana. If you want it to rain and you say certain words, and if each time you say those words it rains, that’s magic. Words or things that control other things or people or nature. That’s magic.”

I wrote Annie's words in the strands of her hair using a kemper pen and gold ink. Writing this way is a challenge because it is very challenging to use this nearly invisible ink. It strikes its gold color when heated. Basically I was writing blind!

Annie also has some bird charms in her hair.....You'll need to read the book and/or see the play to make the connection isn't immediately obvious.

Her eyebrows speak other strong affiliation with communism which for awhile serves her much as any theology might...but eventually she returns to Judaism. Her nose is a mezuzah scroll. As she becomes reacquainted with her "yiddishkeit", her ritual practices increase.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Davita : The Character Mask

Davita is different from most of my masks because she is primarily constructed from fused glass. She has dollar store glasses with rhinestones and her eyebrows contain txt from the kaddish, a prayer she wasn't supposed to recite (because of her gender.)
She has some of Jakob Daw's birds flying in her hair (dichroic glass) and a menorah pendant because she was so taken with both lighting a Chanukiah and shabbat candles.
Here's what is mounted on the information board below the mounted mask:

I like Davita!
Ilana Davita Chandal is Chaim Potok’s first central female character. 

Despite her youth, she seems to have an old soul. She seems wise beyond her years and despite an inner strength that she demonstrates with frequency, she is still a child. We see her vulnerabilities.

Bright, curious, and a passionate reader; Davita is our narrator. We see the lives of her parents and other adults through her innocent eyes.  

She is natural feminist, questioning the limitations imposed on her just because of her gender. As readers, we feel her joys and her sorrows.

Ilana Davita is who she is. There is no pretense. She is a voracious reader and  eventually becomes a writer.

She is drawn to the stories her mother and Jakob Daw tell. She embraces her devoutly Christian aunt but is drawn to her Jewish roots.

Davita’s father introduces her to the magic of a door harp which becomes her constant “companion” and source of comfort during numerous family household moves. 

Scroll down to earlier posts for info on getting tickets for this wonderful production...You can also visit my masks while you are there!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Adena Potok!

What a thrill and honor to meet Adena Potok!
I presented her with a mask of Chaim Potok (z"l).... at the matinee performance of Davita's Harp.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baba glass...and feathers....and bone

Baba Yaga
This mask presented me with numerous challenges but once I began working on her, I couldn't stop! 
Her nose is made from a chicken bone (The soup it came from was delicious!)
She is adorned with real bird feathers and three small craft birds and two dichroic bead warts. 

Although Baba Yaga appears only as a minor character, her name is used 35 times in the book. 

I felt her presence in the story, even when her name was not invoked.

Baba is a supernatural character born into Slavic and European folklore. Depending on who is telling her stories she may appear as one of three sisters who all answer to the name Baba Yaga. 

She may fly around in a mortar while waving a pestle or she can be seen standing in the forest on a single chicken leg. In some tales, Baba Yaga has a repulsive nose. 

Birds frequently accompany her. She is often seen as a ferocious being but she can also demonstrate maternal tendencies, choosing to protect those she deems worthy.

I leave it to you to decide who she is and her role in Davita’s story.

Scroll down to earlier posts to find ticket information
My friend Diane Fredgant helping me mount the show
at Jewish Theater Collaborative/ Milagro Theater !

I couldn't have done it without her help. Diane has an attention to detail! 

Here's some info on how I work....and pictures of each mask will appear one by one, for the next several days.

Hebrew letters often dance across a fanciful screen in my mind’s eye. Translating this dance of letters and images becomes a meditative experience. I journey deeper into the meanings and fight the limitations that a solid yet fragile medium offers me. As I cut and shape the glass, I find myself singing a niggun (a wordless tune) or an actual verse that has inspired my art.  The rest of my world is put on hold; I lose track of time, and I become fully absorbed in meanings beneath meanings and beyond meanings. The product of my meditation is rarely as complex as the journey I have taken. I laughingly refer to my work as shiny, pretty things....but beneath that language is a hidden urge to share my relationship with the sacred.

I am grateful to Sacha Reich and the Jewish Theater Collaborative for the generous invitation to create masks of some of the central character in Chaim Potok’s book, Davita’s Harp.

The process was incredibly similar to studying Torah. I found myself reading and re-reading the text; searching for meanings and trying to understand not only what was written, but also appreciating the white space surrounding the words. 

Sometimes I sang union songs, other times I sang a noggin or some of the prayers Davita and Annie were silenced from singing. I humbly offer my interpretation of these dear characters. They have become like family to me. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016


I was so honored to be asked to create character masks for Davita's Harp. I had wanted to create a mask of the author Chaim Potok (z"l) but didn't have enough time. Last week I learned that his wife Adena would be in attendance at Sunday's matinee...and would do a talk-back with the audience following the performance. I knew I had to make a mask for her. I set to work, barely getting the backing glued on before Shabbes! He was completed this morning....a few final touchups on the mouth and glasses.

I had a vision of what Mr. Potok looked like and I set about making the mask...then I worried I might not even be close.....
I think I have an approximation. (See the photo below)

This afternoon's performance was wonderful. Meeting Adena Potok was an additional treat. She was impressively articulate with delightful responses to all our questions.

If you haven't gotten your tickets yet, please do. Last night's performance as well as this afternoon's matinee were sold out!
Scroll down to my previous post for website ticket purchase information.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Davina's Harp: World Premier in PDX!!!!

Lana Davita Chandal
presents an amazing world premier presentation of Chaim Potok's book, Davita's Harp at Milagro Theater. 
This is a page to stage production that is superbly acted, directed, and produced.

get your tickets while there are a few left!

I've been talking about my journey on this blog for awhile. I've tried to share some of my process with you. 

I've been working hard to craft masks that honor the characters. I am incredibly humbled by this project and must say, I learned a lot in the process.

Gratitude goes to a number of people. Sacha Reich is the visionary and director behind Jewish Theater Collaborative (JTC.) Thank you Sacha for your generous invitation to participate !

My wonderful husband suffered through countless "What do you think?" questions, not to mention the messes I created in the process of making these.

Diane Fredgant is a dear friend and talented artist who gave up her precious free time to not only help me mount the show....but also reprinted and mounted my written descriptions of my work.

Last but not least....Chaim Potok (z"l) who wrote a fabulous book that addresses historical topics that were often taboo. He approaches Judaism from a feminist perspective...a daring endeavor in his time. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mystery Mask: the making of a beard

More information coming soon....(like Sunday evening!)

This is phase two of the beard.....a mustache is next!

I hadn't anticipated making a 6th mask...but this just feels so right!

Davita's Harp Masks!!!!!

Image result for jewish theater collaborative

My Masks are up in the lobby of Milagro Theater on SE Stark Street right here in Portland!

 info for show times and tix can be found on their website:

I'll be posting photos off my masks Sunday, after the opening.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Jakob Daw's Chin
  • n. - (biology) a taxonomic group with a single member (a single species or genus)
n. - A typesetting machine operated from a keyboard that sets separate characters
Jakob is an interesting character! Creator of stories, somewhat mystical, somewhat magical; they are his vehicle for describing the chaos he witnesses...but the solutions seem elusive as he struggles to resolve the the rising and falling action of his words.
He isn't a healthy man, but he clearly has a heart for justice and humanity. He takes too much to heart, feeling the pain in the world. 

Monotype Man seems an appropriate nickname for this unique character in the book DAVITA'S HARP written by Chayim Potok.
I am excited to reveal Jakob and his cohort at Milagro Theater when Jewish Theater Collaborative opens their PAGEtoSTAGE production in about 10 days.
You can buy tickets on their website:

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Hang-up!

Phase 1: tape of the area and lay down the caulk.

FRENCH CLEATS are used to hang the masks. The ones I use are called panel clips and are manufactured here in Portland by Brooklyn Hardware Manufacturing (and they are amazing folks!)

A special adhesive is used that takes a crazy long time to cure. My technique was poor on the first 2 but the other two look prettier.

Phase 2: Add oneself of the panel clip
Phase 3:  Wait
Phase 4: Mount the other panel clip on the wall and then hang the mask!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Last Mask is In the Kiln!

Annie/Channah's new hair-do.  She's in the kiln tonight.....
Fingers crossed that her hair likes the heat!

Friday, March 4, 2016

One of Those Days....sigh!

Things were going so well. Then I cut myself just lifting a piece of glass. I managed to get my base glass cut for my final mask, then began cutting the hair........ nicked the back of my thumb and a stuck,,,,,glass worker, and then.........

A beautiful (and expensive) large piece of striker purple slipped out of my hand when I tried to break a score.....

There are no words..........

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Going to the Birds!

I'm going to leave you guessing.....these birds are part of Jakob Daw's mask!

One more snippet.... Jakob's eye, pre-firing......