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July 10, 1992 - Image 93

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-07-10

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Mrs. Schwartz at work: Ornate, delicate, complex designs.

Sacred Art


From a small
desk in her
home, Rachel
designs ketubot
and other works
of Jewish art.


Assistant Editor

he wedding could not
go on without Rachel
Schwartz, and it didn't
look like she would make it.
First, Mrs. Schwartz miss-
ed her 6:30 a.m. flight from
Detroit to New York, where
the wedding would take
place. She called the
airlines. She called her
travel agent. She made a
desperate plea.
"I've got to get a later
flight!" she cried.
Finally, she arrived in
New York. It was a question
of minutes, now. She hailed
a taxi and jumped in. No
time to admire the incom-
parably clean streets of the
city; no time to inhale that
fresh, New York smog. Mrs.
Schwartz went straight to
the wedding, jumped out of
the cab and dashed inside.
There was a reason she
was in such a hurry, and it
had nothing to do with tasty
appetizers. Mrs. Schwartz
was carrying the couple's
handmade ketubah (wedding
Mrs. Schwartz, of South-
field, has been creating
ketubot and other works of
Jewish art (usually
delivered with considerably
less fanfare than the New
York wedding) for the past
several years. It is the

fulfillment of a childhood
Born in Scranton, Pa.,
Rachel Horowitz was a little
girl who liked to "make up
fairy tales and illustrate
them. Mostly, I drew the
princesses —not the
Among her earliest sup-
porters was her mother,
Thekla, herself an artist of
sorts who designed posters
for the synagogue's ladies
auxiliary. Rachel loved her
mother's papers and pens,
and it was Mrs. Horowitz
who gave Rachel her first
calligraphic pen and
"bought me pads and pads of
newsprint to draw on."
When newsprint wasn't
available, Rachel filled her
school notes with portraits of
her teachers and fellow
students. She also practiced
calligraphy during lectures.
None of her teachers com-
In high school, Rachel
studied art privately for
several months. "That," she
says, "was the extent of my
art education."
For awhile, she thought of
becoming a fashion il-
lustrator. Then she hoped to
create cakes photographed
for magazines; she gave that
plan up when she discovered

it wasn't pure art.
"I found out the cakes
were made from Styrofoam
and plaster," she says.
After graduating high
school, Mrs. Schwartz
studied for a master's degree
in educational administra-
"I was interested in art
and in music and pre-med,"
she says. "So I finally ended
up being a teacher."
After marrying a Detroit
native, Mrs. Schwartz set-
tled in Southfield and taught
for several years at the Sally
Allen Alexander Beth Jacob
School for Girls.

"Artwork never brings in a full-
time salary, even though it's a full-
time job."

"I didn't have time for art
while I was teaching," she
says. "Artwork never brings
in a full-time salary, even
though it's a full-time job."
But neither would she
abandon art completely.
After she designed a
ketubah for a cousin, friends
and relatives encouraged
Mrs. Schwartz to begin sell-
ing her work. She decided to
give it a try.
In the early years — before
she had two children and
miles of diapers and
countless jars of pureed ba-
nanas and peas to deal with
— Mrs. Schwartz could
spend up to eight hours a
day on her art, completing a
ketubah in a week. These
days, she asks for a little
more advance notice.
"A ketubah could take me
several months," she says.
Her favorite time to work
is in the afternoon, when her
new baby is asleep. Her
studio is a small table in a
spare bedroom, her pens in a
large dresser drawer.
Mrs. Schwartz's works
vary in shape — her most re-
cent ketubah is round, inside
a square frame — and usual-
ly are decorated with bright
colors and graceful designs.
"I don't like anything
heavy," she says. "What I do



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