(photo credit: Courtesy/Iris Tutnauer)
For lifelong Jerusalem resident Iris Tutnauer, a silversmith designer by trade,
the city has not only been her eternal capital but also her ever-constant
artistic muse. Tutnauer, a mixed-media artist, specializes in integrating
contemporary design and craftsmanship to convey traditional Jewish concepts and
values in Judaic and Jerusalem-inspired art.
“Jerusalem is a source of
inspiration for me. Although the day-to- day routine tends to hide the special
aspects of Jerusalem, there is something that inspires me – the people, the
streets and unique neighborhoods, the complexity of life here… Jerusalem is
another input to my creative process,” says Tutnauer.
From an early age,
she realized that her creativity was enriched and stimulated by the city.
Working with the colors, textures and materials of Jerusalem throughout her
childhood, Tutnauer was motivated and eventually wanted to galvanize her talents
by studying in the silversmith department of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts
Since her graduation from the school in 1990, she has been an
active artist working in the city, aiming to redesign and modernize Judaic
objects along halachic guidelines by using pure silver and additional materials
such as stone, wood, glass and fabric for her work.
She begins new
commissions or projects by researching the historical, cultural and halachic
aspects of the topic in order to comply with any related restrictions. This
extra research “provides me with a background of the object I will design, and
this knowledge is also a source of ideas that may come from my understanding of
the context of the topic,” she says.
In 2009 Tutnauer opened a studio in
the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mahaneh Yisrael, an area just outside the walls of
the Old City. Working daily within the proximity of the Old City and the
modernity of contemporary Jerusalem inspires her to use her artistic talents to
bridge generations of Judaic history through her art.
designed a hanukkia that relates to my childhood in the Bukharan Quarter, an old
neighborhood in Jerusalem, where my grandparents live. My memories of Hanukka in
this neighborhood are quite distinct. I remember the simple and beautiful
hanukkiot on the windowsills. My stone hanukkia tries to relate to this
simplistic beauty,” says Tutnauer about working in Jerusalem.
believes that the popularity and aesthetic of her art are strongest with
traditional families who are looking for modern design for traditional Jewish
ornamental objects. The combination of old and new aesthetics can be seen in her
Jerusalem Citadel series, a handcrafted sterling silver mezuza series shaped
like the openings in the walls of the Old City, formerly used to protect its
inhabitants from attack.
Tutnauer’s bold creativity has been garnering
attention outside of homes. Her unique mezuza designs were installed in all the
apartments in the King David Residence in Jerusalem and are collected by private
buyers. She has also been commissioned to design the main mezuza for
Temple Judea in Tarzana, California, and her works have been purchased for
exhibition by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Jewish Museum in New
Looking to the future for new creative challenges, Tutnauer
anticipates that she will continue creating Judaic art, though she is open to
applying her capabilities of design and practical work in other areas of
Whatever direction she chooses to reach for creatively in the
future, Iris Tutnauer is clearly not forgetting to look towards Jerusalem’s past
and its future.Handcrafted hanukkiot at the Iris Tutnauer Gallery, 24 Agron
Street, Jerusalem, 054-771-8198.