Little house in Ashkelon

Her artistic work has been featured in textile magazines around the world and shown in exhibitions in Israel and abroad and, at 85, Anne Bloch shows no signs of stopping.

House in Ashkelon 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
House in Ashkelon 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
When Anne and Aaron Bloch decided to leave South Africa in 1952, they toyed with the idea of living in London, New York or Paris. Instead, they came to Tel Aviv and a few years later to Ashkelon, at the time a small outpost full of Moroccan and Yemenite immigrants, with no hospital and not even a bookstore in those early days.
Aaron, a pediatrician, was sent there to set up medical services for children and they straight away bought the small house Anne still lives in and which also serves, besides her home, as an art gallery of her artistic creations. Aaron died more than 20 years ago.
“I was recycling 50 years ago, long before it became fashionable,” says the lively 85-year-old Bloch, whose work has been featured in textile magazines around the world and shown in exhibitions in Israel and abroad.
She uses old clothes, stockings and all sorts of bits and pieces to create her wall-hangings and dolls.
Nothing is thrown away and dresses are picked apart so she can use the still-beautiful fabric and turn it into one of her whimsical creations.
The small house, set in a big sprawling garden, remains largely unchanged from when they acquired it in the late ’50s. Here they raised their three daughters and here Bloch developed her ideas on creating art from fabric. The entire house is filled with her work, a living museum that has been written up in some prestigious art and fabric magazines.
SURROUNDING HERSELF with her art comes naturally to Bloch, who grew up in South Africa although she was born in Israel in 1926. She ascribes her artistic bent to the school she attended as a child in Cape Town.
“It was an open school and we were encouraged to sing and dance and paint,” she recalls. “It was run by a Jewish woman from Holland and the last two lessons of every day we could choose what we wanted to do. I chose painting.”
After years of painting pictures she thought the canvases were beginning to look a little dull and decided to add some texture. This would serve the purpose of livening up the picture and also was ecologically sound as she could recycle old clothing.
Today, wall hangings she has created make up a large part of the home décor. She hangs them on the walls and also in rows as in a carpet shop. She loves trees and has one hanging called Money Grows on Trees,” made of silver and green satin fabric from one of her old dresses and decorated with real lira coins in which she had holes pierced.
Another, The Owl and the Pussycat, decorates her living room.
Someone who uses so many bits and pieces to make her artwork has to be well-organized to be able to find exactly the right button or the perfect piece of fabric. Part of her open kitchen is given over to storage for all her raw materials. The modern pinewood kitchen has open shelves with hundreds of buttons in storage jars and scraps of felt to be pressed into service as eyes and ears for her life-sized dolls.
“I’m a real yekke in some things but otherwise my imagination runs wild,” she says.
Her work counter is also in the kitchen with everything at hand – a sewing machine, an iron at the ready – so she can spontaneously produce a doll or one of her fantasy hats the minute an idea pops into her fertile imagination.
Out in the garden, which she looks after herself, she has arranged her stuffed dolls around a table in companionable silence.
“I’ve no more space in my house to put anything up,” she explains.