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Meet Kerryn Levy, the artist behind the Hanukkah creative

Hanukkah, also known as ‘The Jewish Festival of Lights’, is a holiday that lasts eight days and is celebrated around the world. A joyous festival, the holiday is inspired by a miracle which took place over 2000 years ago. All the way back in 175 BC, the Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes ordered the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem after the Jewish people refused to worship the Greek Gods. Led by Judah the Maccabee, the Jewish people successfully rebelled and upon entering their sacred temple, found just one jar of oil. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, giving the Jewish people enough time to find more oil for their candles.

This year, Hanukkah starts on the 7th of December and continues through until the 15th of December, and one candle is added nightly for eight nights to a menorah, a traditional candle-holder. In addition, songs are sung, gifts are exchanged, prayers are recited and delicious food is feasted on.

To mark the joyous holiday, Kerryn Levy created ‘The Lumena Menorah’ and a ‘Repeat Pattern Wall Sculpture’, which will be featured at Westfield Bondi Junction. Kerryn Levy is a South Australian based artist and maker who aims to bring people together through a shared love of clay. We sat down with Kerryn to discuss her artworks and talk about their relationship to Hanukkah.

Can you talk us through the menorah you have created and the meaning behind each of the elements?

The ‘Lumena Menorah’ was made to celebrate the candle-lighting rituals of Hanukkah. As children, my siblings and I made menorahs using air-dry clay or found materials and learned about the traditions of candle-lighting in our culture. The ‘Lumena Menorah’ is designed with a naïve, playful aesthetic as an ode to that childhood tradition, while remaining beautiful and refined as a sculptural centrepiece.

This Menorah was built slowly by hand using the coil-building method. Starting at the bottom, I worked my way up until each branch was completed. My finger marks are visible in the final piece providing a visual representation of the making process. The tallest branch of the Menorah holds the shamash which is used to light the remaining 8 candles throughout the week of Hanukkah. The Menorah is fired twice in my kiln and finished with a soft beeswax buff to achieve a rich, vivid blue.

You have also created a ‘repeat pattern wall sculpture’ – can you tell us more about this design?

The ‘Repeat Pattern Wall Sculpture’ was designed to symbolise the Menorah and its candle lights, but in a more abstract form. During the sketching process, I played around with different configurations of olive branches to signify the importance of oil during Hanukkah, and they doubled as the 'Menorah' shape, with the 9 flames placed above. I used a bright gold lustre to finish the flames and several other elements like stars, botanical silhouettes and a star of David to symbolise light in the darkness of night.

How does your heritage influence your art?

The Jewish holidays, the Jewish culture and my upbringing on a kibbutz instilled in me a deeply rooted love of gathering and community - the coming together of family and friends, of food and tradition.

My aim as an artist and maker is to bring people together through a shared love of clay, landscape and beautiful objects. Through the production of sculptural, functional and ritual objects, I am able to form relationships with people, connect people with objects, objects with place, and place with people.

What does Hanukkah mean to you and how will you be celebrating this year?

Hanukkah is an opportunity to gather with loved ones, practice candle-lighting traditions, indulge in delicious foods symbolic of the holidays (latkes, sufganiyot and chocolate coins of course!) and to share the story of Hanukkah. On the first night of Hanukkah, we light one candle, and on each subsequent night we light an additional candle until on the final night, all 8 candles and the shamash are lit. As we light the candles, we sing and tell the story of Hanukkah, each candle symbolising the miracle of Hanukkah and the hope that there will always be light, even in the darkest of times. This year will be particularly special because my son is old enough to start participating and sharing in these traditions. Perhaps in the next few years, we will introduce him to the joys of making his own Menorah for Hanukkah and I look forward to seeing his marvellous creations.

Check out Kerryn Levy's website here

Visit her Instagram here

Join in the Hanukkah celebrations at your local Westfield by visiting the 'What's Happening' page on their website.

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