Meet Haifa people: Shulamit Israel, owner of Shlulit Art Studio

Shulamit and I met at the open studio day in her home-based studio. It felt like going back to a place I already knew. This place was strangely familiar to me.

I have been following her studio’s social media accounts for quite a while. I often scrolled through the photos to get a sneak peek into Shulamit’s place, her art, and her students. The pictures were very inviting and inspiring. I felt my hands itching to grab one of those candy-looking paints and play with the wooden brushes from the photos. I wanted to cut and fold colorful décor papers, touch the canvas… I wanted to see, feel, try, express and, maybe, experiment…

Fast forward a few years. Now I have enough Hebrew to communicate and I decide to reach out to the studio owner. I called Shulamit to sign up for this Thursday’s open studio class. To my surprise, Shulamit’s English was perfect. It made the whole process much easier.

The studio looked much bigger in real life. Her Instagram photos were only showing a small portion of it. In reality, there were lots of books stacked on shelves and paintings tools all over the room.

“Just feel free to pick up whatever you want and start,” said Shulamit while making coffee for me.

“Really? Just like that? Anything?” I asked looking around the shelves full of art – brushes, paints, pastel, canvas, paper, aquarelle of all shapes and sizes.

This is the idea of the open studio day, explained Shulamit.  Students are free to choose what they want to create and which paints and materials they want to use. It is total freedom.

If you need some help and guidance on how to use specific products and techniques – students are welcome to ask Shulamit.  You are given 3 hours for the whole process of choosing, consulting and the actual painting.

The first student comes through the door. Her name is Jasmine. Jasmine comes to the table, takes out instruments and starts her piece that, apparently, she started at previous visit here. She is painting with gold paint over some mystical-looking Hebrew letters on the small square canvas.  It is a verse from Torah, a sort of blessing, she explains to me. It is a present for her brother. How lovely!

I go around the room again, drink my coffee and take an apple from the snack bar arranged by Shulamit on the side table.

I like the place, it’s very atmospheric, just like I imagined. It is light here, intimate, and creative. Not to mention all of the unique vintage interior decors that Shulamit artfully placed in all the right spots.

I still can’t decide what I want to paint with. I am a bit overwhelmed. Suddenly the atmosphere starts reminding me of something. My thoughts take me to the past, to the village, to a little Nadya.

“Art materials have influence. They connect you with things you forgot. They remind you of childhood,” says Shulamit as if reading my mind.

There is something more here, I tell myself as I try to connect with my feelings.

I hesitate to start. Shulamit and Jasmine are cutting some paper. Jasmine hardly notices me, she looks totally absorbed and determined. “Yes, this verse. I will transfer it here. I will add some green…yes, exactly,” she says. Shulamit nods approvingly. They are excited. They are creating!

I want to create too! I decide to go for aquarelle. I want to pain that gentle red flower I saw on Mount Carmel last spring. I sit next to Shulamit and start to play with the water and brushes.

“When I was a child people used to call me Shlulit. In Hebrew it means “a puddle”. And the name of the studio comes from there – Shlulit Studio.” Shulamit says.

Wow! Suddenly I feel transported to another place.

I am outside. I am 8 years old. It’s spring and I see kids playing in the puddles. I hesitate to join them. Should I join the fun or stand aside and continue to be a good girl as my mother asked earlier? I am split by this dilemma, I feel the anticipation of excitement and the danger of being scolded by my mother… she worked so hard to get those shoes for me. My feet will get wet, the shoes – dirty, don’t you remember how your mother shouted last time? I say to myself. No, it is not for good girls with new shiny shoes. Puddles are for dirty, wild boys.

I hear Shulamit talking as I come back to reality:

“To decide on the theme, colors, and materials is the most challenging part. Some people get lost in the abundance of choice, some feel fear to make mistake, doubt their ability, or they get angry, cry. So this is where I step up as a mentor, guide, support. We all just need little encouragement, atmosphere, state, motivation to make an art, create…”

There is no format or set up with the class. It’s not like the other classes that are dedicated to one particular project or technique. And here comes the hard and fun part.

Shulamit continues:

“What I do here with my students I do not call art-therapy. It is just an art studio. I do not treat or fix anybody. But yet the whole process is a “therapy”. The act of creation, even a simple drawing with colorful pencils, can be a very powerful experience that makes a person think, remember, act, create, choose and decide. I do not even need to act like an art therapist. It is enough for my student to bring themselves to the studio – to be here, and for me – just to be a compassionate human being,”

Oh well… Just like it was 30 years ago, my excitement takes over. Let the whole world of good girls and angry mothers go away – I land in the puddle! Op – Plop! Little Nadya gets dirty, gets free, gets powerful. Op-Plop!

I decide to paint the red flower anyway.

It is therapy indeed. It is all about being in that positive creative atmosphere, seeing other students in the process of creation, and enjoying the warm atmosphere and positive vibes of Shulamit. It all makes me feel so relaxed, open and courageous. I feel the magic of the place I could not sense through the photos in virtual reality.

Hope you will feel it too when you come to Shulamit’s studio. Visit her website and get info in English here to sign up for classes or attend open studio day.

Op-Plop! I painted my flower. Op-Plop! I release my fear. Op-Plop! I let a poppy grow inside my heart.

The full post was first published at Times of Israel. 


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