About the Artist
Kim Phillips had a 35-year career in sales and marketing. In 2005, she was certified in pararabbinics at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and studied at Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. There, she found the creative spark for Hebrica, her Jewish paper cut art. These days, she is a full-time artist at her studio, Tiny Creative House, in Monteagle, Tennessee.
All my life, I have done some form of art... designing typefaces, calligraphy, portraits in graphite, and pen-and-ink drawings of historic homes. My artwork was always in black and white, until I converted to Judaism in 2001. Suddenly, I began to see in color, and a whole new world of imagery and ideas came together in my head.
The Hebrew language was my first doorway into Judaism. The shapes of the letters intrigued me, and as I began to learn the language that informs and conveys the richness of Judaism, it changed my art. Studying Torah, talmud, midrash, kabbalah, liturgy and Jewish art brought forth new ideas that needed to be expressed. But it wasn't until I visited Israel for the the first time that I found my place as an artist.
Of all the world's great cities I have visited, Jerusalem is the most visually stimulating. It is an exciting jumble of the old and the very ancient, mixed with the very latest. It's hot and bright, loud and crowded, with many cultures jostling for space. Jerusalem has an energy like nowhere else, and it teems with artists of every stripe. The tension of living in Israel, with its extremes of the sacred and the secular, lends a deeper meaning to the creative process.
Browsing in a Judaica shop on King David Street one day, I struck up a conversation with an artist who does micrography (paints pictures with teeny little letters, circumventing the biblical injunction against creating graven images). He mentioned that he knew a scribe in the German Colony, Izzy Pludwinski. I had bought a piece online from Izzy some years ago, so I set out to meet him. He generously took me through his studio and described his process for making the most incredible, unusual Hebrew scribal art. In that conversation, he mentioned another artist, Archie Granot, whose studio wasn't far from my hotel. So I went, and it changed my life. Archie is the "rav" (master) of Jewish papercut art and his creations are in museums and private collections around the world. He spent time with me and showed me his process, including the very first little one-layer papercut he did on a lark. He inspired me and awed me.
In Judaism, it is customary to give credit to teachers. I owe much to Izzy and Archie, and I try to repay them by helping others find their creative outlets. My deepest debt of gratitude is owed to my rabbi, Alexis Berk, for serving up Judaism to me on an enormous, ornate, and heavily laden platter of knowledge and beauty. Without her, I would never have become a Hebrew teacher, or a pararabbi; I would not have gone to Israel at the time — and for the reasons — I did. If not for her, I would not have met the dozens of other fabulous teachers at Hebrew Union College, Pardes and elsewhere. To her goes my heart and a heartfelt "kol hakavod."
In 2016, I moved to Monteagle Mountain and began a new phase of life. These days, I focus on living an intentionally simpler life, closer to the earth, and closer to my true passions: art, gardening, pets, friends, and a new love. If you're ever on the mountain, stop by. It is, as they say, "all downhill from here."Hebrica Judaic Art
Kim is a member of the Guild of American papercutters and was selected in 2013 for the GAP/X-acto Masters Club.