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Art and Scroll Studio enters its Third Season: From Darkness into Light – Claude Riedel and the Art of the Ner Tamid

“A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness” – Jewish Proverb

By Shelley Werner
Art and Scroll Studio was created in 2020 to celebrate the makers and creators of Judaic art. The format is a live interview on Zoom, including a featured artist each month in presentation and conversation. With an ever-growing audience, more people return every time, and new attendees join, with viewers from all over North America, as well as far away destinations like Hong Kong and Dubai. So far, we have produced 17 episodes, with over 3,500 views on our YouTube channel.
As a founding member and former Winnipegger, as well as the show host I can say: “The entire process is so rewarding. Viewers love the organization and immediacy of the show. Watching a conversation with the artist from their origin story through the growth of the art gives the audience a feeling that they are just watching two old friends talking.”
For 25 years ClaudeRiedel has been creating Ner Tamids, incorporating elements of stained glass, blown glass, found objects, metalwork and cast bronze. The intricate designs are rich with Judaic symbolism such as the Tree of Life, the Burning Bush and the Star of David. Riedel collaborates with glass artisans and metal workers to craft these singular awe-inspiring pieces to specially fit each architectural setting. His work is found in over 175 congregations large and small across the globe. When used in ceremony, Riedel’s extraordinary Ner Tamids behold the light on the eternal flame, “I seek a radiant purity of light which inspires and calms the spirit of the worshipper”.
His first Ner Tamid was crafted for his own congregation, Bet Shalom, Minnetonka, Minnesota in 1995.The artistic journey is personal for Claude. His grandfather was taken to Buchenwald on Kristalinacht (the night of broken glass) in Germany in 1938. “I am inspired to put the shards of glass back together in new and meaningful ways. My energy is to take bits and pieces of myself – of the personal as well as the artistic parts – and make them into something more whole and holy.”
The Ner Tamid is the light that represents the eternal light, or the presence of God, that hangs over the front of every synagogue. The ner tamid is one of the most emotionally evocative or laden pieces of ceremonial art in the synagogue because often people have donated money in memory of someone for the previous ner tamid or for the current one. The passing of the torch, so to speak, is often challenging, and interesting and a very sensitive issue. It’s important to be respectful to the past while also moving in the new.
He has designed beautiful glass Ner Tamids for temples, synagogues, shuls, schools, memorial walls, and private chapels. He has also made eternal lights for other religious and spiritual communities.
“During a lively committee meeting Claude reminded us that ceremonial art should ideally inspire and not distract from prayer. The Ner Tamid should be beautiful but not overtake our attention. He is able to weave between function, scriptural images and visual aspects of the piece. His work seems both ancient and modern,” Amy Lange, Shir Tikvah art committee commented.
His pieces combine traditional forms with evocative blown and stained glass. He seeks a radiant purity of light which inspires and calms the spirit of the congregant. The use of a soft, translucent pallet of clear and colored glass allows worshippers to focus on their prayer. On closer inspection there are hidden jewels of meaning within each piece. While most installations are electrically lit, he also uses gas and oil flames when possible. Each piece is unique, entirely hand crafted and designed to fit an architectural setting. He enjoys the collaborative process, both for what it symbolizes and for the inspiration it provides.
Claude comments, “It’s very meaningful. It’s that thread of connection that’s inspired me to do this. It helps my connection to Judaism and, hopefully, it spreads the light so to speak, and passes on to others. The themes that I’m working from are really universal themes. The sense of moving from darkness to light, from pain, from suffering, from difficulty to healing and to the light. From shattered to back to whole”
Claude Riedel will be the featured artist on Art and Scroll Studio Zoom series, December 7, 2022 at 8:00 pm central time. Contact: artandscrollstudio@gmail.com

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