“ON my last day of quarantine, I am thinking about the journey. For a number of years, I was in so much darkness and I was so sick, so ill and in a way now there is a lot of sickness in the world because of COVID. In my journey I had to overcome a lot and really find a sense of joy. I had to do the same thing now within COVID … A lot of people go through illnesses, but for me, it was a transformation,” reflects Australian jewellery designer Zohar Edelshtein Budde.
After battling postnatal depression following the births of both her daughter and son, connecting with a spiritual force through creative expression set Zohar on a path towards recovery.
“When my son was born, I was sick for four years and it was a deep process of overcoming and coming out of it in a completely new way, like a rebirth. This is when I connected to creativity,” she says.
Zohar began reading Hebrew scriptures, weaving illuminating aspects of Jewish texts – including the commandment ‘Love they neighbour as thyself’ – into her jewellery.
“One cannot love another until they love themselves, but not from the egotistical nature of self-love, but rather from the altruistic nature of being in a state of love, which in fact is the inner connection with God,” she says.
“Once this connection is there, then love of another is something that flows very naturally.”
Wecome to my studio! A little about me and how COVID-19 inspired my latest Paris Fashion Week 2020 'Connection' collection.
Posted by Zohar Sculpted Jewellery on Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Evolving from a place of fear, illness, heartbreak or pain into one of mercy, self-love and compassion is given light in her creations.
“Each piece is an expression of a transformation of an experience, or an expression of what we are experiencing in the world, especially now with fears and doubts about the future,” she says.
“We can’t change anything that has happened to us but we can work on the way we view a situation, and whether we approach it with fear or grace.”
Beyond the individual experience, Zohar captures a soul-like interconnectedness in Radiant.
Initially exhibited with one silver pearl in Israel’s mystical centre of Tzfat, Zohar later added a golden pearl, with the two together giving birth to a “discussion between souls, and the being together in ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself'”.
For Zohar, pearls symbolise the seat of the soul, and wires are the neural connections in our bodies and minds.
“As I do the work of wiring, an internal process occurs whereby grace, mercy and care flow into the difficult memories, deeds, feelings, thoughts that surface.”
AWED by the magnificence of the body’s bio-mechanisms, Zohar’s sense of spirituality arose out of this wonderment.
She recalls how her curiosity in spirituality was ignited while studying a Masters in Environmental Microbiology at the University of Jerusalem.
“It became clear to me that there must be something governing this incredible creation,” Zohar considers.
Unsatisfied with life in Israel, Zohar was drawn to meditation, and travelled in 2004 to India, where she stayed for two years.
“Meditation helps in calming the mind and in concentrating … If you think about a vessel, you make sure the vessel stays open and clean for the light to be able to shine through. I did a lot of meditation in India, but for me spirituality is not meditation itself. Spirituality is life itself, it’s the way you connect to people and the way you live in yourself.”
On her return trip to Israel, Zohar planned to spend a few days in Sydney visiting her sister.
A short stopover turned into 15 years when, three days into her visit, Zohar met Ravian, whom she would soon marry.
Since 2013, they have made the Blue Mountains their home, together navigating life’s joys and hardships – including the devastating bushfires that ravaged the region late last year.
Around that time, much of Zohar’s equipment was lost, and her work plans were cancelled.
Although feeling directionless and disappointed, the period also marked a “pivotal point”.
“I was sitting in my studio feeling very frustrated and then I went on Instagram, and saw a post which said, ‘Looking for designers, apply here.’ I said to myself, ‘Okay, I will apply.’
“I didn’t really look at what I was applying for because if I did, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage. I applied and I forgot about it and a few weeks later I received an email asking me if I had any experience with runway shows. I said, ‘No, but I can learn quickly.'”
AN Australian, Belgian, Brazilian and British designer were among many international artists who flew to France and met under the one roof for Paris Fashion Week in September.
In 2020, such an international mingling is a rare sight.
With 14,000 new cases of COVID-19 in France per day, the once vibrant European city was devoid of its usual hustle and bustle.
But in a year of great upheaval, Paris remains an epicentre of fashion and haute couture, luring artists the world over for its internationally acclaimed fashion week where Zohar showcased her magnificent creations.
Leaving the relative safety of Australia and traversing the globe to present her jewellery collection at the Flying Solo show on the Parisian catwalks was a frightening prospect, but an unparalleled opportunity that Zohar couldn’t let slide.
“When I left, there were 14,000 new cases a day in France, and leaving the security of Australia was scary. I knew that it wasn’t guaranteed when I would get back, so I left my kids and my husband behind but eventually I went with my gut feeling and I decided to go,” shares Zohar.
“The thing that really helped me make my decision to go is the fact that every person I took counsel from told me to go … It indicated to me the higher truth for this decision.
“It was an epic journey, but everything worked out magically.”
During her week in Paris, Zohar was never without a mask, avoided every restaurant and cafe, and steered clear of viewing COVID case numbers.
Although fraught with fear, on the day of the show, she recalls waking up “a new person … I was really joyous. I loved the show”.
THE transformation from fear to joy could be distilled into a single headpiece.
Insight – initially a bracelet that was rewired into a necklace – was created in the lead-up to Paris Fashion Week, but Zohar recalls feeling frustrated and stuck.
“I thought it was going to the bin and a week later I came back and picked it up, went into a quiet space and started working on it, and suddenly it became a necklace … I put it on the mannequin and I was amazed.”
Her artistic process was involved and emotionally draining, and afterwards, Zohar’s creativity came to a temporary standstill.
“It took so much out of me I couldn’t create, and when I went back to the studio I had to confront fear of whether I could create again.”
But her concern was allayed on the day of the fashion show.
Unravelling and rewiring one of her existing creations, Unite would become the piece to close Flying Solo.
“I realised I can create this beauty, but I had to overcome the fear, and it was the same with the journey to Paris,” says Zohar.
“It was the transformation from fear to joy – I think that is the energy that went into the headpiece that the model who closed my show wore.”
A STEEP learning curve opened doors to new opportunities.
While exhibiting at Paris Fashion Week, a series of evening garments caught Zohar’s eye.
“I nearly fainted,” says Zohar, reliving the moment she first saw Brazilian Jewish fashion designer Mateus Nudelmann’s dresses.
Hoping to collaborate with Nudelmann for next year’s Australian Fashion Week in a high-end fashion event, Fabrics of Multicultural Australia (FOMA), Zohar comments, “It was amazing to find this talented young designer … There is a sense of cultural familiarity and his evening garments are stunning. They are colourful and alive.”
Exhibiting at FOMA seems fitting for Zohar, who seeks to convey a message of harmony.
“We have incredible beauty inside us but because our ego makes us focus on the differences, it creates separation, wars, illnesses and that’s what we experience, see and live,” comments Zohar.
“We are all one, we all have light inside, and it’s all the same light – it doesn’t matter if you are black or white or Jewish or Muslim or Christian.”