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The Custom Ketubah

posted by Arielle Angel on March 16, 2012

Custom Map ketubah by Rachelle Tolwin

We know that commissioning a custom ketubah can be intimidating. That’s why we recently shared our tips with Jewish wedding experts, The Wedding Yentas. We had so much info on the topic that the post comes in two parts, Part I and Part II. If you’re considering a custom work, definitely follow the links to the post as a whole, but either way, here are some excerpts that will give you a sense of the process. Figure out what your ketubah is about: Talk to your partner about what aspects of your relationship you would like your ketubah to highlight. They should be the things that you feel are truly special about your relationship. You may want to think about the stories that are important to you as a couple: how you met, the moment you “knew,” a trip you took together. Your ketubah can depict, say, the park bench where he proposed, or a map of all the New York City apartments you both lived in before you met one another. Start thinking about color: This could be as basic as wanting the ketubah to echo your wedding colors, or the colors of your home, or it could be more symbolic. Figure out what you like: There is no special formula to finding the right artist, and you don’t have to know about art to have an experience with it. Look around. When you like something, listen to yourself. Collect images of the artwork you and your partner like, and look at all the images together to see if there is a pattern emerging. Communicate: Let your artist in on the details of the conversation you had with your partner, and share your little folder of inspiration images, taking him/her through your vision for your ketubah. In one case, a couple even sent me a crude version of what they wanted, which they sketched out themselves in crayon!

The client’s sketch to the artist’s rendering

As we told The Wedding Yentas, this may sound like a lot of work, but we believe that you and your partner can figure out the basics of what you’re interested in over the span of a dedicated afternoon. It might also be fun, an opportunity to literally “visualize” your relationship. Don’t forget that your artist will also bring something to the table. You don’t have to have everything figured out in order to start the conversation! Again, for the full post, including more information about ketubah text on a custom work, as well as the details of the agreement between artist and client, please visit The Wedding Yentas, and Ketuv’s posts, Part I and Part II!

Doing It All: Designer and Illustrator Elli Chortara

posted by Arielle Angel on February 8, 2012

It’s been a busy couple weeks here at Ketuv: new inquiries and new ketubot! Last week, we introduced you to Will Deutsch, and announced his new Ahava ketubah for Ketuv’s line. This week, meet designer and illustrator Elli Chortara, and check out her totally fresh ketubot!

Elli’s inspiration for these ketubot is “windswept”– the idea of the wind blowing through a specific scene and rearranging it– in this case, a garden and a field. We think it has a wonderfully graphic and even deco-ish feel.

Bird in the Garden

In the Fields

We are so consistently impressed with Elli and how many different kinds of projects she is involved in, so we recently asked her how she finds gigs and projects and manages her time, and how she developed her own signature style.

Ketuv: What are you working on right now?

Elli Chortara: I am currently working on a series of robot-animal-like creatures, and I am also writing a story about each, a story that communicates messages that go beyond the story of the character to tap into something more satirical, ambiguous or hidden. This will develop into a book project and perhaps a compact theme for a solo exhibition. Visual storytelling is something that I would like to work more with. Imaginary creatures and characters fascinate me!

The Sleepwalker

That Report

Recently, I have been commissioned to illustrate poetry for an Ireland-based poetry magazine called The Shop: A Magazine of Poetry, which is something I find very exciting as a more conceptual part of my practice. The interpretation of words and feelings, moods or messages is something that has always been latent in my work.

I have also been pairing illustration and design by doing some poster and banner design for an arts festival and arts-based organization, Rowan Arts, in London.

K: You do everything from hat design to illustration for lit mags. How you find different projects/gigs?

EC: Sometimes, people I already know might commission me for private work. Sometimes, it will be people who have seen the work online. The important thing is to be able to build a network— to make sure that you build client relationships built in trust and mutual understanding. I maintain a blog as another way of keeping in touch with people and making sure people see the work.

I check out art sites like ArtsJobs in the UK and Re-Title to see if there are any magazines, exhibitions, online sites or zines that need illustrators, and that match my style, and I send them work samples and a link to my website. I am a member of several networks like Behance and the Association of Illustrators (AOI), which have valuable resources. I use social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and I often do rounds of emails to potential clients and promote my work on artist websites. Of course, if I get the job, and the work is published, that is also another promotional tool for the work itself.

New Era 90th Birthday Hat Design

K: How do you manage your time for all these projects?

EC: The main challenge is to keep myself organized as much as possible, which is not always easy. At the moment, I have a comprehensive schedule on my calendar and mobile phone combining many different work schedules. Keeping one foot on the ground can save time and make life easier.

The other side of things is about maintaining my inspiration levels, which is very much related to exploring new things. I want to make sure to stay active: listening to new music, having a constructive chat, exploring nature, noting down things, and being the person I want to be, despite the everyday challenges and the limited amount of time.

I must remember to pause and take a moment to reflect inwards, as it is often vital to the success of an otherwise hectic day. The important thing for me is to look at the time and to make time, to always look forward to what’s next on the horizon and to maintain a positive attitude.

Black and White illustration for a book of folktales

K: How did you develop your unique style?

EC: Developing a style takes time. It began, for me, during my MA course in Illustration at the Camberwell College of Arts (University of the Arts London). The research process there helped me decide which direction to take stylistically.

But that was only the beginning. You don’t usually leave art school with a ready portfolio or a commissioned project. It’s the work that I have done since then—the experimentations and risks I’ve taken—that have helped most in formulating my current style. It still is a long, joyful process and I don’t think it will ever really end. The work should consistently be pushed further and developed, based on new influences, research, exploration, feedback, and one’s own experience.

For more information on Elli Chortara, visit her artist page. You can also check out her new ketubot, Bird in the Garden, and In The Fields.

Why the Ketubah is NOT Just Another Thing to Cross Off the List

posted by Arielle Angel on January 18, 2012

Your ketubah signing, not the ceremony, is what precedes your first married moments.

I was in a Judaica store the other day, visiting my ex Jewish studies teacher who works at the counter. A couple came in looking for a ketubah. After a cursory glance through the pile of ketubot in a corner of the store, they brought one up to the register. My teacher tried to explain to them what they were buying– the text, who the artist was. The couple listened impatiently, until the groom-to-be finally said, “Listen, our rabbi said we needed either an Orthodox or a Conservative text. We’re just trying to cross this off the list.” I happened to be nearby, so I asked them if they planned to hang up the ketubah. “Well, yeah,” said the groom. Then he turned to his bride and said, “So is this the one you want?” She shrugged. “Yeah, sure.” The challenge for those of us in the ketubah business can be summed up in the above interaction. We want to help you, the couples, to recognize the importance of your ketubah at the time that you’re buying it– that is, before your wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, no explanation will be necessary. You will have witnessed the significant role it played in your wedding–the signing of the witnesses, your dearest friends, in the intimate moments before your marriage. You will have felt this electrifying truth– that with or without the ceremony that follows, as soon as you sign the ketubah, YOU. ARE. MARRIED. Suddenly, this piece of paper will take on paramount importance– it will symbolize the newest moments of your married life, the small room where those closest to you joined in the joy of your union. (And this is just the emotional significance, to say nothing con the actual words in the contract– the husband’s promises to his wife, or the husband and wife’s promises to one another, as a married couple.) This document, with significance on a symbolic, sentimental, spiritual and legal level will also serve an aesthetic function– it will likely hang in your bedroom or living room for a long, long time. I’ll present you with two examples from my own inner circle. My father, who remarried before I got into this business, often comments how he loves his ketubah for what it represents, but not so much for how it looks. It was, for him and his wife before their marriage, “just another thing to cross off the list.” They have hung their ketubah in the hallway leading to their bedroom. They want to remember and feel that connection to their wedding day, and to their commitment to one another– they just don’t want to look at the thing all the time. Contrast that with my dearest friends Jordan and Lindsey. You’ve seen this bride before. She’s become our poster bride, because of the way that this couple really connected to their ketubah. Let me take you through the moments after their ketubah signing, pictorially. There was not a dry eye in the house. Even the groom was struggling not to lose it (sorry, dude).

(photos by Robby Campbell)

Lindsey told me just what she wanted in her ketubah and I executed it, with a few surprises. They have hung the ketubah opposite their bed, where it is the first thing they see in the morning, and the last thing they see before they go to sleep (aside from one another, of course). Jordan said, “Bride and groom become husband and wife once the ketubah is signed, and on our wedding day, the significance of the signing was palpable due in large part to the beauty of our ketubah. It is a moment we will never forget, one of the happiest of our lives. We look at our ketubah, and it reminds us of our perfect day.” After the flowers wilt, the delicacies are eaten, the white dress is in plastic, the ketubah will be there: it will hang in your bedroom as long as you’re married. Your photos and your wedding video may grace your shelf until someone– probably your children, and probably only a few times, max– will want to look at them but, again, your ketubah will be there, on your wall, out in the open, a constant reminder. Still think the ketubah is just another thing to cross off the list?