gold leaf ketubah

i think that a little gold makes everything better, especially a ketubah.

and since i love to add 24 ct. gold leaf to many of my ketubot, i thought it would be interesting to show you how i do that.

gold leaf can be added anywhere to add a touch of shine and richness: it can be a border, a detail in a painting, lettering or i can make an entire design out of gold leaf. once i have decided what i’m gilding, be it a design or some lettering, i apply some special glue, called size, that the gold then sticks to. i can either paint it on with a brush like you see here or write with the glue in a dip pen as if it were ink.

brushing glue


when the glue has dried and become tacky, i place the gold leaf where i want it to be, smoothing it with my finger. if you miss that sweet spot and it gets too dry, you can revive it by gently breathing on it. here i’m using patent gold leaf, meaning that the gold is mounted to the paper, which makes it much easier to work with than the loose sheets that fly about. i love that the envelope says it’s meant ‘for gilding in the wind’.



usually more gold will come off than i wanted, so i brush away the excess gold, the gold that doesn’t stick, pushing it up along the sized area so that it will stick to the next length of border. i try to keep as much of the gold as possible that doesn’t stick to keep using as i go along, but mostly it just turns to dust. it’s quite lovely to have gold dust floating about my studio, especially if it’s a sunny day and it catches the light.

brushing gold


and there you go! a thin gold leaf border to add a little extra something to my just text print ketubah, simple & elegant.

the interfaith ketubah

how wonderful that the world of ketubot has become so inclusive!

20 years ago, i made my first ketubah, and it was an interfaith ketubah.

friends asked me to make one for them: they needed an interfaith ketubah and couldn’t find one. so i rolled up my sleeves, created a hebrew lettering style of my own, researched papers, designed a naif landscape to go with it… and then made an orthodox ketubah for them by copying my parents’ ketubah text. oops. i quickly learned that there are many different texts to use in a ketubah and which text is appropriate for who.

i have always liked the idea of an interfaith ketubah, championed it from the start, and here’s why: you can sneak a little jewish in somewhere it might not have been before… now a couple who might not have anything jewish in their home will often have a beautiful ketubah that the non-jewish partner treasures even more than the jewish one!

i’ve had a chance to work in chinese, farsi, korean and arabic lettering, as well as spanish, german, serbian, french, yiddish, & of course, english & hebrew, for couples who are blending their traditions together.

and the art that results from the joining of 2 cultures can be really engaging and interesting. here is an interfaith ketubah where we found the place that jewish and hindu symbols overlap: the fig and fig leaf. the lotus flower, symbol of the inner heart and spirit, and the inner rings, symbolizing creation, bring another level of meaning to the ketubah.


interfaith ketubah designs



my favorite gay ketubah

though i have done many ketubot for same sex couples over the years, my first gay ketubah is my favorite.

i made it for a good friend who i have known since we were 14 and at camp together. he has always worked in the arts, is very involved in the jewish world and then in 2002 he married a nice jewish doctor. really, what more could you ask for?


gay ketubah


their ketubah is an abstract representation of the places that are meaningful to them and where they spend their time: the country, the desert and the city. the text is an adaptation of the brit ahuvim, an alternative text that was so radical at the time and now can be found on many prints.

i’m happy to say that they are still very much in love and very married, and their family has grown to include a fantastic daughter.

and they still love their ketubah.


the modern ketubah

i find it so interesting how flexible the word ‘modern’ can be.

a few generations ago it meant stripping down everything to its bare essentials, taking away all the extra ornamentation. it meant simplifying the victorian fussiness down to a new 20th century streamlined vision. think of the difference in architecture between grand central station and the Seagram’s building a few blocks away.

it seems that the ketubah has followed the same path, but then, interestingly, has turned back again and with it the meaning of a modern ketubah has flipped.

the tradition of beautifully decorating the ketubah goes back many centuries, but then was dropped as old fashioned in the mid 20th century. the decoration was unnecessary for a contract.

here is my parents’ ketubah from 1966.
it’s just the text on a piece of paper that went into the safety deposit box or the sock drawer. this was a modern ketubah.

parents ketubah

jump to the present: a modern ketubah is a ketubah that is a work of art to be displayed and celebrated. the design itself can look like anything, be modern or traditional, and the function of the ketubah for many people has changed. it’s no longer just a contract, it’s also a celebration of love.

here is the 40th anniversary ketubah that i made for my parents, their modern ketubah. i think that’s fascinating.

modern ketubah falling blossoms




of ideas from the studio