Ceramics for all situations

Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin visit Rachel Kohn

Colorful bowls in a wooden cupboard

Rachel’s ceramic Tupperware; photo: Rachel Kohn

In advance of Rachel Kohn’s work entering our art vending machine, the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin had the foresight to pay the artist a visit at her atelier in Berlin Charlottenburg. It’s the fourth installment of the art vending machine, for which Kohn has created miniature chairs and houses we could already marvel at during the visit.

Stepping into the atelier in this cozy home, we’re greeted by colorful dishes and fantastical judaica. Small houses and chairs made of clay are displayed on the walls in rows, and sculptures sit majestically atop their white pedestals. The air fills with the aromatic warmth of fresh coffee and tea poured into handmade cups. It’s an inviting welcome.

Rachel Kohn was born in Prague and moved to Munich to begin her career in sculpting and ceramics at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Academy of Visual Arts) there. Following an academic exchange at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and additional travel to Bolivia and Mexico, she moved to Berlin in 1993 with her husband. By now, she’s exhibited in galleries throughout Germany and currently sits on the board of the Berlin Women’s Museum, which supports the professional development of female artists.

Colourful toilet brush holders

The slightly eye-catching toilet brush holder; photo: Rachel Kohn

Our atelier visit begins with brightly colored ceramics piled high on a narrow shelf. Rachel handles each piece, regardless of size, a minimum of 10 times before she’s finished with it. The plates, cups, butter dishes and “Rachel’s ceramic Tupperware” all get the artist’s treatment with painting and decoration. Every item is unique and exceedingly imaginative. With such immense variety, even Rachel can be caught by surprised when she comes across items she’s sold years earlier. She draws her inspiration from the everyday, which is evident in her ceramic’s design: Some vases have multiple parts, suitable for both thin, narrow flowers and stout, voluptuous bouquets. The lid for the stack of cans functions also as a plate and, bathroom aesthetics not to be overlooked, the toilet brush holder is meticulously decorated.

Rachel Kohn in her workshop

Artist Rachel Kohn presents her work for the art vending machine at the Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Lea Ledwon

Having shown us everyday items, Rachel moves onto a number of clay and bronze sculptures. The recurring house and chair motif, part of our art vending machine since 1 April 2016, deals with the artist’s perspective of family and interpersonal relationships. The simple chairs can be easily rearranged to allow for various kinds of communication – one arrangement suggesting conversation, another conflict. What makes Rachel’s work particularly interesting is its openness to interpretation.

White bed with a dark cloud

Himmelsangst, memorial to child victims of forced labor in the Second World War; photo: Rachel Kohn

There are more highlights of the atelier visit: A large sculpture of a dance partners cast in bronze, as well as a white, child’s bed caught in the shadow of a menacing, black cloud. The sculpture is a template for a memorial to child victims of forced labor during the Second World War. The sculpture itself was inaugurated in 2009 by the community of Otterndorf in Lower Saxony.

Colourful judaica

Vividly produced judaica; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Lea Ledwon

She concludes with showing us her judaica, some of which you can find in our museum shop. We take particular note of the Hanukkiah assuming the form of a Christmas tree – perfect for any Christmakah celebration! Her seder plates, mezuzot and kiddush cups, which can be quickly converted into everyday use, speak volumes of her creative spectrum. For example, a container that looks like a Hanukkiah when first opened becomes, when turned, Shabbat candles. No need to wait a year to use it again.

Lucky museum visitors may find something of Rachel Kohn’s miniature artwork in their surprise grab bag from the art vending machine!

Lea Ledwon shares her impressions, whose own apartment door is, since the atelier visit, adorned with a mezuzah painted in stars and the moon.

Further information about Rachel Kohn on her websites (in German only): www.rachelkohn-keramik.de and www.rachel-kohn.de.

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