That’s the stuff Yoram Gil says his jewelry is made of.
Just in time for Hanukkah shopping, Gil’s creations--miniature gold-framed watercolor landscapes and “waterscapes” on ivory--will be on display Wednesday through Sunday in the Fine Jewelry department of Bullock’s South Coast Plaza.
“The scenes I depict aren’t real,” said the 46-year-old Israeli artist/artisan, “they’re imaginary. That’s a Jerusalem landscape, for instance. Whoever knows Jerusalem will recognize it, but what they will recognize is its atmosphere , not some tourist spot.
“It is a place, but the setting is mine.”
Scratched onto the back of each piece--necklaces, broaches, bolo ties, pendants and belt buckles--is written “Yoram Gil, ARMS,” in Hebrew and English; the acronym denotes membership in the London-based Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers. Though he’s also a member of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans in New York, Gil doesn’t feel the guild carries quite the prestige of the Royal Society.
“How difficult is it to get in?” he asked. “First you have to pass a selection committee in order to apply to the society. If you are allowed to apply, you submit works every year. Then, if there is a vacancy, you are accepted. If after four years, there are still no vacancies, you must reapply for permission to apply.
“They’re playing it a little bit snotty. But if you want an exclusive society, it’s the only way.”
Gil, who wears bifocals and has astigmatism, would like to do more commissions--rendering an individual’s estate in miniature, for example. He’s also considering the possibility of limited editions of the now one-of-a-kind pieces, “so I could ask $100 instead of $800.” Prices in fact range from $600 to $5,000. Though the jewelry has been on the market less than six months, it has found its way into the Aaron Faber Collection on 5th Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
Though Gil says he’s the only miniaturist he knows of working in jewelry, he feels the differences between him and other miniaturists are even more fundamental.
“For the others, the challenge is in the technical aspect, in taking a portrait, a flower, whatever, and scaling it down.
“For me, miniatures are a way of expressing myself. This is my art--I don’t do anything else.”
Gil didn’t always do miniatures.
“I did larger paintings for a long time,” he recalled. “In fact, at the time, I was also the Israeli discus champion. They called me the best painter among discus throwers, the best discus thrower among painters . . . .’ ” Gil never competed in the Olympics--"fortunately enough, I quit two years before Munich (at which 11 Israeli athletes were killed in a terrorist attack),” he said--but went instead to Vienna, where he served as director at a transit camp for Russian immigrants. Upon his return to Israel, he began doing watercolors on his motorcycle rides around the country; he also took up windsurfing and tennis.
Thirteen years ago he discovered his special talent and “expanded” into the world of miniatures--confining large panoramas into dimensions often less than one square inch.
What tools does he use?
“Why--little brushes,” he answered, slightly amazed at the question.
According to Gil, he’s had no formal artistic training whatever.
“My only training was stubbornness,” he said.
“I was kicked out of art classes always, and I think that is a good thing. Watercolors are the toughest medium to control. If I had been taught that, had I known the facts, I would never have dared gotten into miniatures. As it turned out, miniature watercolors are not impossible.”
When Gil noted that “collectors of miniatures are miniature-size also,” he didn’t mean they’re little people; he meant they’re few in number.
But Gil is used to being misunderstood. In fact, he feels his art in general is misunderstood.
“People always look at the pieces, then they look at me and they ask, ‘How big’s the original?’ ”