I’m starting something new this year. I’m calling it “The Ketubah Project,” and it’s my attempt to bring more of Ruth, more of ME, to this enterprise.
Since 2013, when I put my first ketubah designs up for sale on Etsy, “Ruth Mergi” has evolved from being a private person -- an introverted and self-conscious person, at that -- into a “brand.” I’m not just an artist: I’m CEO and Artistic Director of Ruth Mergi LLC. Those roles shape and define much of my work.
Ruth Mergi creates high-end, fine art ketubahs. Ruth Mergi ketubahs reflect their studio-driven origins. Ruth Mergi provides thoughtful and thorough support to our clients at every stage of the ordering process. Ruth Mergi is professional, friendly, and easy to work with. Ruth Mergi has an impressive sales record of over two hundred ketubahs per year. Ruth Mergi’s work combines talent, expertise, and the highest level of customer service. Ruth Mergi ketubahs are stunning.
They are. They truly are.
I stand behind my designs, and behind each email, photo, webpage, and carefully-worded line of website copy. The branding process has been crucial for the development of the studio as a business.
At the same time, branding “Ruth Mergi” has my played to my introversion and self-consciousness.
Consequently, I fear that something sacred, something real and personal, may be lost in the process. I’m constantly self-editing. Before I write or post or create a new design, I consider how it reflects on my brand, whether a potential client might be discomfited by an idea or expression of mine, whether a design will sell or flop, how to maximize profits and efficiency. I’ve been careful to leave much about my own religious practices and political views out of the studio. I don’t get too personal, for the most part.
Because it’s not brand-consistent.
Meanwhile, as my business is taking off, my studio practice has waned. For one thing, I’m busy. Really busy. But perhaps even more critically, “Ruth Mergi” has turned from a platform for “putting it out there” to a set of limiting factors, defined by my “brand.” Anything that doesn’t say “talent, expertise, customer service” -- this has all been cut off. And that’s a shame.
I have so much more to offer.
I’ve been holding back on you, and on myself, and I’m ready to get over the fear of rejection or lost sales or angry internet comments. It’s 2015, and it’s time to put myself out there.
OK, but how?
We’re all complex and multifacted as individuals and as artists. It’s nice to “put ourselves out there,” but we all need some focus. As it turns out, my own focal-points -- aside from but also including art -- are longstanding and well-defined. I’m interested in philosophy and politics, especially Israeli politics, Zionism, and the American-Jewish experience. I come by these interests honestly: After all, I trained as a lawyer, and I worked in the news media. I studied philosophy (rhetoric) at UC Berkeley. I grew up in a Jewish-Zionist youth group and attended a Jewish Day School. My career paths circle back and around these nexi: Judaism and Zionism, law and philosophy, art and expression.
At the same time, I’m a forty-year-old woman, a wife, and mother of three. Everything I do is refracted through the lens of a loving and complex family life, and a messy, mildly-neurotic, introverted, extremely critical, wholly imperfect Ruth, right smack dab in the middle of it all.
It’s time to start bringing it all together.
Enter the Ketubah Project.
My aim is to find the places of intersection, where my daily work of creating and designing ketubahs relates to my other longstanding interests and personal experiences. For example, what I notice about your wedding vows, after fourteen years of marriage to my husband. Or what I think of the Israeli Rabbinate’s policies on marriage in Israel, and how they affect my work. Or what I notice about my encounters with the mostly younger-than-me American Jews who make up the lion’s share of my clientele. I’d like to tell you what it’s like to create ketubahs in the middle of a war, or while my kids are driving me crazy.
The Ketubah Project is a blogging project. I’m not a professional writer, but for me writing is at least as important a mode of expression as is art-making. Writing suits my training and temperament.
The Ketubah Project will be a new attempt to expand into my work, to Put Myself Out There, to let go, relax, and share what’s on my mind. If I possibly can, I’ll let my glorious imperfections and acid humor and deeply-held convictions shine through.
If I’m lucky, I’ll find some interesting and engaging threads to follow, and hope to eventually weave them right back into my studio practice.
The Ketubah Project is about putting more of Ruth into “Ruth Mergi,” and I hope you’ll read along.