December 16, 2011
Handy Hazzan is Hanukkah Hazzan - Making Dreydls Out of Clay Today!
… Oh Dreydl, Dreydl, Dreydl…I Make it Out of Clay…
Most of you know the Dreidel Song …. “Oh Dreydl, Dreydl Dreydl…. I made it out of clay. And when it’s dry and ready, then dreydl I shall play…” Who does that anymore? Go to any Judaica store and
Tools and supplies: You’ll need “Oven Baking Clay,” – we got ours at Blix Art Supplies in Los Angeles on Beverly Blvd. - pen knife or paring knife, serrated knife, a few chop sticks, 100 - 120 grit sandpaper, wood glue, glossy acrylic paints and a few different paint brushes, all of which should be capable of detail work; a bowl of water, any additional sculpting tools if you wish to carve decorative elements, and clamps for holding the dreydl while painting.
Making: Take a smallish piece of clay - you don’t need much…maybe a quarter-dollar size sphere - and knead it back and forth in your hands until it is very malleable. When it is of good consistency, roll it around between your palms to form a ball. I start to shape the ball into a cube, alternating between shaping it with my fingers and banging it on a flat surface. The top of the cube becomes the top of the dreydl, with four sides on which we will later paint the letters Nun, Gimel, Hay and Shin. Do you know what Hebrew words these letters represent? The answer is: Nes gadol haya sham, which translates “A great miracle happened there.” I choose one end of the cube to be the bottom of the dreydl, and start pulling the clay with thumb and forefinger gently down and inward to create the lower half. Occasionally wet your fingers to assist in smoothing the surface of the clay.
Sometimes, if I don’t like my results, I simply roll the whole thing back into a ball and start all over. Keep turning the dreydl as you mold it. This will help in maintaining symmetry. Each side of the dreydl will have a “perfect” square on the sides of the top half, and then a triangular part on each side of the bottom, angled inwards and down to come to a point at the bottom. I slightly round the bottom. It spins better than if it were a sharp point.
Once I have shaped the entire dreydl, I take a plain, wooden chopstick and cut about two inches off one end. (You can prep these before you start molding the clay.) I shave and sand this little piece of wood until it, too is symmetrical. I then carefully insert one end of the 1 1/2 - 2 inch piece of chopstick into the top of the dreydl, making sure that the stick is centered and perpendicular to the top. If it seems loose, I pull it out, put a couple drops of white glue in the hole, then reinsert the stick.
TRUTH BE TOLD: I may have accidentally used a different clay for the ones I baked in our oven. I later used the “right” Oven Baking Clay and they came out looking nice and pink, like the one Roxy painted.
I am keeping this entry especially short so that you will have additional time to watch the two videos. Please write to me if you have any questions or comments. If you have a moment, do a little research on the origins of the dreydl/dreidel. You may be in for a surprise. Happy Hanukkah! Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can do it yourself! - HH
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