Talking ketubahs with artist Adriana Saipe
This past summer I was lucky to get to talk with Adriana Saipe, the graphic designer and ketubah artist extraordinaire behind Ink with Intent. I reached out to her because I loved the unique style of her ketubahs and wedding certificates, and being new in the Jewish wedding biz I was looking to connect with other artists in this world. Today I'm excited to share some of our conversation, as well as photos of a few of her ketubot. Enjoy!
You mentioned that the first Ketubah you ever made was for your own wedding. Can you tell me about that process?
I'd like to say that I took on the project of making my own ketubah because I felt a deep calling to make it something special. But in reality, I was just a DIY bride trying to stick to a tight budget, and I figured 'how hard could it be?'. It turns out, pretty hard! My husband and I spent weeks writing our own ketubah text, and months tossing ideas back and forth about the design. But the hardest part was finding a translator who was familiar with the special conventions of Hebrew ketubah texts who could turn our English vows into Hebrew. Eventually, everything came together, and we were thrilled with the final result. That is, until my mom found a typo on it the day before my wedding (cue a tearful call to my local printer who got us a new one in record time!) Overall, it was one of the most challenging / most beautiful parts of our wedding planning process, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Adriana and her husband
What inspired you to start making Ketubahs for a living?
After all the dust had settled from our wedding, I was chatting with a friend about how special the day had felt and talking about my favorite parts. When I told her that I had created my ketubah myself, she suggested I consider selling them. My professional life as an artist had been in a bit of a rut while I planned my wedding, and I was looking for something new and exciting to tackle, so the idea really resonated with me. I started spending time each day working on new ketubah designs (most of which eventually got scrapped) until I had a collection of 10 ketubahs that I was extremely proud of. The next week, I set up an Etsy store, and the week after that I sold my first ketubah!
What kind of religious community were you raised in? What was your spiritual journey like after you left home?
I was raised by Quaker parents, though I always had a lot of Jewish people in my life growing up. My 'godfather' is a Jewish man, and I was definitely exposed to Jewish holidays and life cycle events (so many bat mitzvahs!) throughout my childhood and teen years.
When I went off to college and met my then boyfriend, now husband, who's Jewish, I began to learn a lot more about the culture and beliefs. In the 8 years leading up to our wedding I learned and participated a ton, and shortly before we got married, we became involved in a Reconstructionist congregation here in Madison, WI. And we had a Jewish wedding, which is what initially sparked my interest in the tradition and history of ketubahs.
Now, my husband and I are expecting our first child this winter! We couldn't be more excited, but it's also raising a lot of important questions about what role Judaism and spirituality will play in our lives as we become parents. So far, many more questions have been raised than have been answered. But I'm enjoying the discussion with my husband, and I know we'll figure out a path that feels right.
It sounds like you put a lot of thought into the text on your ketubahs, and the translations you use. What compels your interest in deeply exploring the text?
I'm fascinated by the history of the ketubah. It boggles my mind that some of my clients still use the same Aramaic text that was written on ketubahs 2000 years ago - how's that for tradition?! But I also love the more modern and egalitarian interpretations of the original ketubah text that have been popping up over the last few decades. To me, the text is the most important part of the ketubah, whether a couple chooses the original 2000 year old Aramaic, a more modern interpretation, or even to write their own! I've been lucky to find a group of incredible Hebrew translators (including an Aramaic scholar!) who do a wonderful job personalizing each text for my clients. In addition to filling out the names and wedding date, they also change the pronouns and tweak the wording so that each text accurately reflects the identities and orientations of the people getting married. No one-size-fits-all approach here.
What's your absolute favorite part about designing a Ketubah?
I think my favorite part would be coming up with a new design that I'm excited about. Only about 1/3rd of the stuff I initially dream up actually makes it onto my website. Plenty of the time, I'll be working on something, and I'll have to begrudgingly admit that it's not going to work. But then, every once in a while, the stars will align, and I'll end up with a new design that I'm really proud of. My other favorite part is buying new fonts (I have a problem - for some women it's shoes, for other women it's fonts!)
What's a typical day-in-the-life at Ink With Intent?
Since my business tends to flow with the wedding season, I spend half the year working 10 hour days to finish all my orders and the other half of the year working on new designs, connecting with other artists, and relaxing (!). I run my business Ink with Intent full time, so a typical work day has me getting up early, ingesting some coffee and blogs, and then starting in on my client emails. After all my emails are answered, I'll design my clients' ketubahs or work on custom designs until my dog informs me that it's time for his walk. In the afternoon, I'll typically do a little business planning or marketing, or perhaps I'll play in my sketch book to try and come up with some new design ideas. Overall, it's a pretty lovely way to spend the day. But it can get lonely, since I work from home!
On that note, I'll be adding a couple of people to my team for the 2016 season, which I couldn't be more excited about! For the past year, my only colleague has been my ragamuffin of a dog, Copernicus. So if you or anyone you know has experience in graphic design, virtual assisting, and/or reading and writing Hebrew, drop me a line!
What advice do you have for customers starting a search for the perfect ketubah?
First and foremost, give yourself plenty of time. Most ketubah artists I know need 1-2 months or longer to get you a ketubah. After all, it takes time to have your text translated and to create a customized design. I love it when clients reach out to me at least 2 months before their wedding so that we have plenty of time to toss ideas back and forth, go through drafts, and tweak the text until it's perfect. Next, I would encourage you to think long and hard about what you as a couple want from your ketubah text. You might be surprised to find you're not on a same page. Those discussions might be tricky, but they're so important and totally worth it. Lastly, if you have a vision for your ketubah, and you can't seem to find it, definitely consider reaching out to artists for a custom design. Doing custom work is one of my favorite parts of the job - I'm always blown away by the creative, unusual ideas that my clients bring to me. Custom work tends to take a little longer and cost a little more, but it can be totally worth it if you have the time and budget.
See Adriana's full collection of ketubahs and Quaker wedding certificates here. Find our full wedding collection, including chuppahs, wedding rings, and thank you cards here. And sign up below to get more stories like this delivered straight to your inbox!