Micaela Ezra is an Australian born illustrator, textile designer and writer, who shares spiritual ideas through word, text and design. She is the founder of AHYIN, a boutique collection of contemporary Judaica objects, created with holistic intentions. Micaela’s most recent illustration work can be seen in “The Universe has Your Back” 52 card inspirational deck, made in collaboration with #1 New York Times best selling author, Gabrielle Bernstein. In 2016, Micaela launched “AHYIN by Micaela Ezra” which evolved as a merging of these two passions. AHYIN is a boutique collection of contemporary Judaica objects, designed and created with holistic, spiritual intentions. Micaela is a voice translating Jewish wisdom through a modern lens.
You’re a designer and illustrator but deeply rooted in spiritual practice and Jewish tradition, what inspired you to create AHYIN?
AHYIN is a collection of contemporary Judaica objects, created with the intention of inspiring new connections to ancient rituals.
The brand evolved very serendipitously when a friend asked me to design her a Mexican style Challah cover (the ritual cloth we cover Challah bread with every friday night). It wasn’t until almost two years later, that I found a way to produce these textiles with an artisan community in a rural part of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Early on it was apparent that this line of work offered me a way to fuse a number of things I love and care deeply about – textile design, fostering meaningful connections with Jewish ritual and contributing to the livelihoods of artisans in the developing world.
I feel very blessed that I create heirlooms which play a special part in the homes of their end users, and also tangibly affect the lives of the women who embroider them.
As a mother of two beautiful girls, what’s your aim in passing on your customs to them?
On an intimate level, I pass them on in the hope that they will enhance and bring meaning to my daughter’s lives. That they will lead them to understand their uniqueness and guide them to be of service in the world. I know the gifts of joy and insight they have brought me and so many others. These customs also offer perspective. When your life has a holy rhythm and you have a focus which stretches beyond the everyday, you hold the material highs and lows with a different outlook.
When you zoom out and look at it from a cultural perspective amidst the continuum of time, we share our rituals with the next generation in order to pass the light and wisdom of our heritage into the future. That is what we have been asked to do. Thousands of years ago the Torah (our blueprint for living) was given only when the people offered their children as the guarantee that they would continue to keep and honor it’s sacred words.
How has your background in fashion influenced the work you create now?
I come to this with a very specific affinity for and awareness of materials, craftsmanship, detail and color. I wouldn’t say my background is an “influence” so much as it is years of training which now finds a new mode of expression.
What does AHYIN mean?
Ahyin(pronounced Ahh-yin) has two meanings in Hebrew which reflect the essence of the brand.
Firstly Ahyincan be translated as “eye”. On Friday evening we welcome the Shabbat by covering our eyes and lighting candles. It is a powerful moment for reflection and personal prayer as we take pause and enter the holy stillness of the day. There is a belief that as we cover our eyes we draw the light of these flames into our hearts to accompany us over the coming week.
In addition Ahyin is the 16th letter in the Hebrew alphabet which is mystically linked to a story about striving to uncover the spiritual within a physical world. Our customs and rituals exist as channels through which to do just this. More detail can be found here
What are some daily rituals that help you ground yourself and your family into the present?
We are creative every day though it takes different forms. This isn’t a ritual per se, but i definitely commit to engaging in their world as best I can. I try to be playful and meet them where they are. This may take shape as role playing or painting, doing a puzzle or dancing. So often we are slaves to the demands of our schedules, school dropoff, bedtime routines. Taking time to just drop into their world, and let the obligations melf away, is very important for staying present and really connecting. Just a small period of this each day can be really powerful.
One of my favorite things to do each night is say the bedtime “Shema” (a prolific Hebrew prayer) with my daughters, after which we mention some of the things we are grateful for.
Friday and Saturday are Shabbat – the spiritual anchor of our week. Every Friday evening we gather for prayers and a meal either the four of us or with guests. My most cherished moment is lighting the Shabbat candles with my daughters.
I also love giving the girls a traditional Shabbat blessing, which is generally done at the dinner table, but in our home we also say it before bed – it is a comforting and intimate moment I take with each ot them, honoring the gift of their beautiful souls, thanking G-d for them out loud and chanting biblical verses of protection. The blessing we say for children on Friday night can be found here.
How did you bring ritual into your birth process?
Carving out time for ritual in during the pregnancy was obviously much easier with my first where I had steady yoga and frequent meditation practice. Second pregnancy with a toddler in tow, was more of a challenge.
During both pregnancies I really committed to honoring the phase my body was in, listening to it’s needs, nourishing and exercising accordingly. (They were fairly different needs each time).
I felt those months were some of my most creative and I really allowed myself to enjoy that inspired flow.
Before both births I gathered with close friends for a mother / baby blessing. These circles were intended as a celebration and recognition of the changes that I was undergoing, and as a portal through which to welcome the new soul. I feel so strongly about this ritual of honoring our shifts in life stage with people who care about us deeply. Gathering, really pausing together, allows us to truly take in the magnificence of a moment in time. It allows us to be seen, held and supported.
When my daughters were born, we announced both their English and Hebrew names in Synagogue the Shabbat after their birth. In the Jewish tradition we believe the child’s hebrew name hints at their soul’s purpose on earth, and that the parents are briefly gifted “the spirit of G-d” to know what the name should be.
What do you hope families experience when using your beautifully crafted textiles?
I hope that they feel excited to use them in ritual. That their children develop a nostalgia for the tradition as they foster a strong visual memory of the textile. I hope they become interwoven with their lives.
I believe that when you invest in a sacred object for use and display in your home, you are really defining the nature of that space as a living temple. A home has the power to be the most holy sanctuary and a vessel for love.
You have also designed book covers including Mama Glow, Gabby Bernstein’s card decks… how do you keep the creative juices flowing while parenting two young girls?
Haha! Well this continues to evolve as the girls grow and the hours that I have to dive in change. These years are an incredible blessing that naturally have a different rhythm.
As an artist who gets lost in the journey of creating, it can be very difficult to be in a creative zone toiling with an idea, and to have to come back to the realities of motherhood. But it is part of the dance we do between our different roles, and the girl’s energy is often the recharge I don’t even realise I need.
I am someone who juggles a number of creative projects and I am learning for me the key is to focus very specifically on one at a time. For example, devoting a few weeks to an illustration project, and allowing for very few other creative distractions.
Also, I often work from home so the girls see what I am doing; they are curious about how the work evolves and will eventually come to life as a book or product. Often they paint or create alongside me, and at the end they feel very connected to whatever I have made.
I have also been blown away by their methodologies. They are curious and fearless when they create. They are more interested in the process and exploration than an artistic outcome. These are some of the most essential qualities for creative growth no matter your age!
You have a blog where you muse about Jewish spiritual traditions and help people ground in ritual, which is obviously so integral to who you are. What can one expect when they come to learn more about these traditions on AHYIN?
I tend to write about the energy of a particular week or a festival, and so there is a seasonal ebb and flow which reflects a certain point in the Jewish Calendar. My roles as a mother and a creative inform the way I relate to that particular tradition or time in the yearly cycle. While I am transmitting an ancient story, I am offering a new way to connect with it. I share what I love, what feels meaningful, exciting and relevant to my life, trusting it may feel the same for others.
I believe our religious stories and rituals carry universal messages which reflect where we find ourselves and offer insight for growth and healing. They can be seen as a drum beat we are offered by the universe, and the way we each engage with them becomes the unique melody with which we live our lives.