Bayan’s Multilingual Ketuba

This week I had the great honor of designing a wedding agreement document for a young couple here in Washington DC. The couple, one Baha’i and the other Jewish, had a rather specific ketuba in mind. Having met in grad school for Arabic language and linguistics, and given their own heritages, they wanted a piece in four languages: a Persian quote of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i faith, one Hebrew quote from the book of Hosea and another from a Hebrew folk song, an Arabic testament of love, and a body text in English.

We had a couple of meetings to flesh out the idea visually, and get a sense of how it would manifest. What we decided on was a central emblem in both Hebrew and Arabic, reminiscent of Hassan Massoudy’s work, with one important word pulled from each quote, and the remaining words written smaller in amongst the larger lettering, then the remaining quotes as solid text blocks below, and finally a line for the signatures.

It took a while to get a design I liked for the top. I am incredibly indebted to Michel d’Anastasio, who I consider to be the best Hebrew calligrapher working in the world today.  Once I had four designs I liked, we decided which to use and I went to work. The paper I used is a wonderful cream colored, slightly metallic paper that has a luminescence to it and holds a pen beautifully.

When I was in Istanbul on my way home from Tajikistan, I picked up some Iranian inks at the Sahaflar Carsisi, the center of my world. I mixed a few drops of brown, and one of black in with the red ink and I got a rich and beautiful burgundy that glides across the paper elegantly and without blotching, stuttering, or faltering.

As for the bottom quotes, I played around with several calligraphic styles, Naskh, Thulth, but the issue was that the Hebrew quote on the bottom was shorter than the Persian quote and both needed to fit on the same size paper for visual continuity, so in the end Diwani worked best, as it can stack better than any other style.

I bordered all the quotes, Hebrew, Persian, and English in a light blue paper with leaves embedded.

The border was simple enough, but a bit tricky technically. It consists of two parts: marbled paper underneath, and a stencil cutout of a design overlayed. As long as the floral design fits and repeats seamlessly it’s no problem to create, but glue-up is a bit of a pain.

Just time consuming.

Once the border was done and the bottom sections had been written out, it was time for final glue up. Good thing Taunton makes a heavy book!

And it’s done:

Please direct all inquires to Thanks!

~ by Josh on August 23, 2012.

One Response to “Bayan’s Multilingual Ketuba”

  1. Hello Josh, just wanted to let you know how influential and inspiring your website is….. You’ve inspired me to do an Arabic calligraphy class with some children in Liverpool in North West England – the work that we do is going to be properly framed and auctioned for charity at an event in February. Money raised is going to children affected by the war in Syria. Probably just going to do a simple ‘Bismillah’ design. Also, have to tell you that there are some copycat San’aa gingerbread houses kicking around…… Louise

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