About Pamela Balton

Pam Balton is Vice President of Special Projects at the Skirball, which means that for our museum stores she searches high and low to discover or create items that have meaningful connections to the Skirball mission—whether around town, in New York, on the web, at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, or in Israel, not to mention trade shows representing countries around the world. Pam also takes a lead role in the openings of our new buildings and exhibitions. A recent highlight in Pam’s life? The birth of her first grandchild!

Tips for a Meaningful Passover Celebration, from Generation to Generation

At Passover this year, my wondrous granddaughter, Sloane, will be two-and-a-half. She is pictured here with me (in blue), her mom (with Sloane in her arms), her aunt, and her great-grandmother at last year’s Seder. I will feel blessed to have four generations seated at our Passover table. Right: Here the family is gathered at Passover many years ago at my mom and dad’s house. I can tell it’s a Seder by the red wine glasses and men wearing kippot.

Left: At Passover this year, my wondrous granddaughter, Sloane, will be two-and-a-half. She is pictured here with me (in blue), her mom (with Sloane in her arms), her aunt, and her great-grandmother at last year’s Seder. I will feel blessed to have four generations seated at our Passover table. Right: Here the family is gathered at Passover many years ago at my mom and dad’s house. I can tell it’s a Seder by the red wine glasses and men wearing kippot.

Following in the tradition of my parents and grandparents, my husband and I have hosted our family Seder for the past twenty-seven years in our home. Some of our guests, numbering anywhere from twelve to twenty-four, do not come from a Jewish background. Our aim is make everyone feel welcome and to have a joyful, memorable experience. Over the years, we have developed some great ways to achieve this through interactive and thoughtful questions, storytelling, song, table setting, and food. Here are some helpful tips and good finds I’ve picked up over the years.

 

1) GOOD PLANNING MAKES FOR A GOOD HOLIDAY.

Shopping, cooking, setting the table, and preparing for the Seder service can be overwhelming and challenging. I keep recipes, grocery lists, and a timeline on file, and I start planning and prepping a few weeks in advance to spread out the workload. It’s never too early to make sure you have everything you need to set your table. The following ceremonial objects, available at Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball, make for an elegant presentation.

 

60_minute_seder_bookcover p32) THE HAGGADAH BRINGS THE HOLIDAY TO LIFE.

Read at the seder table, the Haggadah recounts the tale of the Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Each year, we are challenged to retell the sacred story in a way that keeps it fresh while preserving age-old traditions.

As the buyer for Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball, I am excited to recommend a new Haggadah that we have reviewed, Sixty-Minute Seder. It’s an easy-to-follow yet sophisticated guide to preparing for Passover and executing the service.

 

3) PASSOVER IS A CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM. SPARK CONVERSATIONS THAT CENTER AROUND THAT THEME.

Questions and answers are central to the Seder ritual, which is all about connecting with one another. Continue reading

Goods That Do Good at Audrey’s: It’s All About the Stories

Raven + Lily co-founders Sophia Lin and Kirsten Dickerson discuss why they felt compelled to work with
women in impoverished communities and how consumers themselves are empowered by purchases that benefit communities in need. Sophia will be previewing Raven + Lily’s spring 2012 collection at a trunk show hosted by Audrey’s Museum Store on April 20–22.

Just north of the capital of Ethiopia is a mountain region known as the Entoto Mountains, a place where villagers believe lies a cure for HIV. Ostracized by their families and communities, many HIV-positive Ethiopian women leave behind their hometowns to come to the Entoto Mountains in the hope that they will be made healthy again. Many of them, unfortunately, end up with no way to support themselves once they arrive at this new place.

Raven + Lily necklaceBut there is some hope for these women thanks to socially responsible jewelry and gift brand Raven + Lily and the Entoto Project. This initiative provides HIV education and healthcare to Ethiopian women while also offering sustainable employment. The women of the Entoto Project create beautiful jewelry, like this necklace (pictured at right), using beads made out of vintage coins and artillery shells from past tribal conflicts. As they say at Raven + Lily, “what was once intended for harm now brings hope and life.”

It is stories like these that made the Women Hold Up Half the Sky Holiday Pop-Up Shop—which was open to visitors during gift-giving season—such a meaningful endeavor. For me, what is moving about goods that do good is their potential to empower both the artisan and the customer. The artisans are able to improve conditions for themselves and their families, fulfilling basic needs and building a better future for the entire community; the customers (or “smart buyers,” as Katy Leakey of our Beads for Learning vendor, The Leakey Collection, calls them) are able to make more socially conscious purchases that can make a difference in the lives of others.

Making a difference was the inspiration for the Skirball’s decision to mount the exhibition—and, by extension, to organize a related Holiday Pop-Up Shop. As it turned out, many thousands of visitors were happy to “shop for the cause” and help champion opportunities for women to make a sustainable living. To keep the momentum going, Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball will continue to carry, well into the future, beautifully handcrafted merchandise from women’s cooperatives and fair-trade organizations around the world. I couldn’t be more proud! Continue reading

New Markets, Centuries-Old Techniques

It’s gift-giving season, and the Skirball’s special Women Hold Up Half the Sky Holiday Pop-Up Shop is buzzing with activity. (You may have heard about it in the feature story “Handcrafted with Humanity” that appeared in the Home section of last Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.) Setting up a pop-up shop was something we’d never attempted before, and it’s been an enriching experience to learn about the hundreds of artisan groups and distributors that champion entrepreneurship for women worldwide.

Entryway to the 2011 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Entryway to the 2011 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

The first person I turned to for advice was an experienced colleague at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. She referred me to Ahdina Zunkel, the director of special projects at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market (now in its eleventh year), where more than 120 artisans from around the world—all carefully vetted to ensure they produce authentic craft—come to sell and display their handcrafts each year.

With Women Hold Up Half the Sky coming up in the fall and the idea for a related pop-up shop in mind, I attended this year’s market in July. The attendance was high and the temperature even higher! 2012 had been designated as the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives, so it was no surprise that fifty-seven women’s cooperatives exhibited.

The market was absolutely amazing. The sheer number of artists represented and the quality of their work were a treat. Language was often a barrier, but I was able to learn some of the women’s inspiring stories firsthand. Continue reading