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7 Questions for Sarah Day Arts

Sarah Edelstein, creator of Sarah Day Arts. Courtesy of Sarah Edelman

JWA sat down with Sarah Edelstein, a self-taught illustrator originally from San Diego, currently living in Seattle, and the founder of Sarah Day Arts. Sarah develops Judaica and other small illustrations that she creates into jewelry, art prints, and even t-shirts. 

JWA: How did you first get interested in art?

Sarah Edelstein: I have been interested in art pretty much my whole life. It was my favorite activity as a kid, and I think it's largely because my mom is a really creative person, and her mom was actually a professional artist. I inherited a few of her paintings after she passed away in 2018, so we have a house full of her art and I have a whole portfolio of her sketches down in the basement. It definitely runs in the family. My younger sibling is also an artist. It's just sort of all around us and we're all really saturated in it, so it's definitely a lifelong interest that I never thought could be taken seriously as a career.

JWA: What does being Jewish mean to you?

SE: The number one thing that being Jewish means to me is being part of something that's larger than yourself. Whether that means communally, spiritually, or socially, it's just sort of being part of a larger network, a larger ecosystem, both in terms of people and the Earth itself.  I think a subset of that idea is you're never really alone. In the Torah, one of the first things that God says to humankind is that it's not good for a man to be alone. There's just this feeling, whether you are carrying the energy of a spiritual presence with you, connecting with the Earth and the universe around you, or connecting with other people.

JWA: At what point did you start incorporating Judaism into your art?

SE: Back when I was working at a pre-rabbinic fellowship in Australia, I was having a hard time staying interested in the work because it was such a stressful position that was so full-on. I found myself, as a diversion, making educational resources from scratch by hand. There was this well known Australian Jewish artist who was a very active member of our congregation named Victor Majzer, and he was so talented and for some reason he really liked my drawings—and my drawings were not good back then. He was so encouraging. I feel like my art sort of came from Judaism, went on this sort of long secular winding journey over many years and then found its way back home to Judaism because I realized that's actually the very core of who I am. Maybe the number one most important thing that somebody would need to know about me is that I'm Jewish. So it makes sense that that's where it came back to in the long run.

JWA: I’ve seen your work featured in other news outlets and even found it all over the world. How does it feel to have such an impact in the Judaica world?

SE: It feels so weird. I mean, it's super flattering. My younger sibling actually texted me about this because they said they showed up at a Shabbat and a bunch of people were like, “Oh my god, are you Sarah Day’s sibling?” And I literally was like, I feel so strange, and undeserving of this. I'm not cool enough for this degree of attention. I think it goes back to, like, the interconnectedness piece. It is really meaningful to me that this work resonates with people. And, you know, they say with art, and especially making products out of art, that you should be putting something out there that you wish existed. To me, this is the ultimate expression of that. I feel like a lot of the time when I'm making secular work, I'm sort of following trends or what's hip and, like, trying to keep my business going. But when I'm making Judaica it really feels like I am creating for me. I'm creating for my people. It's a whole different level, I think, which is why I'm leaning into it more and more as the years go on. Creating a product for product’s sake is really uninteresting after a while, but Judaica kind of never gets old. 

JWA: How did you come up with the name Sarah Day Arts?

SE: Day is not my last name; my real last name is Edelstein. When I first started being really online publicly it was really scary. And I actually started with hand-lettering as my first sort of gig. As my business grew past that I was like, “Okay, I need to change.” I didn't want to go with Sarah Edelstein. I didn't want to have to spell it out—it wasn't actually available on Instagram. That much proximity felt really scary, especially in 2016. Trump was on the rise and I hadn't really committed to being a Jewish artist online. I hadn't committed to making that a public part of my personality, which was silly because that was always going to come out.

One of my biggest inspirations is an artist named Tuesday Bassen. She's from the States, but now lives in Berlin. Back then I was starstruck by her. And so the “day” feels like a little bit of a nod to her. Also, one of my really close friends is named Wednesday, so I have a friend named Tuesday and a friend named Wednesday. I was like, “I want to be a day really bad.” It was probably also a little bit of New Girl’s Jessica Day. I remember one day just, like, sitting in a coffee shop and just sort of writing that down and being like, yep, that's it now.

JWA: What has been inspiring you recently?

SE: I'm trying to think about how to create things specifically for the High Holidays, including Pesach. So I'm going to be delving a little bit deeper into research on those festivals and trying to get past the surface level knowledge that I have. I also would like to start doing more work on the Jewish calendar. That's a lot of self-education I need to do, because I've taught the Jewish calendar on a very rudimentary level to middle schoolers, but I want to go a lot deeper than that. There’s a lot of intersections between the Jewish calendar and astrology, which is really fun. Now that I've gotten a few Judaica pieces out there covering a lot of the most fundamental symbols, like the Magen David, the Hamsa, I want to explore what’s the next layer down.

JWA: Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about?

SE: Right now my big project is my wedding, which is next month. I did our programs, menus, invitations, signage, all the stationery. I designed this felt banner for the chuppah, the only thing I didn't do myself was the ketubah since we found a historical ketubah. That's really been my biggest project of the year since January that I've been plugging away on.

In terms of upcoming stuff, I wish I knew what I was releasing this winter. If you ask me again in four weeks, I'll know. We did a big release in late June of some chai necklaces, we did some new hamsas, some garlic merch—which sold out immediately—the challah stud earring sold out really fast. I really want to do more foodie type stuff.

You can follow Sarah on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Threads, or shop her merch on her website.

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How to cite this page

Breitman, Emma. "7 Questions for Sarah Day Arts." 18 July 2023. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 1, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/7-questions-sarah-day>.