In September, Hal and Lindsay Cohen launched an online Etsy shop, Olive+Fawn, “for the creative and beautiful Jewish home.” During the pandemic, the Cohens became involved in crafting, creating a home camp with their four children where Lindsay planned different craft activities that involved the whole family.
“My wife and I have been creatives for a long time and are very passionate about our Judaism,” said Hal. “We started doing various kinds of projects, we made a poster with the Al Hamichya (after-food blessing) and we made name signs for the kids.”
Hal works as an attorney; Lindsay was a preschool teacher at Torah Day School’s Kindertots Preschool and is now a stay-at-home mom. The family are members of Ahavas Torah in Scottsdale.
“I love teaching; it fills me up, but right now, I have a baby at home and that’s always going to be the focus for us — what’s good for our family and our kids. Then after that, how can we contribute to our community and the Jewish people at large,” said Lindsay.
The Cohen’s four children are 1-year-old Nesanel, 3-year-old Akiva and twins, Shimon and Esti (their only girl), who will be 5 at the end of this month.
The couple hadn’t planned on becoming business owners; they just enjoyed creating beautiful items to decorate their home.
“Living an observant Jewish life is the most beautiful bracha, blessing, that can be, and yet there was such a paradoxically small outlet for artistic representation of that,” said Lindsay. “It seems like everything was being put into Chanukah and that was the only time of year people were focusing on.”
When friends came over and started complimenting the couple on their pieces, they would be surprised upon learning that the Cohens had made it themselves. When people were asked where they could buy the item and found out it wasn’t for sale anywhere, they encouraged the couple to start selling their art.
“It’s one of those things where the first time you’re told that you’re a horse, you call the person a jerk and the 20th time you get a saddle,” joked Hal. “Eventually, we were like, there is a demand for what we make.”
“The Etsy shop seemed like the best avenue to get our public stuff,” said Lindsay. “Etsy itself is like a virtual community of creatives and we’re staying within our brand, creating beautiful Jewish art.”
The couple wanted to come up with a name that felt both meaningful and also represented the art they were creating. Since they made Judaic art and pieces for nurseries, they tried to find something that wasn’t obvious like a Star of David. Instead, they wanted something with more of an artistic reference.
“We thought about olives, one of the special fruits from Israel. Also, the color of them, the shape of them, the iconic beauty of the tree and the connotation of the tree for peace,” said Lindsay. “We liked the vibe and it represented our Judaic line without being too literal.”
Now they had to come up with a name for the “baby section” of the business.
“Our baby’s middle name is Hirsch, which is deer in Yiddish,” said Lindsay. “So, a deer was already on my radar. I love the peace of them; I love the color scheme as funny as that is. The fawn color with the white speckles.”
As a child, Lindsay was always drawing and painting — always involved in some sort of art, not only visually but also theater and music. Hal has enjoyed various art hobbies including mask-making, woodworking and pottery.
Lindsay often sketches out a design and then gives it to Hal, who digitizes it and sends the file to Lindsay’s mom, Peggy Simon, who creates the pieces. Simon has a Glowforge, a machine that laser cuts, engraves and scores a variety of materials.
“There’s mom and pop shops and we say we’re the mom, pop and grand mom shops,” said Lindsay. “It’s a family business and it’s fun. It also keeps up the relationship with my mom. We’re talking to her all the time and coming up with ideas and she is like a super hard worker and a perfectionist so you can be assured that any product bought from our store will be made well.”
One of Lindsay’s favorite pieces is the Al Hamichya poster. She said that there are many versions available online, but they tend to look similar and are often etched on a piece of Lucite or acrylic and she feels that’s where the design starts and ends.
She said Hal suggested incorporating the seven species mentioned in the Torah into the artwork.
“There are dates, pomegranates, olives, figs, grapes, wheat and barley on it. So, we made it not only beautiful for anybody who’s just looking at it, but if you look deeper, and you know the meaning of it, it has all of the species listed,” said Lindsay.
“I think the other thing that’s so cool about that is that you can really make your home reflect your values, it’s not just going to the store and getting what somebody else looks as beautiful. You’re taking your own values and putting them into a physical medium. It’s something that I realize we are blessed to have the ability to do.” J.N
For more information, visit OliveandFawn.etsy.com.