Moshe Chaim Gress -- Candle Sculpting

Arrival in Tzfat

Moshe Chaim Gress knew he was going to live in Tzfat from before he even visited the Holy city. He arrived in Tzfat for the first time in 1991, on the day the First Gulf War ended, to participate in the three-month program Livnot U'Lehibanot. When he left his home and career as a D.J. in Tucson, Arizona to come to Israel, he already had a vague idea that Tzfat might be his ultimate destination.

Moshe Chaim studied fine art at the University of Arizona after having taken 2 years of commercial art courses in a B.O.C.E.S. school in Middletown, NY. He freelanced in art periodically, mostly illustrating comic books, and making films and a commercial in stop-motion "clay-mation", but his favorite job of the 1980's was the 8 years he spent as a club and mobile music D.J. in Tucson. That is, until he moved to Tzfat. His unconventional way of seeing the world hasn't changed since 1990.

Moshe Chaim's creative and imaginative personality is expressed in his artwork. He is Tzfat's best-known graphic artist, producing English-language posters and promotional materials for a variety of educational institutions in both Tzfat and Jerusalem. Each one of his posters brings images that catch one's eye with its vibrant colors and imaginative graphics, yet clearly express the intended message.

Tzfat's Unique Candles

But Moshe Chaim is best known as the main candle-sculptor of the world-famous, Safed Candle Factory. It is here that most people have the opportunity to see Moshe Chaim's imagination run wild in this unique artform that he invented and developed over the past 16 years. Each sculpture is individually hand-made from pure beeswax and is, in fact, a burnable candle. The subjects of these candle sculptures vary widely from Biblical scenes (such as David & Goliath or Noah's Ark) and Chassids vs. Litvachs chess sets to adorable zoo animals and colorful Tzfat sunsets on hamsahs. Daily life is represented by these sculptures, often with a Jewish or Israeli theme. Fiddlers on the (Tzfati) Roof, Hassids and soldiers standing together at the Western Wall and even a bride and groom standing under the wedding canopy are represented at the gallery. Moshe Chaim has even begun a line of Jewish Super-heroes.

Moshe Chaim also brings a strong sense of faith to his work. His artwork is an expression of his deep connection to Judaism and to the Land of Israel. Moshe Chaim explains: "I feel art, like music, can be a lower level of prophecy or ruach hakodesh. An artist, any artist, is a vessel through which creativity flows - sometimes more than other times. I'm often amazed at what comes alive out of a 5 hour flow of focused, creative energy, where I would've thought only an hour had gone by!"

For the many people who have had the pleasure of enjoying Moshe Chaim's creativity through his posters, his wax sculptures, and, as of late, the children's book and time-travel story, Journeys, that he co-wrote and illustrated through Mahrwood Press, it is an amazing experience.

Today's Work

Moshe Chaim now works out of his studio in the Artists Quarter of Tzfat, where he lives with his wife, NatanYah and three children, Michael, David and Ma'ayan. His sculptures are exhibited in his studio and at the Safed Candles Gallery, in the Old City of Tzfat, right near the Ari Askenazi Synagogue.