Okun and Greene bring unique, personal flair to their art

Pair will showcase individual wares on Nov. 12 at Katz JCC’s Festival of Arts, Books and Culture

The showcase of unique and personal artistic endeavors is an integral part of the 29th annual Katz JCC Festival of Arts, Books and Culture. Judy Okun and Meryl Greene will be appearing on Mon. Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Appel Art Gallery Reception to reveal their creations to the public.

They both spoke with The Sun on a variety of topics relating to their life, inspiration and the art itself. Okun is a professor at West Chester University, while Greene owns M3 Jewels, which specializes in jewelry with international flair.

Talk about your background, education, your early experiences, travel, anything which led you to a love of art.

Judy: Actually, it was all of that. My dad was very artistic, so I inherited that skill from him. Growing up we went on incredible vacations, driving across the country. No, I love travelling, going on different adventures in Canada and the United States. I’ve shown my artistic side since about 3 years old, I could draw things from my memory and imagination.

About 15 years ago, I started working with watercolors, and actually had a watercolor card business at one point. I studied watercolor at Center for the Arts of Southern Jersey in Marlton, taught art classes there and also through the Markeim Arts Center. Much more recently, I began painting with alcohol ink on porcelain.

Meryl: I grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Temple University’s School of Education where I received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I moved to New Jersey and worked as an educator for 34 years. I loved being a teacher, and I retired, I started a professional organizing business. Friends have always told me I had a flair for design. My love of jewelry began when I worked as a buyer for my parents’ jewelry and gift business. I came to appreciate as an art form those exquisite pieces created by skilled artisans using fine materials.

Who or what are your greatest influences on your respective artforms?

Judy: Teaching geography informs how I paint. Right now I’m focusing on the Antarctic and Australia. Academic settings and personal settings, which may seem somewhat separate, but they do join together in different forms. My sense of adventure is still there.

Meryl: My mother was a great influence in my life. She had an innate appreciation for all things beautiful and she transferred that love of beauty to me. After purchasing several necklaces by the Israeli designer Mariana, I decided to pursue my interest in distinctive jewelry. I decided to do something that was fun and an artistic outlet for me and so, M3Jewels was born.

How did you come to the decision that ceramics and ink would be your form of expression, and why outdoor scenes?

Judy: I noticed people were doing painting with alcohol ink, when I had been working with watercolor. The colors come across so vibrant and luminous. I was able to take one workshop about it, learned all about how it works, how it can move, how to approach it. Fell in love with it, and I was kind of self-taught. It evolved slowly. I started painting on tiles, recently began painting on glass. The majority of work on display at the JCC will be porcelain tiles, but I’m also adding more glass into mix.

Your jewelry comes from the Middle East, East Indies and North America. Was this a result of a love of travel, culture, history, a combination of factors?

Meryl: I love to travel and learn about people from other cultures. History has always intrigued me. I have been fortunate enough to visit Israel, England, Italy, Spain and recently returned from a trip to the Baltic. I wanted to offer jewelry designed by skilled artisans using only the finest materials.

Anything else you feel would add some depth to your profile?

Judy: Last summer, I took a trip to Alaska and the Yukon. Breathtaking. I’ve been to 49 states, just not Hawaii. I should have gone up there sooner. Several of my pieces were inspired by that trip. For now, I’m focused on the western United States, the national parks, Shenandoah as well as Pennsylvania and New York state. I will also be painting scenes from Israel as well in the near future. I’m also open to doing custom work. I plan to make hand-painted ornaments on porcelain for the Christmas season.

Meryl: Being a business owner affords me the opportunity to see beautiful pieces from around the world. Each piece of jewelry that I carry is chosen for its uniqueness and beauty. I display the jewelry artistically to enhance its beauty. Jewelry makes people happy and I get joy out of seeing customers wear and enjoy the pieces that I carry.

Okun started her own company about six months ago, called Agave Artworks. You can find out more by visiting www.agaveartworks.com, or via email at agaveartworks@gmail.com. For more information about Greene, visit m3jewels.net or via email at m3jewels@gmail.com

For those interested in attending, there is no cost to the art gallery reception.