By Kristina Houck
The former host of a TV show on a local Israeli station, Sarit Harel was on assignment when she met and interviewed a woman who inspired her to change her career.
Galit Steinberg, the owner of a papier-mâché studio, welcomed Harel as a student after she expressed interest in the medium. The woman quickly became Harel’s friend and mentor.
After nearly seven years of working in the studio in Israel, Harel, her husband, Amit, and their four children moved to Carmel Valley. Across the Atlantic Ocean and thousands of miles away, Steinberg encouraged her former student to open her own studio in her new community.
“I didn’t have self-confidence,” said Harel, who has lived in San Diego for two years. “After a year over here, my husband started to convince me. And my teacher told me I have all the information I need.”
With encouragement from her family and friends, Harel finally opened Paper Mache Art Studio about eight months ago. Based out of her Carmel Valley home, the studio recently held its first open house in early June to showcase the work of her roughly 20 students.
“It’s so colorful and it’s so unique,” Harel said. “Each artist brings his or her own personality to their work.”
A dancer as a child and now a sculptor, Harel has been an artist all her life.
While serving as a soldier in Israel, Harel performed in the Israel Defense Forces Band. After two years in the military, she studied contemporary music, performing in musicals such as “Les Misérables” and “West Side Story.”
Also an actress, Harel hosted a show for more than a year, which is how she met her mentor Steinberg.
“I loved the material,” Harel said. “I tried to work with clay and other materials. The difference with papier-mâché — it’s unlimited.”
Harel explained her art is created using a method that is more sophisticated than the way children make papier-mâché in school. Her work is not composed of paper strips and glue, but rather paper pulp, adhesive and other recyclable materials.
“It’s a serious art,” she said. “My sculptures are very heavy.”
One of her favorite pieces is a roughly 7-foot-tall self-statue. Created while she was 40 and pregnant with her fourth child, the statue depicts a woman with roots in the ground and chains for wings.
“My work is very passionate, dealing with my life,” said Harel, whose two boys and two girls range in age from 5 to 13 years.
“At that time, I was dealing with being a mother of almost four kids. I was dealing with wanting to fly but not being able to fly anymore. Although I cannot fly anymore like I used to, my kids are my life.”
Besides being personal, the medium is environmentally friendly, consisting of almost all recycled materials. It’s also responsive and revisable.
Unlike some mediums, however, papier-mâché requires patience, something Harel had to learn and teach her students.
“Papier-mâché is a slow art,” Harel said. “It’s a process, and you need to enjoy the process. You can’t get immediate results.”
Although difficult for some at first, Harel said the papier-mâché process is therapeutic. Sculpting calms her students, she explained, and brings them closer together.
“I like to dream. I think it’s important to put your dreams into art,” Harel said. “We all have dreams. Go outside of your routine — whatever you like to do. It’s important to dream, and I think that’s something people are getting from my studio.”
Classes are available for children and adults. To learn more or sign up for classes, contact Harel at 858-722-0555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit