Judith Hope Blau is an artist, author and inventor. She is the oldest of four children whose father and mother were a dentist and lawyer, respectfully. Her grandfather was a Russian-born bagel maker.
At the age of seven, she developed rheumatic fever and required surgery on both of her legs. This left her bedridden for two years. During this time she was left to entertain herself. She spent hours in her bed outside underneath the trees in her yard in Bronx, NY. With only a few art supplies she made yarn dolls, paper doll clothes, and drew pictures of the trees. At 3:00 each afternoon, her mother moved her bed to the sidewalk where she sold her creations. While indoors she made created puppets and used them to tell stories to entertain her younger siblings. She would continue to use her artistic skills throughout her school years.
Fast forward to the 70’s, Ms. Blau is now married with 2 children. As a way to earn extra income she handpaints jeans and kaftans to be sold at local boutiques. She also does art exhibits where she sells her paintings. One day while out shopping she stops by a local bagel bakery. She remembered her grandfather drawing funny chalk faces on stale bagels for her Mom. Inspired by the idea, she asked the baker to make some small bagels. She added a red string to a painted bagel face and sent her daughter off to school wearing the bagel necklace. It was a hit.
Around this same time, she was invited to a luncheon at the Advertising Club in NYC where she met a PR person from the Denim Institute, who admired her dress and asked if she would like to be interviewed by a reporter from UPI about painting on denim. The morning of the interview, her husband laughed and dared her to sell the bagel necklaces to Bloomingdales. Into her bag went a handful of bagels necklaces.
To Judith’s dismay, the Buyer ordered a hundred dozen bagel necklaces. How would she produce so many? Her interview resulted in national coverage of her denim painting and when the necklaces fell out of her bag, they were included in the article, calling her, “The Bagel Lady.” From there, the bagel baker was overwhelmed, her bathtub overflowed with bagels waiting to turn stale.
She hired teenagers to help paint bagel faces assembly line style. The article brought NBC news to film her bathtub.
After drying them, Blau painted smiley faces on the bagels, and shellacked them. Then she shipped them off to department stores and boutiques, where they sold as necklaces, candleholders, napkin-holders, and Christmas tree ornaments. You could buy one of her “Bagel Berry Wreaths” for twenty bucks.
A local newspaper article mentioned her grandfather which led to the Children’s Editor from McGraw Hill inviting her to lunch. The Editor said, “Write a book! We’ll hire an illustrator.”
“The Bagel Baker of Mulliner Lane” was Judith Blau’s first book and is based on her grandfather. Recently copies have sold from $50-$100.
Sheets and Bedding
Based on the book, Fieldcrest’s “The Happy Bagel Family” sheets were produced.
Two other bedding items are credited to Mrs. Blau.
The “Puppet Sheet Theater” sheets were produced by Springs Mills.
“Bedkins” Farm Friends sheets and accessories were produced by Kellwood and distributed by Sears.
Additional Reading & Info on Judith Blau
The Herald Statesman
Yonkers, New York
13 Apr 1977, Wed • Page 25