A Tale of Two Tallitot

Tallitot is plural for tallit.  For those of you who are wondering what a tallit is —  it is a prayer shawl worn for Jewish worship. The shawl has special twined and knotted fringes called tzitzit attached to its four corners. There are more than two tallitot involved here, but I really liked the alliterative reference!

This previous post described one of my long term projects – a commission to weave eight ceremonial tallitot, prayer shawls for a large synagogue.  The project is currently on my loom and looks like this.

Tallit on loom - Right and Left sides are woven separately and at the same time

This is the first prayer shawl in a series of four. These are ceremonial tallitot and so are narrower than standard prayer shawls.  They will be worn around the neck  much like a scarf and with a seam in the back.  The tallitot will be lined and taper to a width of about  four inches at the seam at the back of the neck.  Here is my sketch for one side of the tallit.

sketch of tallit design

The reason that I am weaving a single tallit side by side is so that the pattern bands are equal in length as these will lie in front of the wearer and for the congregation to see. Ideally the pattern bands should line up with each other.   This means that I am weaving with four shuttles at a time:  each side has one shuttle for plain weave and one shuttle for the pattern weave. I will also be weaving a separate neck band or atarah which will be sewn over the back seam and whose design will extend onto the front of the prayer shawl. This is the blue green band that is at the top of the design sketch.

Detail of tallit on loom

The warp and plain weave weft yarn for this project is an undyed  natural 8/2 tencel yarn.  The pattern weft is Bambu 7 in solid colors and also a handpainted 5/2 tencel.  The pattern design is a variation of  a honeysuckle twill.  The weave pattern for the atarah will be in a different design. The imagery of the twill weave reminded me of a flame, and so this collection will be titled “Ner Tamid” the eternal light above the Holy Ark that houses the Torah and thus is a symbol of God’s ever presence.

This first  set of four prayer shawls should be completed by the time of the Jewish New Year, or the High Holy Days which this year occurs the first week of September.  And at this time as well, Lark Books will introduce a new book: “500 Judaica:  Innovative Contemporary Ritual Art.” This is one of Lark Books’  “500 series”  of publications showcasing collections of contemporary design by an international array of artists in varying media.

Lark Books' "500 Judaica"

And it just so happens that four of  my original design handwoven tallitot have been selected for publication in this book. This book will be available in September and can be purchased at all book stores and online shops.  To find out more visit Lark Books.

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Going Vinyl

Seems I’m always behind the times. Everyone has a Kindle these days but I love the way a book feels, looks, smells, and I just love to turn pages. In fact I love books so much, I create my own.  These are handbound blank books for writing and sketching.

handbound books with long stitching on ultrasuede spine

And everyone is downloading music onto their phones and laptops while I still cherish my collection of vinyl albums and 45 rpm vinyl records.  Thing is, I don’t own a record player anymore and most of the records in my collection are unplayable anyhow because they’ve been overplayed.  So I have a few scratchy and worn down records.

some of the unplayable vinyl records in my collection

There’s a great collection here.  Lots of Memphis music – Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Milton, Isaac Hayes, Johnny Taylor.  Not to mention Memphis labels like Sun and Stax. And lots of non-Memphis music too – Motown, The Beatles, The Kinks, Flatt and Scruggs and the list goes on. But it’s all unplayable and pretty beat up.  I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so I recycle them.  I cut them, preserving the studio labels of course, and use them as front and back covers of a handbound blank journal or sketch book.

Cut vinyl records waiting to be bound into books

Some of the finished books will be sold at the Memphis Brooks Museum in conjunction with their upcoming exhibit, “Who Shot Rock and Roll:  A Photographic History 1955 to the Present”.  This is a traveling exhibit organized by the Brooklyn Museum.

Here are a few handbound blank journals I have  finished.

Handbound blank journals with vinyl record covers

And if you can’t bear the thought of an unplayable record, I also make hand bound blank journals and sketch books with handmade paper covers, silk fabric covers, and covers made from hand printed Indonesian batik fabrics.

Display of my hand bound blank books at The Spring Show