Hot Off the Press

It’s here! Lark Books’ latest book in the 500 series, 500 Judaica, was just delivered to me yesterday. And it is just lovely. I feel honored to be included in this beautiful visual collection of works by global artists and craftspeople who  create ritual objects for Jewish worship.

500 Judaica - Innovative Contemporary Ritual Art from Lark Crafts, a division of Sterling Publishing Co.

Four of my original design handwoven prayer shawls were selected for inclusion in this book.

Kol Nidre

Asher

The design and colors of Asher were inspired by the stained glass window of the same name by Marc Chagall.  It is one of a series of windows, Jerusalem Windows, installed at the Hadassah-Hebrew Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Marc Chagall's stained glass window, Asher

Tribute to Ruth and Old Jerusalem

Tribute to Ruth on the left includes some handspun yarn that I inlaid into the atarah, or neckband. I created this tallit in honor of the Book of Ruth.  Ruth was recorded as the first convert to Judaism, and she was the great-grandmother to King David. Old Jerusalem on the right of this page had been previously selected to be included in the exhibit “Best of Tennessee Craft” at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

The book is extremely well done.  And certainly not because of my pieces.  The photographs are all lovely and all craft media are represented here:  wooden arks (which house the Torah scrolls), silver kiddush cups, gold mezuzot, ceramic seder plates, glass Shabbat candlestick holders, bronze and copper jewelry, paper ketubot (marriage certificate) with hand printed calligraphy, a beautifully embroidered huppah for a wedding ceremony.  One not familiar with the beauty of Jewish ritual and worship will also learn quite a bit from the handcrafted objects used not only in a Jewish congregational  service, but also in the more intimate setting of a Jewish household.

And yes, 500 Judaica is available now and can be ordered here.

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Phase Two

Today is the first day of school in Memphis, Tennessee.  That means that I have larger blocks of time for my creative work which includes designing, weaving, and writing. Yes, this blog has suffered over the course of the summer, but today I will catch you up on the progress of the commission I was weaving for the synagogue. I was commissioned to weave two sets of four prayer shawls or tallitot in a particular style for the three rabbis and cantor who lead the congregation’s services. The first set will be unveiled at the High Holiday Services which begin at sunset the evening of Rosh Hashanah on September 8. This set of four prayer shawls is nearing completion.  My friend and seamstress extraordinaire has sewn together the two panels of each prayer shawl, sewn on the neckbands, or atarot, and lined each one with exquisite Bemberg rayon.

Handwoven prayer shawl, woven with natural tencel and bamboo yarn, and hand dyed tencel yarn

I still need to hand sew four small buttonholes at each of the four corners.  These will be for the placement of the four tzitzit, or ritual fringe that will be knotted and wound according to the instructions cited in  Numbers 15:37-40. The Torah is a scroll hand written in Hebrew and contains the Five Books of Moses:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Those leading a service of Jewish worship read from the Torah. In a synagogue, the Torah scrolls are housed in an alcove or cabinet referred to as an Ark. Above the Ark hangs an eternal light called Ner Tamid. Since the woven design of this first set of prayer shawls resembled a flame, I have titled this set Ner Tamid.

Detail of atarah on prayer shawl, Ner Tamid

For the prayer shawls, I wove a separate neckband, or atarahAtarot are not required of all tallitot, however they are customarily incorporated into the overall design of the prayer shawl and can be woven directly onto the body of the prayer shawl or woven separately and then sewn on in the final construction as in the case of the set I wove for this commission. The atarah above was woven with natural and hand dyed tencel yarn in a combination twill weave.

Currently on my Macomber loom is the second set of four prayer shawls which will be finished shortly after the High Holidays in mid-September. So in the next month, I will need to finish weaving the body of the tallitot and also weave a separate set of four atarot. The second set of prayer shawls will be those worn for every day use, and the tallitot called Ner Tamid will be worn for special occasions such as holidays, weddings and Bar/Bat Mitvahs.

One of four prayer shawls on the loom

Above is the design I am weaving for the second set of prayer shawls.  They are also woven in natural tencel and bamboo yarn.  As with the first set I am weaving two panels for each prayer shawls, and these have been threaded side by side on the loom and woven simultaneously so that the woven color bands will be of equal size. I haven’t named this set yet, but I’m sure that something will reveal itself to me during the weaving process.

As the days grow shorter at the beginning of this school year, I will expect longer and uninterrupted blocks of time so that I can finally finish this project. It has been a rewarding journey, and I am really looking forward to seeing the rabbis and cantor wearing the new tallitot at the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5771.