High Holiday Torah Mantles

Posted by on Sep 21, 2016 in Jewish Ritual Art, News, Public Art, Visual Art | 0 comments

High Holiday Torah Mantles

When Torah mantles are commissioned for the High Holidays, there’s a good chance that the ‘theme’ and the ‘color palette’ will take a committee a minimal amount of time to determine.  Still, as I work with groups, I try to elicit enough to make the final product a perfect fit.  For this project, I asked the committee members, the rabbi, the ritual committee, and other interested congregants to tell me, “What do you want to ‘feel’ when the ark opens on Rosh Hashana?  Not specific images, but instead abstract thoughts about that moment of invitation to go deep into self-examination and hope for the new year.” Three pages of madly transcribed ideas led to what you see above. One of the five Torah mantles, each featuring a different mix of quilted earth-toned silks on soft, highest quality chenille, with hand stitching and five colors of Swarovski crystals, build on a committee’s charge to create a set of mantles that would inspire introspection with simplicity.  A trip to the garment district in New York City led me to the wonderful gem of a shop called Metro Textile where Kashi spread out a world of beautiful cloth.  Fabulous Kansas-based wood turner Tom Boley handcrafted the maple rings for the tops of the mantles. The wood tops are heavily padded – a surprising pleasure  to handle when the Torah is to be dressed. Everything about these covers is a delight and an inspiration.  They are heavily quilted and lined, measured specifically to fit each of the Torah’s specs, and made for years and years of use. Congregants’ reactions to the mantles included these comments:  “I saw the Kotel right away – all the different shapes and soft colors of the wall…” “I saw manna coming down from heaven – and a reaching up from earth.”  “Connections between Heaven and Earth.”  “Exquisite simplicity.  Perfect for the season!” Work in...

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Torah Wimple – The River out of Eden

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Jewish Ritual Art, News, Visual Art | 0 comments

Torah Wimple – The River out of Eden

This Torah Wimple (binder) was commissioned as a gift from a rabbinic school class to the chapel at the school upon ordination.  The passage from the book of Genesis, transliterated as “V’nahar yotzei meyeyden l’hashkot et hagan,” means “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden.”  The wimple is crafted of colorful silks, quilted and embellished, with a backing and ties designed for ease of function and to grip the klaf (parchment) without sliding down, because, after all, this is a piece of ritual art which must do its job!  The text is created with textile paint, and further embellished with Swarovski crystals in the place of the tiny tagin (crowns) that appear in the Torah text. Torah...

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Feature/ Major Donor Recognition Wall

Posted by on Dec 14, 2014 in Donor Recognition Art, Jewish Ritual Art, News, Papercuts, Public Art, Visual Art | 0 comments

Feature/ Major Donor Recognition Wall

In 2013 I was charged with designing a 17′ X 8′ curved donor recognition wall for the recently completed Chisuk Emuna Congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The finished design tells the story of the congregation’s 19th Century roots in Kovno, the various buildings that housed the congregation, and the values of the synagogue. The entire donor recognition system throughout the building is anchored here as the major donors who helped create the reality of a new home are honored between the art panels. Each designed panel measures two feet across and eight feet high and is fabricated from a variegated Formica and Youghiogheny art glass. The calligraphed words of the soaring central panel are incised into Corian.  The designs of the four decorative panels are based on traditional Jewish papercut art in that the imagery is all interconnected.  Welch USA, a signage company in Maine, brilliantly lasercut my full size designs and installed the completed wall, which is a single aspect of the donor recognition system. Photo above by Daniel Shanken. Please note:  This artwork is copyright protected and may not be reproduced without permission.  Thank...

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Peace of Jerusalem Papercut

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Jewish Ritual Art, News, Papercuts, Visual Art | 0 comments

Peace of Jerusalem Papercut

Prayers for peace in Jerusalem and around the world are part of every prayer service in Jewish life. This papercut image captures the text of Psalm 122 and images of beauty in the Jerusalem – the City of Peace. The text and papercut are crafted on one sheet of paper, and the background is created of blended pastel chalks on rough paper.  Susan is happy to craft pieces like this to meet your...

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Medieval Star

Posted by on Feb 16, 2014 in Currently Available, Jewish Ritual Art, News, Visual Art | 0 comments

Medieval Star

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, manuscript art filled volumes with sacred Christian, Jewish, and Moslem writings.  While the lettered texts ranged from Latin to Hebrew to Arabic in a variety of ‘hands’ or lettering styles, there were some few decorative elements which were shared among the cultures. Initial letters, those elaborate letters that started pages of text and often featured fanciful animal and vine decoration, and gilded and painted leaves and dots, frequently had their counters-the spaces within the letter shapes-filled with patterns.  These patterns are found in Ireland’s Book of Kells, in 15th Century Haggadahs from Spain, in elegant Books of Hours from France, and in elaborate Arabic writings from the Middle East. Trefoils, ‘golf clubs’ – little patterns that served to fill in blank spaces around letters – have fascinated me since I had the good fortune to see pages from the Book of Kells when the book toured Philadelphia in the 1970’s, and to study with Mark Van Stone, master of Celtic lettering arts.  I decided to give these  doodles free reign, and the result is the Medieval Star, crafted entirely of these tiny shapes.  I used only a straight edge, a compass, and a Rapidograph pen, and built the design from the very center out, allowing it to grow organically. The entire design is less than 12 inches...

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Torah Wimples

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Jewish Ritual Art, News, Visual Art | 0 comments

Torah Wimples

Goucher College commissioned me to craft mantles for their two Torah scrolls, and I sewed these wimples to match the Torah covers. In both Ashkenazi and Sephardi tradition, the Torah wimple holds an important place in communal and family life. In Europe, the wimple was often crafted from a baby boy’s winding cloth, cut into strips and embroidered with the baby’s name and Jewish design.  In the Sephardi community, wimples were a unique donation item by women to synagogues. It’s important, when crafting the wimple, to know the girth of the Torah scrolls at different times of the Torah reading cycle, so it’s able to do it’s job of protecting the lettering by keeping the scroll snugly wrapped.  If the klaf (parchment) is wrapped too loosely, the ink that sits on top of the parchment may be damaged, thus rendering the scroll ritually impure and...

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