I've applied my design skills to several projects that have been rendered not in ink or pixels, but rather in fabric, thread and yarn. Over a period of three years, beginning in 2013, I worked together with fiber artist Ellen Weisbord to create new fabric pieces for Congregation Beth El's chapel and sanctuary. This section of my website tells that story. Photos by Joy Markel unless otherwise noted.
lieberman chapel, fabric projects 2013-14
The Susan and Mitchell Lieberman Chapel is a beautiful, light-filled space that was added to Congregation Beth El as part of a major renovation. Its windows and ark feature distinctive shapes, textures and colors. These served as inspiration for Ellen and me. Our first priority was to create new Torah mantles. Although the old Torah mantles' appliqués were in disrepair, the underlying fabric was still sound, so we removed the appliqués, had the fabric dry cleaned and used it as the basis for the first set of new mantles.
Amazingly, we discovered a bolt of fabric in an upstairs room of a shop in NYC's garment district that seemed to have been created specifically for Beth El's Chapel! We used that fabric during the summer of 2013 to create two Torah mantles, a lectern cover, a Ben Gavra (special cover used during Torah reading) and a small table covering.
During the summer of 2014 we created two more Torah covers with a new, co-ordinating fabric. This time, rather than create appliqués from cut fabric, I created needlepoint designs based upon shapes from the 2013 fabric. This was an interesting process, which began in Adobe Illustrator and progressed to painting on needlepoint canvas. Ellen and I chose needlepoint yarn, I stitched one canvas and another woman (she's in the gallery below) stitched the other. Ellen once again constructed the Torah covers from all the pieces.
SANCTUARY fabric project–2015
Once the Chapel projects were complete, we turned our attention to the Sanctuary Torah mantles and lectern. Beth El's sanctuary had also been renovated in the capital campaign. Its original stained glass windows remained, and the windows' shapes and colors provided some of the inspiration for this design project. Once again, I worked with Ellen Weisbord. Interior designers Gail Roth and Ellen Tamaroff (Sensational Settings) provided invaluable consultation, and a fabric swatch from among samples they provided helped to inspire and add new, more organic elements into the mix.
My experience with the Chapel needlepoints influenced this project: painting the canvases had been fun, but I thought it had made determining the borders of shapes difficult. This time I decided to print labeled, color-keyed, full scale grids on paper and do something akin to counted cross-stitch – I guess you could call it counted needlepoint. I used that method to needlepoint three of the six canvases, and rather enjoyed the process and the result. The three women from the congregation whom I'd recruited to help stitch the remaining canvases did a beautiful job, but I don't think they enjoyed the counting.