Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Starting The First Torah Cover

Before I reveal the first design chosen for the Torah Cover Project for Temple B'Nai Israel, I just want to touch briefly on the principal of Hiddur Mitzvah.  A mitzvah is a good deed.  An example of hiddur mitzvah is the good deed of the beautification of our places of worship and ritual objects in order to glorify G-d and G-d's commandments. It is interesting that this concept of adornment and beautification  flows through many religions. So as you follow my progress as I transform ideas and pieces of cloth into meaningful and beautiful torah covers, we are fulfilling a mitzvah. 

The design for the first torah cover was a unanimous decision.  I was thrilled that the committee chose this design, because it is also one of my favorites.   The pomegranate is filled with many seeds that are enveloped in a juicy, sweet, red flesh.  It is said that there are 613 of these seeds inside of a pomegranate, which corresponds to the number of mitzvot that a Jew needs to perform before they die.  It is also interesting that the Hebrew word for pomegranate is rimmonim, which is the name for the silver sleeves that are placed on the staves of the torah. 

This is a conceptual drawing done with color pencils.  The rectangular area depicts what will be seen on the front of the cover.  I make the covers so that they are like a wrap around skirt.  This makes them easier to slip on and off, especially since I line them with a slippery fabric. 

The next step is to enlarge this design to the actual size.  I tape a few pieces of paper together and I mark the center.  Then I redraw the original design.  Since there is such a difference in scale, I redrew it rather than just enlarge it. 

For me, this is a working drawing that will always be in a state of flux until the fabric is finally stitched down.  I don't want to say that fabric is a living medium, but it is organic.  It changes its behavior and appearance based on its environment.  So I always want to keep my mind open to being flexible and willing to change.  That doesn't just include the design, but it also includes the fabric choices and colors.  I use silk dupioni for creating my torah covers.  It is so rich in texture and has these wonderful slubs and lines and a beautiful sheen.  

So these are my fabrics that I have chosen to start with.

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