Stitching Tradition: Southern & Jewish Fiber Art Judaica

I come from a family of talented women—women who are “makers,” who always seemed to have a needle in their hands. They were constantly creating, whether it was sewing, knitting or needlepointing. My love of the fiber arts was thereby ingrained at an early age.

In 1981, I took a weaving course in Atlanta, Georgia. My first project was a tallit for my older son’s Bar Mitzvah. That was the beginning of my journey to create not just fiber art, but fiber art Judaica.

Since then I have woven many tallism, including ones for my grandsons, and a Torah cover.  I have enjoyed creating Judaic pieces using fabric, embroidery and beads. I have designed mixed media wall pieces, mezuzot, a hamsa, a mizrach, and tzedakah boxes. The mizrach is part of the Six Million Stitches project, in memory of those lost in the Holocaust. The website is dedicated to Rita Lenkin-Hawkins who started an online Jewish fiber artists’ group.

Shabbat table setting fiber art
Shabbat table setting fiber art

In 1998, I co-founded Peach State Stitchers, the Atlanta chapter of the International Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework (PGJN). This group drew me in to sewing and quilting. This has enabled be to take the linens I inherited from my mother and grandmother and use them in mixed media work. It is a connection to the past which I find very comforting. Every stitch links me to them.

As a member of the PGJN, one has access to many patterns and inspiration in the quarterly publication, The Paper Pomegranate, and the guild website. At each biennial convention we have a challenge based on the theme of the convention. For the past several conventions, our chapter has done a group challenge. One of my favorites, The Shabbat Table, is the response of fourteen members of our chapter to the International Guild’s 2013 convention challenge Shabbat Traditions. We each created a placemat and table setting. Our work was juried into a show “Women’s Work” at Brenau College. For my piece, I transferred a picture of my mother’s china and silver and family picture onto fabric and embellished and quilted the piece.

The International Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework (PGJN) offers a great opportunity for those living in Southern Jewish communities who want to expand their knowledge, appreciation, and learn new skills with Judaic needlework as well as making connections with others with similar interests. Attendees may participate in all or part of the International Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework’s convention, being held in Atlanta from May 21-22, 2017. Workshops will be taught by recognized teachers. There are opportunities to learn a variety of creative and innovative techniques of needle art and design processes. Over 20 classes such as blackwork, crochet, Tallit creating, dollmaking, applique techniques, needlepoint, embroidery, and mixed media will be offered.

Conv2017LogoIn addition to the wide variety of highly educational workshops, there will be exhibitions of Judaic needlework that will include the 2017 “Challenge Needlework Pieces.”This year’s convention challenge theme is “I Have A Dream.” The Challenge is to make a pillow or pillow cover.

I’m also excited about our keynote speaker this year— Rabbi Analia Bortz, PhD, from Congregation Or Hadash in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Rabbi Bortz was the first Latin American female rabbi to complete her rabbinical ordination in Jerusalem. Dr. Bortz graduated from the University of Buenos Aires Medical School, and the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Rabbi Bortz is a fiber artist, creating tallism for her Bat Mitzvah students. She, too, uses her art to celebrate and share her Judaism.

It’s a special Southern Jewish arts opportunity, and one in which I am glad to take part. To learn more about the convention, visit our website. You can also learn more about the Pomegranate Guild, and my own home chapter here in Atlanta, the Peach State Stitchers (proud hosts of this year’s convention)! We look forward to welcoming any of y’all able to make it to come down to Georgia and experience this unique Jewish artistry.

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