Surprise and Delight

Anna Vandelman reports:
The evening of March 15, 2017 will go down as one of surprise and delight for Pomegranate Guild members.
Who among us does not admire paper cuts? And how many of us ever thought we could add one to our repertoires? Well, we all did it!
Guest artist Annyen Lam gave us an overview of her amazing work, and then step by step instructions for us to follow along.
We used art knives, paper called classic kitakata, and a hamsa image provided by Annyen to do our work. Annyen patiently answered our questions, and helped us individually with our cutting challenges. We all came to realize how her many of hours of practice lead to her expert work. But to our delight, we each went home with a paper cut Hamsa!

 

About Annyen and her work:
www.annyenlam.com
www.instagram.com/tinybladesproject
Annyen Lam is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Toronto, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University (2012) as well as the Medal for Printmaking (2012). Her practice includes cut paper works, installation, stone lithography, screenprinting and book arts. She has exhibited throughout Canada and has participated in shows and print exchanges in Holland, Japan, Russia and Venezuela.

 

 

The life-cycle in Moroccan Jewish textiles

Anna Vandelman writes:
My dear friend Suzanne Benchimol came to the Guild’s February meeting to teach us about Moroccan Jewish  textiles. Most in attendance had no idea of the exquisite, sumptuous clothing they were about to see.
Suzanne made it most interesting by taking us through the lIfe cycle of clothing from the garments and wrappers of the Brit Milah to the henna ceremony garb and wedding dresses. WOW! She detailed for us every inch of each piece.
Suzanne is a very accomplished designer and seamstress. This is most evident in the unbelievable work on the layered wedding ensembles she creates. We saw some examples in photographs but the highlight of the night was the outfit we could examine – layer by layer – as Suzanne dressed our model, member Barbara Goldstein – a recent bride herself. We were impressed by the perfection of each embroidered stitch, bead, and decorative textile, no matter what we were shown.
Today many brides prefer to wear white gowns for their wedding day. So, it has become a custom that the richly embroidered dress and matching headress (the bride is seen as a queen and so a crown is essentia!l), is worn for the Henna Night, when all women add henna to the bride’s palms. The layers of the gown are designed to be adjustable in fit. The gowns were often shared around within families and communities, or loaned to poor families.

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Suzanne explained every custom, from the engagement to the henna night to the wedding day to the Brit Milah to the Bar Mitzvah and so on. She used videos to show us the ceremonies with the customary textiles in use. So, for example, the Brit Milah besides being shown on film was enhanced by the baby’s dress itself that we could see and touch. And the henna video let us see how family members would help support the crown, and gown. And we could also hear the typical ululations!

We were allowed to touch the textiles she brought for us to examine, including beautiful old silk shawls and heritage tallit bags. Besides being totally involved in the textile art of life- cycle clothing Suzanne actively invents and plans programs for residents and patients at Baycrest in the Home and Hospital and she has been honoured as a Baycrest treasure having her photo added to the wall in the Silverman Court.
Thank you Suzanne, for this special, informative  and delightful evening!

Spirit of the Bead

Anna Vandelman writes:

Naomi Smith, our guest lecturer on Jan 18th 2017, shared the “Spirit of the Bead” and “Indigenous Stories of Beadwork” with our Guild, introducing us to the work of several First Nations peoples.

Many beads were acquired through exchange during the fur trade. Early beading was done with extremely small beads (sizes 22 and 24 – the smaller the number the larger the bead). A common object for beading were six-sided flap bags made for both native and non-native purchasers. Patterns included crosses depict the four corners of the world as well as other symbols interpreted through beads. Florals motifs appeared on pouches likely of Seneca origin. Some embroidery also shows added ribbons with beading on the ribbons. Decorative items were not differentiated as “art” but are fundamental artifacts.

Naomi showed us some of the popular techniques, including the use of paper templates and double-beaded edges. She showed us how purses opened in the back and not by lifting the flap.

From the 1870s to about 1910 beads get thicker with sizes 9 and 8 being used. Clear beads can be seen on the paper templates overlaid on navy blue velvet. New objects are created: pin cushions begin to appear along with hat pin cushions. By about 1921 there were more new products, including matchstick holders. And as photography became more prevalent there were beaded photo frames.Selling these products created a way for women to survive.Travelling sales saw tribe members carrying up to 2000 lbs. of bead work across the country.

After the slide show we were all invited to view – and touch! –the artifacts. Of great interest were the exquisite cuffs and collars. We could feel Naomi’s pride in her history. But beading remains a living activity: Naomi told us about a current commemorative art installation, “Walking with our Sisters,” where beaded moccasin tops symbolize indigenous lives cut short.

Altogether a rich opportunity to glimpse another culture through textile techniques.

About Naomi Smith – Beader
Naomi is a First Nation Artisan and Educator. She is actively involved in educating others about the ways of the First Nations people of the Woodlands and Northeastern area from a historical and contemporary perspective often through the story of beads. Her work embraces ancestral designs in the form of bags, adornment and traditional accessories. Naomi’s work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally. She has exhibited at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington DC and NYC, Vancouver 2010 Olympics and participates in numerous Native and non-Native events throughout the year. Her work has been acquired as permanent collections at the Art Gallery of Guelph, Niagara Historical Museum, and private acquisitions throughout the world.

Naomi is an accomplished public speaker and enjoys educating others about the culture and life ways of the Woodlands or Great Lakes First Nations peoples. She always welcomes and feels honoured by the many opportunities to share her cultural legacy.
 
Artist’s Statement:
“Honouring our traditions is my voice within and beyond my Culture and Community. Traditionally there is no word for “art” in Native languages yet artistry and visual expression are critical in defining who we are as First Nations people. It is this path I wish to exemplify through my teachings and my work”.

Show, Share, and Qvell!

Anna Vandelman writes:
Reesa IMG_5840WHAT A SPECIAL EVENING!
Every year Pomegranate Guild members can hardly wait to see what other members have been working on over the past year.
WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED.
President Bruria Cooperman opened the meeting with a “d’var” – a few remarks about engaging in the pleasure and discovery of making. Then, with our theme for the past year “Something from Nothing” (In essence take “nothing” – actually anything from your stash – and create “something”.) the following members presented their somethings and the stories that went along with them. It gave us a rich picture of artistic approaches that our members take to their work. Treat yourself to this unusual eye candy.
Karen Sanders Judy Dan’s (z’l)  physical interpretation of the book Something from Nothing”.
Gwen Orriell Knitted precious clothes for her new Grandson Elan.
Janet Page Wedding ring bearer pillow
Rikki Blitt Stitching on leaves.
Sue Goldenberg Challah cover with Ten Commandments
Paula Miller Vase with Paverpol flowers
Reesa Wasser Multicoloured, textured, and burnt fabric pieces
Pam Chasen Wedding purses and several book marks
Barbara Goldstein Wall hanging made from “nothing” such as rusted metal, fabric scraps, etc.
Mitzi Zohar Embroidered heirloom wedding chuppah using ancestor’s wedding veil
Helen Tucker All occasion cards created from old and new fabric
Rosa Levitt Fabric abstract collages

A tisket, a tasket, I made a yellow basket

Anna VanDelman writes
(with apologies to Ella Fitzgerald)

Once again Pomegranate members indulged in an exciting creative project. It happened on a beautiful evening at Temple Sinai on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. As we entered the hall we were treated to a display of members’ own creations of vessels, each one  exquisite in own design and execution, made of felt, fabric, reed, and many other materials.

The evening began with a D’var Torah delivered by immediate past president Karen Chisvin. To set the scene for the program ahead, she spoke about the commandment to wash our hands – our instruments of work in the world. And she quoted from the words of Torah by Rabbi Frand about the vessels of the poor brought to the Temple for Shavuot. They were handmade wicker baskets, kept by the Kohanim to bring merit to the poor, while the gold and silver trays of the rich were returned to them as they were not vested with the labour of the pilgrims.

Melanie Siegel then introduced her friend and colleague, Michelle Zikovitz our guest lecturer for the evening. Michelle is currently Art Supervisor for the Town of Richmond Hill. She started out as a tapestry weaver and then fell in love with basket weaving. Her baskets are visually appealing as well as functional and practical.

Michelle then taught us to create a basic basket by weaving wet reeds around a styrofoam cup. We used her hand-dyed reeds (her personal favourite material) that helped us, like her other students of all ages, to develop an appreciation of the ancient artistry of basket weaving. And then, Guild members took off in all directions, using more reeds, our fabric stash, personal ornaments and other materials to continue and complete our work.

Michelle also directed us to Pinterest and other internet sources to explore more basketry ideas. For more about Michelle, see her website, and search for name in the images tab of your browser.

Thank you Michelle for a fascinating evening!

Planting Seeds

The Pomegranate Guild Outreach program “Seeds” travelled to Netivot HaTorah on March 30 to work with bat mitzvah age girls on a Life Skills stitching project. We enjoyed an intergenerational afternoon of sharing and stitching. This was just the start of the project and we are looking forward to the final work.

A Night at the (Beth Tzedec Reuben and Helene Dennis Museum) – Not scary at all!

Anna VanDelman writes:

On Wednesday December 6th, three dozen Pomegranate Guild members and guests made their way through Beth Tzedec’s current renovations to the beautiful chapel for an evening of Judaic treasures – artifacts recycled and repurposed, in keeping with this year’s theme. Rkki Blitt introduced our speaker, Dorion Liebgott, who is both a long time Guild member and long time (25 years) curator of the Museum.

We sat in awe of the precious artifacts Dorion brought for our delight. Of particular interest to us as textile artists were items that involved the reuse of fabrics. These included a wimple (Torah binder) of German origin. The wimple was recycled from a infant’s swaddling cloth. It was cut into strips that were sewn together and embroidered with a formula including the child’s name, birth-date, and blessings. This binder would have been wrapped around the Torah used on the child’s 3rd birthday, his Bar Mitzvah and his wedding. We also examined was a Torah crown made of damask silk (rather than the usual silver) and a parochet (ark curtain) made of recycled fashion fabrics.

Dorion showed us Chanukah menorahs – one reconstructed from a rifle, and another made of empty bullet cartridges mounted on Plexiglas from the American Military – that demonstrate how Judaic ritual items can be made with objects and materials found immediately at hand.

Sometimes conventional items have inscriptions added to make them suitable for Judaic purposes. We were shown a large pewter bowl with blessings inscribed with reference to the redemption of the first born son for the ceremony of Pidyon Ha Ben, and a seder plate that was also created by inscribing a standard pewter plate. In some cases items are adapted merely by use: a locked sugar box and open candy silver candy dish are two objects that have become etrog containers by declaring them so.

Several Yads (Torah pointers) demonstrated a collage approach, constructed by adding multiple small pieces of other objects to create a pointer. Their awkwardness in both appearance and function are clues to the “fakery” behind their construction.

Many of the precious objects Dorion showed us were from the Cecil Roth Collection in the Museum, and Dorion also shared the story of how the Reuben and Helene Dennis Museum acquired them. All the photographs in this post are published with the permission of the museum.

Rikki thanked Dorion, as we all did, for a fascinating evening teaching us that we can continually recycle and re-invent old artifacts into new treasures.

All the photographs in this post are published with the permission of the museum

We got hooked!

Janis Katz writes

“GET HOOKED” – it’s not what you think!
Continuing this year’s theme of “Do Not Waste”, Guild members and guests spent the evening learning about, and practicing, the art of “hooking” (or sometimes “prodding”). This event was co-presented and hosted by Congregation Darchei Noam. Evening Bag

Our Guild secretary, Barbara Goldstein [see more about Barbara below], gave us a primer on (rug) hooking: she showed us stunning samples of her own work (bags, chair pads, cholent trivets) and then demonstrated how it’s done. The supplies are few: latch hook canvas, a crochet hook (or chopstick), and a darning needle. Then there’s the fabric: everyone grabbed their favourite from the Guild stash – chiffon, velvet, cotton, wool, etc. – and started tearing or cutting thin strips about 1 cm wide.

With this technique, you start on the edge first. Fold back one row of the canvas and whipstitch or overcast using a darning needle threaded with a fabric strip. Then you use your crochet hook or chopstick to fill in the grid. “Hooking” uses a crochet hook to pull up fabric loops in each grid square. “Prodding” is done with a chopstick, to push loops down in the grid. The loopy side is the right side.

Everyone had a great time tearing strips of fabric, hooking and prodding, and chatting.

A tip from Barbara: you could “get hooked” on this technique and be tempted to go out and buy fabric, but remember – do not waste, use your stash!

The Guild was delighted to be able to partner with Congregation Darchei Noam for this event, and we’ll be partnering again in March and May of 2016.

 A note about Barbara: Barbara is a graduate of Sheridan College and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Textile Studios, as well as an active member of The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto. She has exhibited in many art shows, most recently “The Edge of the Forest”, now traveling across Canada. All completed work shown in this post are Barbara’s.

Shirts Galore and A Trip to Japan

Anna Vandelman writes:

Shirts Galore!
What a lovely evening! What a lovely programme! What a lovely turnout! What an amazing group!

Rapunzel - courtesy of Susan Avishai

Rapunzel – courtesy of Susan Avishai

Susan Avishai was introduced to us by Rikki Blitt as a heroine to the environment and saviour of all sorts of trash en route to landfills everywhere: A perfect way to start the season as our theme for the year is Do not waste – with a focus on reuse and recycling. [About Susan]

Susan, already a fine artist in drawing, painting, and collage, shared her journey to fibre arts through pictures of her work. She told us how she got into fibre arts after cleaning out her late mother’s belongings. After grieving over her mother’s clothes for six months, Susan finally found herself able to do something with this new stash. So, she moved from painting to textiles to making tapestries of her mom’s remnants. She discovered through life that it is in fact the journey and not the destination. She fondly remembers a teacher who told her “…you will feel when its right”.

And then, men’s shirts galore! We saw an incredible collage of men’s shirts, shirts taken apart with seams and buttons intact all quilted with polyfill. She works on smaller pieces and then sews them into larger works. Her goal, always, is to see what she can do with what is there. No, she is not sexist, she uses men’s shirts because of their uniformity of construction which lets her apply a system to their deconstruction.

The evening became magical as we witnessed the transformation of trash to exquisite art pieces .created by a visionary with a deep concern for the environment. Thank you Susan for this memorable experience!

Rikki then thanked her for a magnificent presentation and for kick-starting our year of Do not Waste and members had an opportunity to share from their own stashes.

The theme continued in October with A Night in Japan, and Karen Sanders writes:

Our October meeting included a lesson in Japanese Furoshiki and a visit to Japan through the eyes of our President.

Furoshiki
Four women from the Japanese Cultural Centre came to tell us the history and to demonstrate the ancient Japanese art of Furoshiki, the use of textile squares for wrapping. Furoshiki refers to a flat folded bundle originally used to carry clothes back and forth from the bath-house. With current environmental concerns, there has been a revival of this old practice.

The most common size of fabric for wrapping is an 18” or 24” square of fabric. A silk scarf is ideal for the purpose of wrapping, though other sizes and fabrics can also be used.

There are many uses of Furoshiki including carrying, storage, gift wrap, wall hanging, tote bag, carrier for contributions to a pot luck meal. The squares are easy to maintain, eco friendly, easy to fold flat. The squares can be left as gifts or put in a pocket or purse to reuse.

Our guests demonstrated the basic knot, flat object wrap, basic carry wrap, bottle carry wrap, hand bag, watermelon carry bag, and shoulder bag. We had an opportunity to try our skill at wrapping.

The art of Furoshiki is simple, elegant, useful and fulfills our mission of reusing and recycling beautiful fabrics.

Living Singly and Jewishly in Japan
Nearly thirty years ago our President, Bruria, was young, single, teaching English and living in Japan. She found that it was easy to be Jewish because there was a synagogue and community centre, which included a swimming pool. Expatriate Jews gathered regularly for Shabbat dinners and for Jewish holidays.

In a slide presentation, Bruria illustrated a number of Jewish subjects she encountered in Japan. These included a Japanese Yiddish Club, The Fugu Plan (a book telling the story of how the Japanese rescued Jews during the Holocaust), the story of Chiune Sugihara, who gave exit visas to Jews during World War II. There was a Jewish dentist, a Chabad branch with a mikvah and a Japanese man who had converted and become a Rabbi. There was a man with an excellent collection of Hebrew manuscripts and a Japanese pro-Israel group.

The rest of the slide show illustrated the quirkiness of the Japanese. Bruria shared such interesting things to be found in the grocery store as bottles of diet water, hard boiled eggs in a tube, and sushi with “Hello Kitty” faces. She showed us a road going through a building and some of the many space saving devices like shoe drawers on the underside of steps or a combined toilet/sink. There were dogs dressed in kimonos, women dressed as dolls, and men dressed as women. These are just a few examples. Bruria had a good time in Japan, but we are glad she came back to us!

Torah Stitch by Stitch Celebrates its Second Anniversary!

Temma Gentles reminds us that it’s time for a celebration! Torah Stitch by Stitch achieves its 2nd anniversary with “awesome engagement, new scans & illuminations.” For more details see Engagement and Amazement. And help continue the project.

2nd anniversary, new panels, stitcher engagement