My friend Felice Sachs has kind of by accident developed a niche specialty in fiber art: she makes memorials out of the clothing of dead people. She's done several projects, making quilts, blankets or wall hangings as keepsakes for bereaved wives and children. Just this week she finished up her latest commission: a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl for a woman whose mother had died. Traditionally only men wore tallit, but in recent years Conservative and Reform Jewish women have taken to wearing the garments as well. But rather than simply buy commercially made shawls, many women make their own or have them made in a more feminine style.
I saw the project halfway through, when it was just pinned to a backing and not all of the decisions had been made about how to finish it. It was stunning and I asked Felice if I could write about it when it was completed. Felice and her client, Ellen Shaikun, graciously agreed to share this beautiful piece with me and with you.
Sometimes Felice's clients bring over huge piles of clothing and let her choose which ones to use in the memorial. Other times they talk together about which garments are most evocative and what they should do with them. This time Felice and Ellen decided to use five old blouses to make up the tallit. Felice had the brainstorm to cut off the sleeves and position them on the shawl so the arms are metaphorically embracing the wearer.
Here's Ellen wearing the tallit.
tomorrow I'll show you how they are made.
Update: I've linked this to the weekly show-and-tell at Off the Wall Fridays. Check it out to see what other fiber artists are up to this week.