In reality shows, the big moment of drama is the reveal. In makeover shows, the reveal is when the formerly frumpy woman comes out with a cute new shape, sexy clothing, good make up and a great hair cut. So much effort has gone into the transformation, the producers of the shows want to pump it for all of the drama that it is worth.
I used to lay out the completed tallit on my dining room table when my clients would come to pick up the piece. I now own, thanks to my friend Andrea, a dress making form. So these days I put the tallit on the dummy, as soon as my clients come into my dining room, there is the tallit. It works like the tallit reveal.
When I begin working with a client, I listen hard to what they are saying. I pay close attention to the colors and textures that appeal to them, that make them happy. Often my clients don't articulate their needs in words but by talking to them, watching and listening I can usually get a pretty good idea of what would work best for them.
During the time that I am working on a piece, I am thinking about our initial conversation. What do they like? What feels good on them ? What aspect of the piece is the most important to them? I am also working with the texts and trying to make the piece work not only visually but also as a religious object. What is a tallit? Which aspects of it's meanings does this tallit focus on? How are the texts working within the context of the piece?
I also have practical matters in mind while working on a piece. The tallit needs to feel comfortable. It needs to stay on the body. You don't want to be fussing with it while you are wearing it.
So when a client shows up to tie the tzitzit, I have a whole lot invested in the tallit. IO have been working on it over a period of weeks or months. I really want them to love it. So yes, I resort to a bit of drama and display the tallit on the dress making dummy.
So were Sara Xing and her parents pleased? In a word, yes. The chorus of "Oh! my God! ", was exactly what I needed to hear. Sara Xing, like so many of my clients, put on her tallit and was reluctant to take it off.
Years ago, I used to tie the tzitzit for my clients. Several years ago I began to include the process of tying the tzitzit as part of taking the tallit home. For the bar mitzvah family, it is often a moment of quiet and meaning in the middle of the storm of getting the bar mitzvah together. Tying the tzitzit also transfers the ownership of the tallit from me, the maker of the tallit, to the wearer of the tallit. The ritual of tying makes the tallit truly theirs.

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  1. Freda (aka Sara Xing's mom)January 19, 2009 at 12:40 AM

    I can't actually recall Evan ever using the phrase OMG! before, so his saying it simultaneously with me is an indication of how special and dramatic the moment was. Both our jaws were touching the floor with how drop dead gorgeous this tallit is.

    Sara Xing's draft of her devar torah had a line thanking you for "knowing exactly what [she] wanted from the start." We told her she might want to wait till she saw the finished product before saying that. After seeing the tallit there was no question it would remain unchanged.

    Having her tie the tzitzit was a moving experience but also a great teaching moment -- as was the initial consultation session. The whole process was so special and a major highlight of the bat mitzvah experience. Evan e-mailed this to you but it bears public comment that receiving the tallit tipped our anxious pre-event, got-to-do-a-gazillion- things-before-Friday-night mood to a festive,-we're-gonna-have-a-really-special- simcha-mood. How could anything go wrong with such a terrific tallit?


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