What to Expect when we make a tallit together...
Then we need to think about the size of a tallit. Some people want a large shawl style tallit. Others want a smaller scarf type tallit. The size also helps to determine the fabric choice.
The tallit is our uniform for the task of prayer. We need to create a tallit that helps the client be prayerful. We then start poking around in Jewish texts to find the theme for the tallit. The texts might come form the bar- mitzvah readings or it may come from a completely different source.
Some Torah readings have terrific stories but no appropriate text. Others are jam packed with wonderful choices. For some clients a line from Psalms, or an entire Psalm might be the jumping off point for designing a tallit. During this point of the process, my client and I thumb through Jewish texts, throwing ideas back and forth while we both sketch possible ideas. It's a classing brainstorming session.
After not very long we narrow down the ideas. Often a pentimento of a rejected idea is present in the final design. many of my clients are in their early adolescence, a moment of transition from childhood to adulthood. The Tallit will often acknowledge both their childish self as well as looking towards the adult that they are becoming.
During this meeting I also take in who my client is. The colors that make my client happy. All of this information goes into the tallit as well. Sometimes, it is clear that my potential client is not ready to have a tallit at this moment. Sometimes, my client would prefer an off the rack tallit from a Judaica store. If this is the case, then they go home, with no hard feelings.
Then the client goes home, and I get to work.While I work, my client lives in my head. As I make each design decision, I want the piece to work, but I am also thinking about my client's happiness. The client comes back, usually a few weeks before the bar or bat mitzvah, and we tie the tzitzit together. Having my client tie the tzitzit serves to transfer the ownership of the piece, from me, to the client. The father of one bat mitzvah girl once described the experience to tying tzitzit with me as both deeply silly and deeply spiritual.