Covid-19 inspired Torah mantle uses the fabric from scrubs and masks

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Covid-19 inspired Torah mantle uses the fabric from scrubs and masks

Tzipporah Johnston’s ‘The Fruit of Her Hands’ textile project is now seeking a shul to host the unique Judaica

The artist behind a COVID-19 inspired Torah mantle and binder has begun seeking a host congregation for her unique Judaica.

Tzipporah Johnston’s ‘The Fruit of Her Hands’ textile project uses fabric scraps from Jewish women’s scrub and mask-making to create ceremonial art.

The Edinburgh-based embroider and visual artist told Limmud attendees about feeling inspired after discovering “armies of people” sowing urgently needed Personal Protective Equipment.

“Once supply chains normalised, I wanted to honour the contribution of the mostly women who were sowing for the community, many of whom were self-funded and had given up their time and money to plug a dangerous gap when their country really needed them,” she explained.

“Because they worked from home, were doing labour seen as a hobby, and because women’s work is generally not taken seriously, they had a certain invisibility, and I didn’t want them to be written out of our communal history.”

Johnston also took inspiration from the historic Jewish practice of carefully deconstructing and reusing precious fabrics to make synagogue textiles.

“I also wanted to have a participatory element by incorporating some of the fabrics that people were using to make their masks or their scrubs into the mantle. I wanted people to have that personal connection to the finished piece,” she added.

18 Jewish women were recruited to send their leftover fabric, along with a photograph to represent them or their work.

Presenting her three designs, Johnston explained that the mantle also needed to incorporate principles of beauty and to be practically useful to a congregation.

“I wanted the design to be about life rather than death. My aim is to commemorate the willingness of the living to serve, rather than memorialising the dead whom we sadly lost,” she concluded.

In future, the artist also hopes to curate a small exhibition and take her Judaica on a tour of different communities.

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