Kol Atzmotai is a project of Noam Mason, a Boston-centric genderqueer Jew. Kol Atzmotai was born out of a love affair with fabric, textile art, and the bold, imperfect marks of linocut printmaking. Each KA tallis is made completely by hand. My work draws from a sense of doykeit, or hereness, and combines liturgical motifs with designs from the natural world. Kol Atzmotai quotes from a line in Nishmat, a liturgical poem recited on Shabbat and festivals: Kol atzmotai tomarna, Hashem: mi khamokha? All my bones cry out to you, Hashem: who is like you? The tallis is one of many embodied rituals within our tradition- by wrapping ourselves in a beautiful tallis, we allow our very bones to pray.
A tallis begins with a piece of liturgical imagery, often centering around the reciprocal relationships between humans, the Divine, and nature.
Natural motifs are paired with and informed by the words of Jewish prayer, poetry, and song in a series of sketches. These sketches slowly become complete designs for stripes, corner squares, and an atarah. Designs are transferred and carved into linoleum.
Warp threads are carefully pulled out from each end of the silk, and the remaining weft is gathered and tied into sections, forming fringes. When the fabric is ready, ink colors begin to be mixed and tested for printing.
Designs are created on the fabric using a block printing technique, in which the ends of each block match themselves, so that fluid repeating designs are created. The ink is transferred from the block to the silk by hand using small circular motions with a tool called a baren, which allows for smooth even pressure through the printing process. When the printing process is finished, the tallis dries for several days. Corner squares and an atarah are typically sewn on at this point, and buttonholes created where the tzitzis will be tied.
Each atarah [neckband. Hebrew, literally “crown”] and set of corner squares is lovingly hand dyed with botanical materials gathered locally on Nipmuc land. These carefully prepared sections of silk may be dyed with nettle, aster, goldenrod, mulberry, wild grape, or chestnut, among a variety of other dyestuff.
When your tallis arrives to you in its bag, the tzitzis will not yet be tied. Either in person or through a video call, we will tie your tzitzis together, allowing you to take an active role in hiddur mitzvah, giving beauty to a mitzvah.
Partners in Creation
KA Design Partner, Simcha Miller
Simcha Miller is a genderqueer multidisciplinary artist in Somerville, MA. Simcha has spent their whole life trying to capture and create from the world around them and ones that don’t exist yet. Their lifelong loves are Jewish music and learning new skills. When they are not working, Simcha studies Talmud with friends online and goes on walks that involve intense discussion. Simcha creates designs and concept art for KA. You can find their work in the Rainbow Forest tallis and the Hebrew font used on future atarot.
KA Fabric Prep Partner, Shae Fitzgerald
Shae has been crafting with fiber since the age of 8, after learning to sew on a machine to make teddy bear clothes with an adept quilter of a grandmother. Throughout pursuit of a career in acting, stitchwork and clothes were never far behind, and sooner or later the two fused into an additional passion for costume design. Shae is a company member, actor, and Associate Costume Director with Will Kempe’s Players, a touring Shakespeare company based out of Troy, NY, as well as an actor, designer and company member with NorthEast Theatre Ensemble out of Albany, NY. Fabricating narratives through performance and dress is where Shae is happiest! Shae is a congregant, board member, and chair of the Social Action Committee at Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, NY. Shae also serves on the Steering Committee of Schenectady Community Ministries (SiCM) and enjoys finding inspiration in the intersections of activism, faith, and art. Always restless for new mediums and paths to create garments with significance and meaning, Shae is thrilled to expand work outside traditional sewing, and to fuse many passions in support of a fantastic business and some incredible talent at Kol Atzmotai.
Every Kol Atzmotai tallis arrives to its new owner with only 2 of the corners tied. Together over video call or in person, we tie the rest of your tzitzis. This is a wonderful way to connect with your new tallis, and learn a new skill! Think of it like a Jewish friendship bracelet.
Why are we biting our tzitzis? Jews have a tradition not to take a weapon of war to our ritual garments. This means we don’t cut the extra length on our tzitzis with metal scissors, and instead bite off the excess string.
By wrapping ourselves in a beautiful tallis, we allow our very bones to pray.