Meet Chana Gamliel, born and raised in Canada and currently lives in Eretz Yisrael where she now leads a thriving and successful business designing and embroidering Parochesen and Mantlech for Shuls and Sifrei Torah, etc. Her works have long passed the borders of Eretz Yisrael and can be found in all corners of the globe. We asked Chana to give us in-depth sharing and teaching about the field. I think it’s a very special exposure to one of the most interesting and challenging topics in graphic design.
Chana, you’re invited
Hello and welcome to you all, it’s my honor and privilege to be the one opening the Shutfim Magazine series.
In this article, I will share a fascinating and unique design process that I worked on last winter.
A WEB OF FLOWERS
It was when I received a phone call from R’ Leibel Schlesinger from London the designer/architect of the new Biala shul that was being built, inviting me to design a beautiful paroches for the Aron Hakodesh in honor of the Chanuaks Habayis of the new Shul.
It was clear to them that the new paroches would be the most majestic and magnificent in all of Europe. They wanted the paroches to commemorate the Nine Admorim that links the Rabbi back to the Yehudi Hakodash from Peshuscha.
First things first, I met with the designer/architect R’ Leibel in my Bnei Brak office, he expressed the following wish:
“The Rebbe Shlita imagines something very unique. Let’s try designing a flowery web that will span the entire height and width of the velvet. Perhaps we can use a deep red velvet, almost black, to add to the drama.”
R’ Leibel then filled me in and showed me pictures of the incredible progress “Lavi Synagogue Industries” was making with the Aron Kodesh and the shul in general.
The Rebbe had approached R’ Liebel about a year and a half prior to design and plan the most magnificent shul imaginable in the Chassidishe suburb of Stamford Hill, London. On monthly visits to Eretz Yisroel, R’ Leibel made sure to oversee the progress at Lavi and ensure the smooth running of the Biala project.
We discussed many ideas for the paroches before moving on to make very general plans for the Bimah and Amud covers. The idea of a band of flowers, leaves, and swirls making its way around the bottom of the covers excited R’ Leibel.
After our meeting, my mind began racing with ideas for this fabulous project, each more grandiose than the previous one. I love taking the time to process the ideas my customers present me with before even putting pen to paper to begin drawing rough sketches.
In the end, it took me close to a month to formulate some ideas which would not only form a web of flowers as per R’ Liebel’s request but coordinate with the ultra-posh design elements in the Aron Kodesh in particular and the entire shul.
However, as I neared completion of the rough sketch, R’ Leibel called me up:
“I’m not sure how to tell you this, but my client has a very very long dedication text. Very long. Something like nine or ten names of the Rebbes who preceded him.”
With the design concept already in mind, I thought I’ll write them one after the other in an attractive applique badge in the center of the paroches.
As I was voicing my thoughts, he asked: “Is it possible we can somehow incorporate the names of the Rebbes within the flowers and leaves?”
I sat down to work, trying to brainstorm for some leafy designs. It was hard work, but I was determined to make it look perfect.,
Here are three ideas I sketched.
Notice how the style of the carvings of the Aron Hakodash and Shul integrates with the design of the parochas to make it blend in smoothly.
PERFECTING THE GRAND DESIGN
R’ Leibel informed me that the Rebbe favored the third option.
I started working on refining the design down to the smallest detail.
It was time to add color, embellishments, and Swarovski crystals to the sketch. The ‘embellishing’ process took a few weeks until we had a final design that the Rebbe was really excited about.
THE CHANUKAS HABAYIS
The manufacturing of a standard paroches can take several weeks to produce. The magnificent Biala Paroches, embroidered with 3.8 million stitches and 1500 hand-applied Swarovski crystals, could not fit such a timeslot. We had to book an available slot for such an execution. The earliest timeslot we managed to get hold of was January 16. At that time, it wasn’t long before the Chanukas Habayis was scheduled.
Since there was no way such a major paroches could be produced on time for the Chanukas Habayis, I suggested to the Rebbe an alternate solution: I will silk-screen a 1:1 image of the paroches onto satin, and then sew it into a curtain. The Rabbi was enthusiastic about the idea and even ordered three more for the Shtiblach.
Here’s the picture of the Paroches printed on satin fabric two months before the embroidered paroches was ready, not bad, right ?!
Although my digitizer had initially estimated that the Biala paroches would require about 2 million embroidery stitches, the final product was made of 3.8 million stitches! (Just to grasp the number! A regular paroches is made from half a million to a million stitches.).
After embroidering a few samples of the crown with various embroidery effects and e-mailing photos to R’ Liebel, I went ahead and had my digitizer prepare the ultra-complicated embroidery files for the entire paroches.
A giant embroidery machine with a 145 cm hoop diameter can embroider up to a million stitches in one digitized file. Here with our 3.8 million, we had to take apart the design and divide it into several sets of leaves and flowers.
Besides, the paroches embroidery area was 140 by 210 cm. And as mentioned, the hoop diameter is “only” 145 cm. Here too, we had to be creative and divide the tissue into the “upper part” and “lower part.”
He prepared seven separate files that my embroiderer would have to puzzle together with microscopic precision.
The paroches was on the embroidery machine for a total of 4 weeks, with embroiderers working in shifts- they worked 21 hours/day, six days a week, plus Motzaei Shabboses. Needless to say, I spent many hours of that month in the embroidery factory, supervising the embroidery stage.
When we were done embroidering the top surface, we moved the fabric, and now you have to re-hoop a material that is already embroidered on it; it’s like hmmm… almost impossible! It was only with the help of two strong men that we were once again able to hug the fabric towards the “lower part.”
I must admit it was a tough challenge.
There was a great deal of stress and a lot of prayers, so we could reach the maximum reset.
Here are some pictures to illustrate how I divided the design into seven pieces.
And some pictures during embroidery.
You’ll probably notice that I completely broke away from the typical Chasidish design in which every parochas has to be shades of silver against a dark blue background or maximum a combination of silver-gold-copper wire on blue velvet. What’s wrong with a splash of color? I am proud to say that I have never designed a silver-only paroches for a Chassidishe shul; the paroches I’ve designed for Chassidim have at least six distinct hues that add depth to the overall effect.
For the flowers on the parochas, I chose the Astral Pink color. It has a golden/ pinkish shine that blends in with everything and gives the parochas a very spiritual look. At the same time, I combined some paths of stones that went from the small to the large in crystal color. In the crown, I created a mosaic look with brown-gold-silver-colored stones.
If you’ve ever seen a sparkly Swarovski store, you may be able to fathom the idea of a paroches bedecked with 1500 Swarovski crystals.
Biala decided to go all-out with the Swarovskis. I interspersed astral pink tear-drop stones here and there to create ‘flowers’ within the embroidered leaves and twigs. ‘Splashes’ of silver-hued circular and eye-shaped Swarovskis flowed with the curvy lines.
Every time the paroches is opened or closed, a kaleidoscopic effect is achieved, with rays of light shining in every direction.
And Oh, it was miniature work to glue and sew everything down. But it was worth it to reach such a level of performance.
SAMUEL AND SONS
The finishing touch on the Biala Paroches and Bimah/Amud covers are the refined 100% silk trims by high-end passementerie “Samuel and Sons.”
R’ Liebel chose the golden melange Orsay Silk collection, and we mixed and matched the Orsay Silk Tassel Fringe, the 1 5/8” Silk Ribbed Border and the 1/4” Orsay Silk Cord with Tape. They definitely gave the “final touch” to the paroches.
The effect is breath-taking. Embroiderers from all over Eretz Yisroel came to see the Biala Paroches in its final stages…
Here she stands, in her full glory showing off her majestic appearance.
The last step was to match a good design For the Bimah and Ammud covers. We decided on a frame of flowers and leaves from the parochas design on the edge of the covers.
THE BIALA EFFECT
I have never produced a paroches that caused as much international noise as the Biala Paroches. I received warm greetings from Londoners and travelers who went specifically to see the Biala Shul and be impressed by the parochas. In the end, I also convinced my husband to go there. Indeed in the deep of winter, we bid farewell to balmy Bnei Brak and traveled to freezing London. It was amazing. I invite you to go see it for yourself as well!
Here is an interesting behind-the-scenes peek at the Biala Paroches being embroidered stitch by stitch:
One can gaze wide-eyed as the magnificent 3.8-million stitch Biala Paroches is embroidered. This paroches honors the memory of 10 generations of Biala Rebbes, intertwining their holy names amidst the flower and leaf motif. 1500 genuine Swarovski crystals add a few extra doses of Malchus to this extraordinary paroches.