Meet the Artist and Designer: Lisa Sambol

Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Sambol

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I grew up in the United States, in the Detroit area. I moved to NY for university where I completed two degrees and met my husband. We then moved to Boston so that I could finish my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. We now live in Israel with our four children.

With small children at home, it was difficult to pursue an engineering career in a new country and still have time for family, so I decided to shift gears and began professionally needlepointing in 1997 with a focus on Judaica. Over the years, I also studied drawing, sculpture, jewelry design and construction, and printmaking. I use design elements from all of these mediums to create my designs.

My work has been exhibited in galleries in New York and Detroit, and my needlework can be seen in countries around the world including the United States, England, Canada, and Israel.

What inspired you to become an artist?

My parents always encouraged my brothers and me to follow our dreams and to love what we do. They introduced us to the arts at a very young age by taking us to museums, filling the house with art books, and providing us with classes in both visual and performing arts. My mother is very artistic – she studied interior design, taught elementary school art classes, and always has a craft on hand to entertain the grandchildren. My brother, Avraham Loewenthal, is a Kabbalistic artist in Safed. So art has always been a part of my life. When we made aliyah, I wanted to find a way to help support the family while staying at home with our children, and needlepoint design has allowed me to have a career that I love and to work with amazing people around the world.

What is your specialty?

I design custom order needlepoint canvases. I hand paint the canvases and sell kits for customers to stitch on their own. I also sell fully finished pieces as well as needlepoint supplies, and I provide finishing services once customers have completed their stitching.

How and where do you work?

I work from home, and my actual location is somewhat fluid. My computer and easel are in the home office I share with my husband in our basement, and my sewing machine and blocking board can usually be found on our dining room table.

What is the most indispensable item in your work?

Probably the most important thing for me is having really good lighting. Painting the fine details on the grid of the canvas can be tricky if there isn’t enough light. After that, I need my computer for the design work, quality acrylic paints, and lots of paintbrushes as the canvas is quick to destroy the bristles.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?

I love to incorporate either themes from nature or play with geometry in my work. That said, my work is all custom designed which means that my starting point is always with the customers – finding out what it is they want and turning often amorphous ideas into concrete designs.

Do you do bespoke work?

Yes – everything I sell is custom made! While customers are free to choose designs from my website where they can see what I have made for others, I’m happy to adapt designs, change colors and elements, merge ideas, or create something totally new.

What projects are you currently working on?

While Corona has been a tough time for everyone, many needlepoint fans have spent their lockdowns stitching. This means that now my customers are bringing me their completed pieces so that I can turn them into tallit and tefillin bags, atarot (tallit collars), pillows, book covers, etc. So my desk is covered with a pile of pieces waiting to be blocked (straightened) and finished while I also juggle orders for new projects! Along with that, I’ve had the honor of stitching finished tallit and tefillin bags for several grooms and bar mitzvah boys who will be celebrating this fall.

I’ve also recently expanded to offer a new and exciting option: items like wallets, compact mirrors, and jewelry boxes of various sizes which are pre-made to have needlepoint pieces attached to them. These give customers a whole new array of ways to gift their work in beautiful, useful, and personalized ways.

What is or are your favourite items in your current collection?

I don’t know that I have a favorite in my collection, although I’m certainly drawn to the pieces that are brighter and colorful. I recently was sent a photograph of a sunset to turn into a needlepoint design which was quite a challenge as well as a lot of fun. I also love some of the whimsical pieces like the Noah’s Ark that I made this year for a new baby.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

The design is ready when the customer is happy! I’ll iterate the design as many times as needed until the customer says, “Yes! That’s it!” This way I know that they are getting exactly what they want.

What was the first artwork you ever sold?

I’m not actually sure! I spent many years working in different mediums from printmaking to jewelry design, and most of my pieces were made as gifts for family and friends. Once I started my needlepoint business, the first piece I sold was an atarah ordered by very dear university friends.

Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?

I have a lot of fun working on chuppah (wedding canopy) canvases. These are usually about 2.5 meters (8 feet) long, and I enjoy the opportunity to work big. I also really enjoyed making a parochet (curtain cover for the Torah enclosure) for our local synagogue. In general, I love that much of my work is done to help create a meaningful experience or for a special occasion such as a bar/bat mitzvah, wedding, a big anniversary, or an important birthday.

What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?

I want people to feel that practicing Judaism with all its traditions is beautiful. I want them to see the items we have created together every day, to use them, to feel them, and to make their experiences with religion special and meaningful. I want the children and grandchildren (who often are the recipients of these creations) to feel the love that their parents and grandparents put into each piece and carry that with them throughout their lives.

Where can we find your work?

My whole portfolio can be found on my website.

On Instagram, I’m loops_needlepoint.

I’m also on Facebook. and on YouTube.

Come take a look and be in touch – I’d love to create something special for you!

Photos: Courtesy of Lisa Sambol

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