Meet the Artist: Shulamit Ron

Photo: Courtesy of Shulamit Ron

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I was born in Kishinev, the former Soviet Union. As a child, I didn’t know that I’m Jewish or what being Jewish meant. I have started really learning about Judaism only when I was 32 and met my husband. Hannoch came from an Orthodox family, but was looking for other options and together we were members of a Reform community in Ra’anana and then joined a Conservative congregation in Pardesiya. I’m drawn to Jewish decorative art and especially ceremonial textiles and as a result find myself learning Jewish texts and traditions.

Two years ago, I have made my first huppah for our son’s wedding. Making a quilted huppah is not an easy task, as it’s a fairly large piece (in Israel it is quite standard to make an 80×80” huppa), but I found it very joyful and fulfilling. Since then my focus shifted to huppot that are unique and meaningful for the marrying couple.

What inspired you to become an artist?

My “becoming an artist” was something so gradual, that I cannot even say when and how it happened. I just knitted and sewed and quilted, and people would say that I’m a wonderful artist, and I would protest saying that I’m not. A couple of years ago I started painting again as part of my obsession with textile, and I learned calligraphy for the same reason. And in the last couple of years I suddenly admitted that I’m an artist. In hindsight, it’s simply something that I am and do.

What is your specialty?

In terms of technique my specialty is textile – I dye fabrics using manmade and natural dyes and paints, I do patchwork and applique, I quilt, and lately I design digitally printed textiles for my work.

In terms of subject matter, my specialty is Jewish and Israeli art, influenced by Middle Eastern decorative art. I make art for the wall, ceremonial art such as Torah Mantles and Ark Curtains, and Huppot (Jewish wedding canopies).

How and where do you work?

I mostly work at home, where I have a dedicated studio. We used to live in a village, where I had a large studio (25 sqm) and a garden for dirty/wet work. Now we live in an apartment and my work space is half of what it used to be, and the wet work is relegated to a small corner of our balcony. It’s cramped and often I expand and take over other areas of our home, to the loud protestations of my husband.

What is the most indispensable item in your studio?

I need many tools for the different aspects of my work. But if very hard pressed, I would say it’s my sewing machine, with the computer being a close second. If I had to live without electricity and digital implements, I would still sew by hand, which means I would need scissors, needles, fabric and thread and I could manage. Sorry for cheating on this question.

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

My inspiration comes from decorative art traditions of our area and Judaism. I’m always interested in other art forms such as illuminated manuscripts, old textiles and carpets, Jewish texts, Bible and obviously the Israeli plants and landscapes. I love looking at the work of other artists in other disciplines, as they never fail to inspire me and seed countless ideas in my mind.

Do you do bespoke work?

All of the Ark Curtains and Torah mantles I made were bespoke, whether commissioned by someone of made by me as a contribution to a specific synagogue. Most of the Huppot I make are bespoke by definition and personalized for the couple to be using the huppah. Since the huppah symbolizes the home that the couple is building, it is very suitable that they really make it something very personal.

What projects are you currently working on?

I finished a heirloom huppah (Rejoice with the Bride and Groom) a month ago, which took several months and left me very full and very drained at the same time. As I’m in between commissions at the moment, I spend most of my time on a new design of a Mandala style huppah. Also, I am in the first stages of planning a small work for a group exhibition of Israeli and Canadian textile artists in Toronto next year.

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

Not fair! How can I choose one of my children? Seriously, though, it’s usually the last project I made, so it would be the Rejoice with the Bride and Groom heirloom huppah. But my second favourite is Frida – a whole cloth wall hanging that is based on a watercolor I painted, had digitally printed and then quilted and embellished.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

Sometimes a piece will whisper to me that it’s done. Most of the time I would continue working on a piece until I run out of time or get so sick and tired of looking at it that I have to quit. I love hand embellishing and seriously believe that more is more.

What was the first artwork you ever sold?

It was a commissioned ark curtain for a Reform synagogue in Ra’anana. I started from an artwork by Naomi Cohen Ziv, and interpreted it into a quilted piece. It was a very creative and fulfilling process. I still think it’s one of the most meaningful and spiritual pieces I have ever made.

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

In general, I find my creative process very painful, with lots of ups and downs, doubts, starting over, getting stuck on design issues and technical problems.

Once in a while, though, a piece will flow effortlessly and one of these is my Seven Blessings huppah that incorporates calligraphy, that I enjoy to no end, and improvisational piecing with I find very relaxing and fun.

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

I love that my art is used and enjoyed by people. Bringing joy to Jewish weddings would be a very worthwhile achievement in its own right. Looking beyond that, my goal is to continue developing my art and at some point to have an exhibition in a major museum.

Where can we find your work?

My work can be found on my website: www.shulamitquilts.com

Instagram: shulamitron and huppot.hashulamit

Pinterest: shulamitron

Facebook: ShulamitHuppot

YouTube: Shulamit Ron

Photo: Courtesy of Shulamit Ron

Photos: Courtesy of Shulamit Ron

Photo: Courtesy of Shulamit Ron

Photo: Courtesy of Shulamit Ron

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