Meet the Tallis Lady

Meet the Tallis Lady - 614 eZine - Vol 6, Issue 4

How Lisa Prawer is combining her creative vision with unusual charms and beads to change the look of Jewish garments

by the 614 staff

As a child, Lisa Prawer was interested in creating beautiful items, and tried her hand at everything from sewing and crochet to knitting and painting. Little did she know that, as an adult, she would go on to become "The Tallis Lady." Known for her head coverings and tallitot, Lisa, who is from Glen Rock, New Jersey, uses exotic materials, such as Czech glass beads and Swarovski crystals, and hunts down luxurious fabrics from around the world. We spoke with Lisa about how she got started in this business and what she finds so alluring about blending traditional Jewish designs with a contemporary look.

Tell me how you got started making your creative religious garments. What inspired you?

Several years ago I owned a gift-basket business. One day I was at a gift show in New York buying merchandise, and I saw these gorgeous handmade, hand-painted tallitot and decided to buy a few different ones. I wore them to my temple (being an active temple member, I was there almost every Shabbat), and congregants went crazy for the styles I wore. Soon I was purchasing them as a side business for temple members. From there it took on a life of its own and, before I knew it, I had about 400 styles I was selling. I was inspired by all the different styles and fabrics available and how wonderful it made people feel to wear them.


When did your business go from a small local business in your home to a national one where customers can shop online?


Three years ago I developed my website, thetallislady.com, and my first online order was from Hawaii. I was so delighted! I spoke with the client at length and got to know her a little better; that’s one of my favorite parts of the job. Now I get orders from all over the United States and Canada, and have even sold tallitot to clients in Australia. It’s exciting to speak with new people and exchange ideas and stories with them.


Where do you shop for the materials you work with?


Well, for the tallitot, I purchase the fabrics from artists all over the country, but mostly from Israel. I often seek out people who don’t sell to the masses so my collection remains unique. Perhaps one day I will be inspired to make my own tallitot to sell; I am already seeking out fabrics I’d love to see designed. For the beaded/crystal kippot and tallit clips, which I do make, I travel to bead shows where I select unusual crystals, beads, and charms to make the styles. I make most of the kippot that are on the site. This summer I am traveling to Africa where I hope to find unique fabrics and beads to spark new creativity. As for the kippot and clips, my creativity goes a little crazy sometimes, and I try to outdo the last one I’ve made! I started putting beautiful crystal centers on the kippot. I also began twisting the wire around the beads and crystals that makes the kippah much more intricate. I am constantly on the lookout for new ideas—my mind is always working.


Tell me about taking classes with a master wire jeweler. What was that like?


I basically searched the Internet for days until I found this woman (who prefers to remain anonymous), and she agreed to meet with me and teach me. We spent several hours together. I actually taught her some things about knitting, and she taught me the two basic styles of kippah making. From there I was off and running, turning the basic styles of a kippah into my own creations, and I’m still developing new variations and color combinations every day. It feels incredibly relaxing and spiritual when I’m creating them.


What is the most popular item that you sell?


I think tallitot "Jessica" and "Maya" are the ones I most consistently sell out of. They are sheer and less expensive than some of the other styles. However, I also sell many of the detailed tallitot, which have a more artisan style—"Benjamin" or "Sara" for example. The Benjamin tallit is pieced together by hand and has a gorgeous array of fabric color. The Sara is sheer with a lacy shading, also made by hand, but appears to have an antique look. For kippot, the hands-down most popular choice is the "Champagne Sparkle" because it’s neutral and therefore goes with everything.

Visit thetallislady.com to find out more about Lisa and her creations.

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