Torah Covering, 2000, silver paint on copper, 18k gold, ancient glass, suede, sterling silver,
rubber, and brass, 7.5x6.75x2 inches
The reason to make ceremonial objects at all is Hidur Mitzva - to glorify the commandment. The mitzva itself being the reading of the Torah, hidur mitzva is to decorate the Torah or rather its coverings, because it is forbidden to decorate the scroll itself with any kind of imagery.
The ethics of the fathers (Pirke Avoth) enjoins us to "build a wall" around the Torah, the "tree of life"; I allude to that with my outer cover of silver-painted copper weave which is meant to suggest a tree. In the Talmud moreover, the outer cover of the Torah is described as a kapsa -- a portable container of light wood, metal, or even ivory but solid enough to be locked. My kapsa actually provides a hard "wall," because it is a rigid cylinder of polyutherane, a modern synthetic in deliberate contrast to the antiquity it contains.
In ancient times the first cover of the Torah in immediate contact with the scroll was a loose linen cloth, a mitpahat (Aramaic for "shawl") -- itself so holy by association that it was not to be discarded when worn out, but rather used as a shroud for the dead. Since medieval times, the mitpahat has been replaced by the triple protection of fabric to absorb moisture, a belt to bind the two scrolls, and an ornamented mantle. In my design, however, I revert to the original mitpahat, made of red suede, in obedience to the injunction that the Torah's coverings be made of rich materials. Red, moreover, was a favored color for ancient mitpahot.
Bells have long been identified as Torah ornaments, obviously to summon attention when the Torah is removed from its alcove. In my design, there are four sterling silver pomegranate-shaped bells hanging from the mitpahat.
The rods around which the scroll is rolled, were often surmounted by horns or animal (sheep?) heads in antiquity. In my design, each metallic rod is instead surmounted by a shimmering brass globe growned with a gold-rimmed half moon of ancient glass (variety in ornamentation is itself hidur mitzva).
Once my Torah is placed inside the tree-shaped outer cover, its open weave allows a glimpse -- but only a glimpse -- of the red kapsa, while the globes with their glass half moons emerge on top, to obtain contrasts between hard and soft, hidden and revealed.