The Table Runner Hagaddah
By Callie Mitchell
Table Runner Haggadah By Callie Mitchell
What I love about making bible-based art with my children is that so often a little idea can take on a life of its own! That is exactly what happened with this project for our family. Since moving to Israel in 2009, Pesach, or Passover, has become my most beloved of the Levitical Feasts. Growing up evangelical, my childhood family did not have a Passover tradition, and my husband’s was based more around their Messianic Congregation than the family table. The deep personal connection to Passover started for me while I was undergoing an intense diagnosis process for a rare disease that was caused by a tutor on my pituitary gland. I lived in Exodus, where the Lord breathed life into my weary and fearful spirit; and I was in and out of the hospital around the time of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Having a sense of my own mortality, I found a new confidence in my salvation, understanding that for the Blood of the Lamb, the wrath of God would Passover me. I was safe in the Lord, no matter what happened with that tumor. As our family has grown over the years, my mom-heart yearned to share the confidence in Him that the Lord sowed into my life through the Exodus story during that time of suffering, as something that would be life-giving in our home. I wanted to create an heirloom that we could use from year to year and I wanted our children to feel personally connected to it. A family art project was just perfect. Given the importance of the sequential events of the Exodus story during the Seder, the idea of a Table Runner Haggadah came easily together! The Haggadah is one of the central features of a Passover Seder. It is the “telling” of the Exodus story and it is usually found at each place setting in the form a of a printed booklet. It serves as a tool used to fulfill the command in scripture to pass this story down from generation to generation (see Exodus 12:14). “How beautiful would it be to see the story, while we read it.” I thought! To start, first we needed to gather materials. I purchased a table runner from a local party supply store, and as an Architect and Illustrator, I had an array of acrylic paints and paint markers already available. Next, the children and I sat together and made a visual plan of what we were going to do.
We created thumbnail sketches that laid out the story of the Exodus, from the birth of Moses to the parting of the Red Sea. During my training in architecture school, we would often create something called an Analytique, which is an assemblage of drawings used to analyze ideas. This table runner became our Analytique of the Exodus, as we talked about the sequence of the story and the different elements present. We loved the symmetry of the story starting and ending with water, and something that became new for all of us is that we realized Moses’s encounter with the Lord in the Burning Bush was central, and the turning point of the story! We gained so much revelation through a simple exercise of visually mapping the events! After we refined our ideas, we made a practical plan of how we were going to accomplish this project—who would do what and when—and then we got to painting! My children were 8, 3, and 16 months at the time (we’ve added one since then!), so I knew this would be a messy event. I’m not afraid of a little mess when it comes to painting with children, and planned accordingly! The freedom to get a little messy is part of the fun, and fun was one of my goals. I wanted this to be a time of joyful memory making. Not a pristine project.
We went outside where we’d have freedom to do just that—paint with our hands, sometime even our feet, use big bold strokes, not worry about accidental spills, where we could cover a large amount of canvas material in a short time, and really immerse in the experience!
To keep the process going smoothly, we stared out by doing a base layer of background colors for the water areas, and sandy desert areas that everyone could paint freely with very little concern for accuracy. Then, I gave each child an area to work on that was appropriate for their age and ability, which we had talked about in advance. My (then) littlest did both brush and finger painting with green shades where we would develop the landscape of the bullrush and papyrus. I did a layer of detailing on the Burning Bush and then had my middle-little add the fire! My 8 year old took the lead on most everything else, pyramids, sheep, plagues….
It took us two days to finish the background and secondary painting layers before we moved inside to detail with our paint markers. The final product turned out far more beautiful than I ever imagined! It was a meaningful addition to our Seder table. As my husband read through the Haggadah, we had the children point out the story on table, sometimes moving things around for a better view. They became an integral part of the Seder and stayed focussed and involved for that reason. They were excited to share their work and tell the story!
Our Table Runner Haggadah is one of our most treasured keepsakes. With children who are look forward to bringing it out every year and sharing the story of painting it together, our table runner has helped solidify the Pesach Seder as a meaningful tradition for our growing home! The very act of making it fueled a love for each other, and granted greater revelation of God’s word that we will always carry in our hearts!