torah stitch by stitch typesetting

to-engageThe nature of my involvement in this project has changed for the better. Putting my graphic design skills to use, I am now one of 3 typesetters for the project, and will be creating the diagrams which participants receive upon signup. I consider this to be a great honor and am privileged to have found a way to combine typography and Torah. There is a depth of personal meaning for me in this intersection.

If you’re wondering why the typesetting process involves more than just making sure all the letters are in the right order, there are many other considerations which must be made. In order to justify the columns, for example, one must use a combination of word spacing, kerning, and stretching certain parts of certain letters.

My stitching contribution to the project will continue as well, but I plan on slowing down in order to allow time to do typesetting.

Don’t forget to sign up to be a part of this incredible project.

torah stitch by stitch

This post should explain the images I’ve been posting on Instagram tagged with #torahstitchbystitch. I am part of the Torah Stitch by Stitch project, a global effort to create a cross-stitch embroidered copy of the Torah (the 5 books of Moses). Posting daily images of my progress keeps me from slacking off and hopefully will inspire others working on the project to keep moving forward.

Part of the project participation agreement is that you will try to document and share the process. My usual routine is to stitch at least one letter while I’m listening to music, sitting in my kids’ room as they fall asleep. I spend on average 20 minutes a night.

Read the info on the site linked above, but please ask me questions or give me comments (you can comment below this post). This is a very exciting thing to be working on and I would love to talk about it.


proof close up
Proof that I was Where I Said I was at the Time I was There
wood, paper, paint, cremains of 1999 senior show



  1. Students who graduated around the millennium from Carson-Newman College [sic] were invited to submit recent works for a show to coincide with the university’s 2013 homecoming. The purpose of writing so much about this piece is mainly to explain my artwork to the other people in the show, since it was done partly for them.
  2. A geode is a regular-ol’ looking rock that, when cracked open, reveals a secret world of gemstone. If someone handed you a geode, you would have to take it on faith that in the center were amethysts. It would not be until you destroyed the rock-ness (the smooth, round, appearance of something that looks uniformly rocky ) of the geode that you discovered its real nature.
  3. Years after my senior show in 1999, I decided that 1) instead of trying to maintain the pristine nature of several of the pieces and 2) as a way of ‘moving on’ since they physically took up a lot of room and actually got in the way of working on other stuff, I would burn them and save the cremains for a future project.
  4. The development of my optophonetic alphabet has been an ongoing project since high school, and as such has become a part of my artwork. It, along with keeping a journal, was something I was always working on through college.


The cremains were the material I had first, so they were good to go.

proof model

I had the general idea for the form in my head, but I couldn’t work out if it were possible to really exist when I sat down to measure materials. I tried sketching out the form, but I wanted to be sure it would really occupy the space I wanted it to. So, I used SketchUp to create a model on the computer. As I was creating this model, I decided that 21 inches in any direction was a good size; each cube would be a 1-inch cube, for a total of 2321 cubes.

2013-10-10 06.31.50In order to use wood for the basic structure, I had to plane down 2 by 12s to get precise 1-inch pieces of wood to work with. Thanks to my dad for this, because he suffered through running boards through the planer for 2 days with me. After that, I built the structure according to the model.

With the cubes stacked the way they are, only 1326 faces of these cubes are visible to the outside. I used this number as the number of characters I would use for the written message which would appear on the cubes. The form as a whole is based around a cube itself, and so characters on the faces could be read from six different ways. To easily type my message, I needed a font, which I created using FontForge.

proof font

proof in excel

I also needed a 2-d way of plotting where the characters would go in 3 dimensions, for which I used Excel (which I like to refer to as Microsoft Grid, since that is often how it it used). After writing a message, I created .DXF files

 using Inkscape for use with my [amazon_link id=”B008KPBFSI” target=”_blank” locale=”US” container=”” container_class=”” ]Silhouette Cameo[/amazon_link] paper cutter. As the letters were cut out, I glued them in the right place on the structure and painted it with several coats of primer.


finishing touchesThe message written all over this piece is the plain meaning. I wrote about being in school with the other people in the show, about how lucky I was to be around them, and the sense of healthy competition which pushed us all to take things to the next level.

One thing I still like imagining is the pieces in the gallery at night, with no one there, but the presence of the artworks being there, sort of representing each of us. For me, the whole show was about creating a monument to our time at school together.

optophonetic alphabet


the information below is to serve as an explanation for my proposed guidelines on the creation of a ‘phonetic ideal’ or ‘optophonetic’ alphabet,
which I call the optophonetic english alphabet.

the general guidelines

these guidelines explain the reasoning behind the shapes of the letterforms.

  1. the new alphabet must be unicameral.alphabets with more than one symbol representing the exact same letter
    are not as efficient as possible.
  2. for example, in the roman alphabet, the following symbols

    ambiguation from camerality
    all represent the same letter.

  3. each character must stand for only one sound.this is even more confusing than the problem mentioned above, for the same reasons.
  4. for example, each a in
    father, hat, lake, a
    rrow, and naught has a completely different sound.

  5. there must be characters representing the full range of sounds present in the language used.if there were characters sufficient to represent this range, there would not need to be phonetic explanations of how to say dictionary words.
  6. for example, there is no (normal, roman) letter for the schwa.

  7. the characters of the new alphabet must be derived from a process of
    cross-referencing frequency of sound and ease of mark.

    the orthographies of the roman alphabet used in the english language are based on neither frequency of sound nor ease of mark.

  8. for example, the simplest mark to make is a dot, which is only used for punctuation.

  9. the alphabet must be able to be read without anchors to define the orientation of the text.some letters rotated, inverted, or written backwards may be read as other letters.
  10. examples:

    ambiguation from orientation

  11. the characters must be able to be easily formed by any writing instrument and on any surface.closed counter-spaces and forms which have paths too complex to be followed by basic writing instruments can be difficult to write with certain instruments and on certain surfaces.
  12. for example, the letter s is difficult to scrape into clay; nib-pens scratch paper when writing in certain directions.

  13. the printed version of the alphabet must be identical to the written version.this is the same problem as the first rule.
  14. for example, one writes this symbol:

    ambiguation from writing

    and types this symbol:

    ambiguation from writing

optophonetic theory

these thoughts explain why the letterforms in the optophonetic english alphabet
have been chosen and included. there are 3 categories of letters: consonants, vocals, and vowels.

  1. consonants are straightforward sounds having no variations.
  2. hydrogen







  3. vocals are sounds with 2 variations. for each of the examples here,
    the non-vocalized version of the letter pair (the second one listed in each pair)
    can be heard if the first word is whispered.
  4. big prices

    very fine

    the thing

    good looking

    dark tower

    zen master

    visionary shape

    judge’s chambers (the letters in this pair are actually combinations of the dark
    tower and visionary shape pairs. hence,
    j is dzh and ch is tsh.)

  5. vowels are sounds which fill the spaces between consonants and vocals. there are (basically) 4 groups.
    this is the only group with actual dipthongs. some dipthongs are 2 vowels and some are a vowel and a consonant.
    in the latter case, the vowel takes on a unique sound when preceding the consonant.
    (the letters in th last vocal letter pair above are not dipthongs because the sounds only take up one syllable.)
  6. the e group

    international (the schwa sound)




    potato (dipthong of the 2 preceding sounds)

    the u group



    no (dipthong of the 2 preceding sounds)


    the a group


    ice (dipthong of preceding sound and see sound)

    naught (dipthong of father sound and winter sound)

    ark (dipthong of father sound and radon sound)


    now (dipthong of preceding sound and winter sound)

    the o group


    or (dipthong of preceding sound and radon sound)

text example


roman alphabet observation

I wanted to call this my roman type theory, but it’s just more of an observation of an interesting pattern. maybe after you read this, you’ll look at the alphabet differently, especially if you’re looking at the alphabet with something obstructing your view of most of it….

what is meant here by the roman alphabet is the characters used to represent the English language to English readers. if you are not familiar with this alphabet, you probably have not made it this far.

it is easiest to illustrate this observation step by step:

    1. consider only the top and bottom portions of the alphabet. write out the alphabet in order with these portions highlighted (brown), using a different color (red) for the 1st instance of each distinct top or bottom.
      alphabet with tops and bottoms highlighted

    1. remove each letter not containing the 1st instance of a top or bottom.primary instances of letter tops and bottoms only

    1. remove the middles of the letters and subsequent instances of tops and bottoms.middles removed

    1. condense the remaining tops and bottoms by shifting leftward.tops and bottoms condesnsed by leftward shift

    1. this is where the pattern becomes more obvious. there are only 6 distinct tops and bottoms in the roman alphabet. they are described below in the illustration as:
      • single point
      • line / curve
      • curve
      • line
      • double point
      • triple point

      the 6 distinct tops and bottoms of the roman alphabet

  1. the order in which these 6 tops and bottoms appear is illustrated below (and could also be 1/5 2 3 4 5/1 6, depending on how you look at it).the order in which distinct tops and bottoms appear in alphabetical order

in conclusion, not only are there only 6 distinct tops and bottoms, but the order in which they appear creates this interesting pattern. these numbers or shapes could be used to represent the alphabet as a whole.