A Suffern Resident Reflects on the Fabric of Her Life

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Claudia Judelman

Claudia Judelman

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I recently sat down with Claudia Judelman of Montebello, NY over a very strong Caffe Mistro at Starbucks in Nanuet, NY. She is owner of Claudia Judelman Interior Design Services.

Rebelious Years

In 1974 there were two things that Claudia Judelman’s Mom asked of her when she left for Israel at 18 years of age.

“Please come back home and don’t get married.” she pleaded.

Judelman married the first man she met in Israel when she landed and although she returned home after her one year commitment of six months study in Jerusalem and six months in a kibbutz, she shortly thereafter left home honoring neither of her Mother’s wishes.

While in Israel, Judelman cooked from 4:00 am to Noon followed by field work picking tomatoes. “I made the curtains, the bedding, and the garden. Every meal from scratch–I even plucked chickens.” she laughs.

Art and Social Change

Judelman grew up in Yonkers, New York, on the border of Hastings-on-Hudson. She remembers her maternal Grandmother with much love and adoration. “She wore Chanel Number 5, called bras “brassieres”, had gorgeous hands…the smoothest skin you ever felt and was round and yummy,” she remembers. From her grandmother she learned to knit, a skill that she embellished through the years.

In high school she fell deeply in love. Not with a boy but with art. “I thought my teacher Mr. Kanashiro was a major grown-up. He was completing his Masters at Parsons and seemed so accomplished. He was my muse. He really changed my life. I knew then that I wanted to study art and at the same time change the world.”

That same summer, full of enthusiasm of a 17 year old and with a somewhat disinterested teacher, changing the world began while assisting at an urban Head start school. Judelman became deeply distressed when the school children drew pictures of their families without a Dad. “I suddenly grew a heightened awareness and became outraged at the difference between rich and poor.”

Judelman moved all the desks out of the way and let the kids paint on the floor. There she realized, the disappearance of the Dads was not due to parental absence at home, but due to tiny pallets. “The paper was too small,” the children explained. “Here on the floor, we can fit everyone in our family.”

Canada and Israel

Judelman was one of 30 students chosen to attend a dual program of Environmental Planning and Art at Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia College of Art in Canada. “I only wanted to walk around with the graphic arts kids, they smelled different. They had gorgeous brushes and paints.” she remembers.

When she jumped at the opportunity to study and live in Israel, both in the city while studying, and later as a kibbutz member, the colors enchanted her. The summer sky, the water, the fields, the desert landscapes all kept her busy sketching and taking mental “pictures”. She thrived in this colorful land. “Even the color of air was different,” she says.

Back in the States

Back in North America, she continued her studies in Art, Design and later, Interior Design.

In 1988 Judelman took a job with Laura Ashley to launch the first home stylist program in North America. “I handled all the room sets for all stores, trained all personnel and developed an interior design business for Laura Ashley in the US.”

Laura Ashley herself at just twenty eight in 1953 started with intricate patchworks made into scarves and aprons, popular in those days. She shortly thereafter moved to Wales and started Victorian and very feminine fabrics—still the look of Laura Ashley present day.

Judelman traveled to London and Wales to experience what had inspired Laura Ashley herself, by visiting her Manors, meeting her Design team and the staff who worked to produce the custom products for shops all over the globe. She was in awe of the European craftspeople, and the personalized attention and pride in their finished work. She still loves classic design, but with her own twist and whimsy. She only uses workrooms in New York that can produce projects with European techniques and hand finishing.

For over a decade she worked with the London team to build the Laura Ashley brand. She remembers the style to be captivating. She worked at grand estates in Westchester, Connecticut, Manhattan and later Bergen County. Always bringing her own interpretation, and adding her own techniques to fuse the UK with the more modern and simplified American style. She worked for Tommy Hilfiger and Katie Couric among dozens of clients.

“As a Professional, I know the right questions to ask a client, before going ahead with any room renovation,” said Judelman. “I remember one time a kitchen designer created a gorgeous floorplan and chose very expensive cabinetry and fixtures with every new gadget imaginable only to find out, after orders were in place, that the client was only 4 foot 9 and could reach none of the cabinetry!”

In 2001 Laura Ashley left the United States and Judelman continued her passion for color, fabric and design on her own. “My first consultation, particularly with a new client, is an in depth discussion of their needs and wants. I am a very good listener.” she smiles. “I don’t have a fragile ego…my role is to have my client achieve their goal with whatever styles, fabrics, furniture, paintings, feelings, expressions they love and want.”

“Always close to my heritage, I recently began pursuing what my grandmother taught me long ago—knitting. I buy small batch, kettle -dyed yarn; pure organic merino wools and cashmere. I adore Madelinetosh, Blue Sky’s Alpaca, Malabrigo and many organic yarns. My favorite non-work pastime is browsing Ravelry and Purl Soho, and Jimmy Beans Wool websites for inspiration and ideas. I contribute to knitting publications and was noted in Jimmy Bean’s for a hat I made for my husband Barry. The Zapata pattern from Jenny Watson’s book Mirasol Designer Mini Knits was 9,072 stitches!” she explains.

To Judelman, knitting is the act of literally creating fabric with her hands! It’s a very meditative process. She loves making knitted gifts, wrapping each gift painstakingly in white tissue with vintage buttons from her Mother’s button box, then neatly tying them with yarn. She works on several projects at one time. It requires calculation, experimentation, patience and skill. Solving the problems that arise and making something with her hands is tremendously gratifying. Sometimes she uses hand-painted yarns, and lets them “do all the work”! Although she has always been a self described “tool snob” with art supplies and knitting needles, she still uses many needles that belonged to her Grandmother and Mother. Sometimes using vintage patterns from them, sourcing yarns to substitute for the ones they used so long ago, she attempts to re-create the heirloom pieces they made. When not concentrating on stitch calculations her mind wonders what may have filled their minds while their hands made these very same hats, sweaters or garments. She knows they had no tolerance for mistakes so she has done her own fair share of ripping out!

Her grandmother would have accepted nothing less.

You can find Claudia Judelman Interior Design Services on her business Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaJudelmanInteriorDesignServices where she will be discussing easy design ideas, use of color, affordable finds and how to love the space you live in everyday.