Berit Engen WOOF & D'RASH - Weaving a Thousand Jewish Tapestries

‘Woof’ (or ‘weft’) is the technical term for the colored yarn that is woven into the vertical warp of grey threads attached to a loom or frame. ‘D’rash’ is a Hebrew term meaning both inquiry and commentary. It is the yarn of the woof that makes the picture itself and becomes the artistic interpretation, my woven d’rash.

I weave almost exclusively with linen because I love the way the fibers reflect light, like dew at dawn. Scandinavian linen yarn is known for its high quality and numerous and beautiful colors suitable for fine-arts weaving.

In order to have an extensive body of woven commentaries, I chose to weave small-scale tapestries, most of them about 9” x 6” or 8” x 7”. To date, my project consists of about 430 pieces. Each tapestry takes about five days to complete, and each is one-of-a-kind.

But more important, I like the intimacy of small, finely woven pictures; fiber, colors, technique, structure, technical expressions, and image are all seen and experienced in the same moment.  I compare my tapestries to Japanese Haiku: formally constrained by a miniature size, imagistic and focused, yet allusive.

My tapestries are woven in a specific time and place (the USA since 2007) and are colored by my specific Jewish experience, a tiny and subjective part of the larger Jewish story. But in my unfinished, ongoing project, I find inspiration in all that the Jewish experience encompasses: from the laws of the Torah to the words of living poets, from the chanting of ancient prayers to contemporary liturgical compositions, from the ethical wisdom of the prophets to the continuing commitment to repair the world, from romantic Sephardic songs to the incisiveness of Yiddish curses, from ancestor’s wandering in the desert to more recent relatives’ challenges, and so much more.

With my many midrashic woofs I want to call out my love for Judaism.

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