Berit Engen WEFT and D'RASH: A Thousand Jewish Tapestries

WEFT and D'RASH  Weaving a Thousand Jewish Tapestries

“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 weft that makes the picture itself and becomes the artistic interpretation, my woven d’rash.

I weave almost exclusively with linen yarn 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 pictorial commentaries, I chose to weave small-scale tapestries, most of them about 9” x 6” or 8” x 7”. Through 2019, my project consists of about 540 pieces. Each tapestry takes about five days to complete, and each is one-of-a-kind.

More importantly, I like the intimacy of small, finely woven pictures: one sees and experiences fiber, colors, technique, structure, technical expressions, and image all 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 ancestors’ wandering in the desert to recent attempts of renewal in synagogues and on mountain tops.

With my many light-reflecting midrashic tapestries, I weave my love of Judaism.

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