Beth Ahabah Voices: Rena Berlin
June 19, 2017
by Rena Berlin
I’m a weaver. I was a middle school social studies teacher, an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program coordinator, a Director of Education with the Virginia Holocaust Museum. Now I am a weaver. My husband, Bert, bought me a rigid heddle loom meant for a child, or new weaver, many years ago. I taught myself how to weave over time, making many mistakes that made my pieces interesting. At that time I didn’t know there was actually a weaving technique which highlighted free form weaving, Saori weaving. I played with the loom occasionally, but it sat around ignored most of the time as I didn’t have time to spend on anything “frivolous
Then I retired. If you are retired you know that retiring is a gift of time and I am spending a lot of this gift on weaving scarves. I never wore scarves until I started to weave them! I bought books, watched videos online, experimented and found my style. I wove on that gift loom until recently when, thanks to gift cards from my family and a rebate from Amazon, I bought a new loom. My new Ashford loom is about four times the width of the first, weaves quickly and has brought me great joy; it has merged my love of color and texture and my desire to create. I said the Shehecheyanu when I warped it for the first time, a blessing for something new, a blessing for my life.
I love putting one color next to the other and seeing what happens when they interlace, first the warp (the long threads) then the weft (the threads that go across) and the colors morph. I think I can predict how the colors will change, and I can sometimes, but other times one color pops, one color moves back and seeing the interplay makes my heart sing.
Weaving is about color, but also about texture. I use materials made of fibers from llamas, alpacas, sheep and I use cotton yarn and tee shirt material and ribbon to change the texture of the material I am creating. Sometimes I weave plaids, sometimes stripes, and sometimes Saori weaving takes over and I let my hands guide me and the color and texture pull me into the scarf.
Often when I am finished with a scarf I wear it in front a mirror and think that I love it so I will keep it, but reality is that I have one neck and I have made many scarves. Each scarf is a one of a kind and though I know I can always make myself one to keep I also know I won’t. I donate scarves to organizations to raffle off and once a year, in November, I show my scarves at a Southside coffee shop where they hang on the wall and people purchase them.
All of this happiness from a gift given to me by my husband so many years ago. B’ruch Hashem.
“Voices” is a series written by and about the members of Beth Ahabah. If you would like to submit an article about a friend or family member at Beth Ahabah, or your own adventures, avocations or interesting career, please contact Lori Allen in the Temple office at email@example.com.