Welcome to Rita Silk - Hand dyed accessories, clothing, fine art wall hangings, and sculpture by Rita Bernstein


About the Artist - Rita Bernstein

Most of my studio activities are a preparation for some outdoor production session. I have a rig that I take with me. In this rig, are my dyes,  brushes, vessels for mixing / diluting dyes, and Silk. Some silks become accessories, apparel, large murals or banners.

I was introduced to silk when I was two years of age by my grandfather. He was a master tailor, Talmudic scholar, a Kabbalist, and a factory owner. Grandpop designed and produced silk lampshades for forty-five years. His factory in Philadelphia was my favorite place. There were huge pantries filled with bolts of silk.  I was electrified by the welding of the lampshade frames in metal. Completed, these wire skeletons became the armatures for Grandpop’s elegantly crafted silk art works.

As a teenager, I found the recipe for batik, with  silk from Grandpop’s factory in my cellar. Using candle wax and India ink, my first design was on silk. Now, silk dying has become a part of my daily life. This required research of dyes and silk coloration techniques. I have traveled extensively to see silk cultivated and produced. Much of my earnings have been spent on silk and supplies to create hundreds of artistic, portfolio works every year. My own sculpture was no doubt, an outgrowth of the early experiences watching three-dimensional things made, and my great attraction to metal arts.

My development artistically took many directions, and my work expressed itself continuously. Later, I went to Moore College of Art. I explored jewelry-making, watercolor, painting/drawing, 3-dimensional design, and photography. Each media captured my imagination. Each has been an expression that I have maintained over the last thirty-five years. Eventually, I went to the University of Pennsylvania for my Masters of Fine Arts in Sculpture, working primarily in stone and metal. The oldest, however, and most characteristic of my studio expressions remains my Silk Textile Dying.

I love exploring nature, bringing fabric and dyes to unusual  locations. Then I set to work. I have climbed out to the end of a long jetty in Cape May, New Jersey. I have created many yards of fabric on beaches everywhere I have traveled from Greece and Israel to the Florida Gulf Coast. Mountains, forests, and mesas each present different surfaces and textures on which to paint, and about which to paint. The surface, whether it is seashells or tree bark is part of the process. I look carefully at the landscape around me to feed myself information about design and color. I believe that my eyes document and my heart stores all the information, then my hands pour forth the product.Hand dyed silk apparel by Rita Bernstein, Scarves, jackets, clothing

Scenery and objects are often only “recordable” by making an imprint of their presence. For example, while working in an apple orchard in Pennsylvania, I found a pastoral scene in which the old drooping tree had shed its fruits all over the ground. The apples were beginning to grow old, and would soon deteriorate and disappear. I had no urge to draw the apple tree or its apples, but rather I wanted to play with this moment and record it in some way. So I draped several yards of white silk over the many fallen apples on the ground and briskly roller over their lumpy textures to record their presence with dyes. That began a theme and design on the fabric that may or may not ever reveal the apple itself, but will always be related to it.

Aspen trees of Telluride, Colorado with their deeply etched deer markings are scattered all over the Wilson Mesa. I stayed there for several summers to teach textile arts. The trees visual patterns continued to interest me and I wanted to record them. So, I wrapped and clothed the trees in silk and painted over the textures. The resultant abstract pattern and shades of grays and blues made it impossible to detect the Aspens. However, they were the inspiration and these fabrics replicated their exteriors.

Each artwork is a story in itself. Nature tells us stories. If we listen and look very carefully, devotedly, it can heal wounds, and refresh the mind and heart. All of the outdoors, any forest or beach, any garden or rock is a teacher, teaching beauty and design principles. Nature is my greatest teacher, amongst many other inspirational humans who have been my teacher. Great teachers in my life have told many astounding stories to me and these men and women came through my life, through their presence, their music, art, and their humility about their own journeys.

The stories there are to tell cannot all be told in one media, I love to tell verbal stories, and singing stories. Often the best stories are of the ways we wind through life’s’ many corridors and find our way. Sometimes we follow a thread, no, a filament of a thread, which no one else can see, but, ourselves, and sometimes we ourselves cannot see it. Sometimes our self-made shadows block the light and other times our own brightness and clarity form another kind of illusion and we still lose our way. Being lost is not always a bad thing. Spirit always knows, and it is the task of our personalities to find that deepest self and fully plum it’s many resources.

While in college, I studied art education; I read A.S. Neill’s Summerhill and realized that he was writing ideas that resonated within me, and had not been mentioned in the whole of educational philosophy previous to his work. He was saying YES, kids want to discover, move, explore, taste, touch, redo, deconstruct, rebuild, sing and yes they should be able to do this. I agreed.

I immediately began a correspondence with Neill, and shortly thereafter, he invited me to his school. I engaged all of my attention into getting the fellowship offered at my college to travel to Europe, I won it. I did not agree with or even understand some of the ramifications of Neill’s philosophy until later, but I liked this direction.

Amongst the teachers who touched my work and life was MAURICE LOWE, and ROBERT ENGMAN, two incredible men and my major critics at University of Pennsylvania. Each pragmatic in their own style, Maury taught me most clearly about the spirit in every form. The particles of energies and the assemblage of DNA that inhabit all form and reverberate in even the student products we were struggling to fabricate. He showed me in words and sketches the profound essence in all things, manifested in all activities. It was the” inside–out” concept of design. His love and wisdom showed me that the work was beautiful even in its least manifest forms. Engman’s lesson although very different was equally useful to the artistic path. He said, “what you make is just the droppings, the real essence of the work is the time and space you create in your life to do the work. The objects are in the doing, all the products great or poor are just the result of your polishing your own life.”

My spiritual Journey was a parallel universe to my creative works. As I unfurled as an artist, I also met places in  my heart and soul that needed to be recognized. REB ZALMAN SCHACTER SHALOMI brought a reverberating and enlivening acquaintance with my lineage as a Jewish Woman. He reunited me with my parental and ancestral inheritance and he gave me the gift of his friendship and Joy full wisdom about ecumenical living. He continues to be a gift, his voice his twinkling eyes and his compassion are with me in my heart always. Later I had the privilege of studying YOGA and its profound dimensions with MA JAYA BHAGAVATI. This era and its teachings enlarged my perspective on life and taught me new disciplines and helped me rid myself of many illusions about the journey and the appreciation of LIFE.

Throughout my adult life, I have continued the tradition I began thirty years ago of performing arts for children. I am a sensational and naughty Ms. Rita Rabbit. She has all of the characteristics of the silliest, direct, kindest and most adorable of pets and stuffed animals of my experience. She has entertained thousands of youngsters of all ages, and she is a little batty too, but she always has sweets with her. The issue of sweets is no joke; I discovered long ago that the “Ms. Rita” mortifies teenage boys. It is only Ms. Rabbit’s candies, which win over the boys and the guy's on the street. The youngest and interestingly the eldest of my Bunny fans are usually longing for her candor and affection. Many is the time I have been in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, when I visited elderly and disabled persons that my very real “not realness” has permitted people to ask for or give the love they really always want. We all want! Mostly I want to share the love in my heart with others. I know LOVE IS ALL THERE IS…. The Beatles were right!


Content & images © Rita Bernstein