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Artisan Spotlight: ELAN GERZON

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Elan Gerzon is a weaver and educator born and raised in Israel, and the USA. He began his professional work in sustainable agriculture in 2004, under the direction of world-renowned ethnobotanist, Dr. Elaine Solowey. After studying at Tel Aviv University's Arava Institute, he became Dr. Solowey's field manager to 40 experimental acres of endangered, indigenous fruit trees and medicinal plants in the Arava Desert, Israel. In 2009 he shifted his focus to incorporate traditional textile arts, when he was adopted by Faiza Abu Amra, of the Azazme Bedouin tribe, and began an apprenticeship with her. Faiza is one of the last remaining master Bedouin weavers in the Negev Desert. In 2014 he befriended Israeli weaver, Yael Beit-Av. She taught him the lost art of supplementary warp-faced pick-up patterns, and warping. Elan worked with her on several collaborative educational projects. During this time he introduced natural and aneline dying, and began the vision of an inter-cultural weaver's collective. He also studied with Joy Totah Hilden, author of "Bedouin Weaving of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors." Since then, Elan has continued to develop his own unique approach to weaving as a creative process with an ancient spiritual foundation.

In 2017 he completed a museum commission for Paul Bernard Exhibits, an internationally acclaimed Museum Design Firm contracted to build a living museum inside the palace walls of Al-Turraif, - one of the main palaces of the original royal Saudi family - recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in Saudi Arabia, and considered the largest clay-built city in the world. His work is now on display inside the Al-Tturaif Museum, among the re-built ruins of the ancient city of Ad-Dirriyah. Elan's textiles are also commissioned for ceremonies that mark life passages such as weddings, births, funerals, bar/bat mitzvahs, prayer rugs, altar coverings, and a wide range of textiles for interior design and decoration. He served for 3 years as Youth Educational Director for The Española Valley Fiber Arts Center, in New Mexico, where he taught an inter-disciplinary approach to fiber arts, for youth in under-served schools and communities. Elan now manages Alhambra Inc, an Oriental & Tribal Rug Store in Taos. He has taught weaving seminars at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. As Razala Weaving's founder, Elan now continues to teach independent programs that use traditional Middle Eastern Weaving to bridge the intersection between Judaic studies, sustainability, art, and inter-faith work. He is multi-lingual and resides in Santa Fe, sharing his craft and the vision of Razala Weaving with anyone who articulates a desire to work together.

My Story:

"I grew up in a home of artists and educators, to a mother who grew up in Queens, New York, and a father who was born and raised on kibbutz Maayan Tzvi (Deer Spring). The kibbutz was a small coastal farming village, founded by my grandparents who fled to what was then British occupied Palestine, just before World War Two. My brother and I would also come to be born on this kibbutz.

We left Israel as an immediate family in 1990, at the onset of the Gulf War, to take care of my grandparents during their remaining years in Queens. Having lived in the USA for half my life, Israel Palestine was always the place I would return to both as a child and as an adult, the only place that ever really felt like home to me. Years later I delved into agriculture as a way of life, and a profession. At 19 years old, this love for food, for seeds, for stories, for studying the origins of things and our relationship with it all, brought me to the Arava Desert. In the Desert, surrounded by the absence of life, one can begin to acknowledge the sometimes terrifying truth that life is a gift.

I eventually worked under a professor of mine who became a dear friend and mentor, Dr. Elaine Solowey, and joined her mission to domesticate indigenous, wild fruit trees to thrive in one of the driest, lowest, and most salty places on Earth, the Arava. But my desire to make art and to find a way to express the beauty, the struggle, the inexpressible realities that time lends us all, was always boiling beneath the surface of my life.

Years later, I began to develop a fascination with textile arts. I had not realized at the time that this fascination would become a love affair that blossomed into my life’s work. My love for the natural world, and the desert, my hope to find the original people of that land, coupled with the even more unlikely hope that I might learn from these people how to weave textiles from these people I had yet to meet. It all miraculously came together, when I first met the ground loom, upon being introduced to Faiza Abu Amra, a Bedouin matriarch of royal descent from the Azazme clan.

Faiza would become my first weaving teacher and my adopted grandmother. Only after this began to take shape, I learned that my family name Gerzon, originates from the Gershonim, who were a Levite tribe given the task of caring for and maintaining the textiles that covered the tabernacle. In meeting Faiza, and then learning the origin of my family name, I knew I had found my calling.

I learned from Faiza that weaving has always been and will always be a resilient act of soul-filled expression and cultural remembrance, and that weaving is the expression of a profoundly spiritual way of life, when tied to its original stories. It is a process of tying the threads of our lives onto much older inter-connected strings of stories that reach back in time towards our origin, while striving to become true human beings.

I have since come to approach the art of weaving as an art of being in service to an endangered way of life whose strings are still connected to the ineffable and unconquerable Divine living in the heart of all things. I continue to learn how weaving is a form of praise, and an expression of gratitude. Like all art, it’s about understanding how to work within borders, and how to go beyond them from within, allowing for infinite possibilities of growth to be held together by those on the fringe, as each string, and each weaver expresses the ineffable with just the right amount of tension.

In this way weaving becomes a natural search and a prayer that joins together the past, present, and future, giving us a constant chance to restore this world, full of the grace, possibility, beauty, and hope that is as old as sand.

A few years after meeting Faiza, I met Yael, who had been weaving for a number of years. We shared our unlikely passion for traditional Middle Eastern weaving, and for the culture it represents. I apprenticed with her and collaborated on several cross-cultural projects she had already well under way, supporting Bedouin women through restoring this dying craft. After a few years of building my own weaving practice in New Mexico, we re-joined forces to found Razala Weaving, a truly unique cross-cultural collective, in devotion to the textile traditions of Israel & the Middle East, and to a re-emergence of the matriarchal foundations which they express.

It is my most heartfelt wish that each thread warped and woven on our looms will assist people in deepening their relationship with their origins, so that they can best offer their unique gifts to their communities and the world at large, each in their own unique way."

Written by: Elan Gerzon


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