Inspiration in Memorium

Today, on the 25th anniversary of her death, I want to honor the memory of a singularly gifted artist, and even better human, my sister, Rachel. (Rachel was actually my half-sister, but since I only have half-siblings, I have no distinction to make.) Rachel made incredible paintings, sketches, collages, beaded and hand-cut jewelry made from the antlers deer dropped, and these whimsical soft-sculpture animals she called “Rhapsodazzles.” Since my work is now dedicated to telling the stories of women whose stories should not be lost to history, it seemed fitting that today I tell a very small piece of Rachel’s story.

When I was just a kid, I worked for Rachel and her husband in their shop, which was in an old Chapel, and at craft fairs. Rachel taught me to bead jewelry and how to close the jump ring on a necklace or earrings. Her fantastic eye for color and attention to detail still inform how I see at everything to this day. I must also say Rachel’s endless imagination was matched only by her self-deprecating sense of humor, which is a trait I love and admire and strive to carry on.

Rachel died (of natural causes) at the age of 32, in 1991, before we all had the internet. (I was 13.) Her creations were never sold on Etsy, but at craft fairs; her customers never ‘pinned’ her work to a wall where the whole world could see it, they — and I — just wore it, hopefully happily. I wish there was a public record of her artistic contributions to the world, but since there isn’t, here is this small post — a tribute, if you will, to a fantastic woman and artist, who has inspired me in countless ways. I really wish we could have lived and worked together longer.


Rachel Leda Berman Janse, 1976. Photo by Alice Berman.