Talking Tapestries with Dan's Papers Cover Artist Pamela Topham
Pamela Topham has been featured on the cover of Dan’s Papers more than one dozen times. What can we say? We have good taste! This week’s cover corresponds with the opening, on Saturday, October 21, of Pamela Topham: Tapestry Visions at East Hampton’s Guild Hall.
What was the inspiration for this particular piece?
“Upper Sagg Pond, Autumn Light,” is one of a series of Sagaponack tapestries woven over the last 20 years. I was drawn to this perspective from the north of Sagg Pond as it interfaces with Sagg Swamp. The light, textures and hues of the trees, water and sky are interpreted in hues and textures of silk and wool. I love the shadows and the swampiness!
How do you go about creating these beautiful tapestry pieces?
The cover tapestry is woven in two layers on a wood-frame loom originally designed by furniture designer David Ebner, more recently made by woodworker Jim Ritter. Some of the East End vistas especially call to be woven in multiple layers. First the back layer, a distant landscape, is woven on fine sturdy cotton warp on the Purple Heart frame loom. Then the front layer is warped in fine silk and woven with fine silk and wool. For this I referenced multiple sketches and photographs.
What fibers do you use in your tapestries?
Over years of weaving I have found extraordinary sources of fiber and am always on the look out for more. Mostly I weave with fine wool that comes in 320 colors from Australia, wool from Norway, Sweden, the U.S. and England. Most of the silk is dyed in Vancouver, Canada. I also use some exquisite silk from Japan.
Are there specific places you go on the East End to find inspiration?
There are so many places I’m enamored with on the East End. I’ve done many tapestries from around Accabonac Harbor, Three Mile Harbor and our coastline in places like Shadmoor Cliffs, our inlets, waterways and farm fields. I revisit many favorites and find new ones.
I understand you work at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. Does working there influence or inspire your tapestries?
Every day I’m blessed to experience a panoramic view of the acres of vines, the distant trees and the expanse of the sweeping sky with its subtleties and drama while also observing the vines changes as they go through the seasons. The camaraderie of the staff and the interesting people I meet are a counterbalance to my solitary creative time in the studio.
Are there any other artists working in this genre who inspire you, and/or any artists you recommend our readers look up?
I’ve been part of a group called the “Wednesday Group.” We hold workshops with two master weavers, Susan Maffei and Archie Brennan. The other weavers in this workshop—and certainly the master weavers—are an amazing inspiration to the quality of my work. I’m humbled by their mastery of tapestry. Archie says, “If you are in a hurry, tapestry is not for you.” In this region, the contemporary landscape artist I admire most is April Gornik; and historic artist is Thomas Moran.
What can you tell us about the upcoming exhibit at Guild Hall?
The exhibit encompasses work from 20 years of tapestries and drawings mostly of Eastern Long Island and a few from the Southwest U.S. from three cross country sketching tours, mostly in National Parks. You’ll see both traditional and non-traditional tapestry techniques, as well as layered tapestries. You can find at least 10 Dan’s Papers covers too!
“Pamela Topham: Tapestry Visions” is on view at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton, October 21–December 31. Visit guildhall.com for details. Learn more about Pamela Topham and her work at pamelatopham.com.