The most difficult part of creating the tapestry featured on this week’s cover was weaving the snow. The artist, Pamela Topham, had to find just the right whites. So she did what any dedicated artist would do. “I ordered wool from the UK, Norway and Australia.” But that snow has a reflective quality to it. To capture that, “Various weights of silk in grays, blues, palest pink and yellow were ordered from a dyer in Vancouver.” It’s that dedication to craft that separates the wheat from the chaff.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
Long Beach in Sag Harbor has been a place of constant inspiration and pleasure to me for many years. A few years ago I wove a Long Beach tapestry, “Water Music,” that came from the sounds of water and the feelings provoked by early morning walks at Long Beach. The cover tapestry, “February 2015,” in contrast, was inspired by winter weather so uncommonly severe for the East End that the seascape was silent and frozen from the shore to the horizon, covered with snow and much too cold for a walk. During the January big chill of 2018 I visited the three cedars of this tapestry and they seemed the same.
How did you start creating tapestries?
After being exposed to the glorious textiles of Guatemala for a winter, I arrived home to note that Guild Hall had a tapestry class. That was the beginning of a long and winding road of various teachers, books, self-teaching and finally winding up with the great privilege of joining Master Weavers Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei’s Wednesday group tapestry workshop.
Is there anywhere locally that aspiring tapestry artists can hone their craft?
I’m unaware of any local tapestry classes currently. One could find tapestry workshops and exhibitions through the American Tapestry Alliance.
You’ve lived in many uncommonly beautiful places and traveled to find others. Is there one place that stands out, from an artistic perspective, as most beautiful or inspiring?
Living in an uncommonly beautiful place such as the East End—a land of sand and sea, waterways, farmland and abundant vistas to inspire many an artist—it’s interesting to find other compelling sites. In the last few years I’ve gone on sketching tours on cross-country road trips, visited National Parks and enjoyed places in between. I’ve also been an Artist in Residence in Costa Rica and the Czech Republic. All these places have fed my artist’s visions. While I’m enthralled with desert plateaus, canyons and mountains, Eastern Long Island keeps me constantly finding new sights that feed my creativity.
You also do commissions. Could you talk about that process?
Commissions are a collaboration between the artist and client that provides an opportunity to create a work that is especially meaningful to the client for a particular location. After a discussion about the size, budget, schedule and subject of the tapestry, usually I do on-site, colored pencil drawings. I have also worked from multiple photographs of a particular place from the travels of a client. After the drawing is approved, a deposit is given and the tapestry is on my schedule and the silk and wool is ordered. When the tapestry is completed it is delivered and installed.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
The extensive exhibition at the Guild Hall Museum last fall required two years of preparation. I’m still in the process of returning borrowed work and delivering sold tapestries. There are no immediate plans for another exhibition, though I’m looking for an appropriate venue for the future. Meanwhile, I’m weaving a layered tapestry of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park in Washington, where I hiked years ago.
To see more of Pamela Topham’s work, visit pamelatopham.com.