Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pamela Zimmerman, Artist

Welcome from Washington, North Carolina, USA, internationally acclaimed Fiber Artist Pamela Zimmerman! Pamela is well known for her innovative ingenuity, extraordinary design, and captivating weaves. Her handiwork is amazing and you will be enchanted by her creativity…

What is your favorite fiber to work with?

It is really hard to pick just one. It sort of depends on where I am.  The challenge of playing with all fibers is wonderful. I really love horsehair, though.

Where do you obtain materials for your creations?

All sorts of places. I love recycled fibers, like telephone wire and old guitar strings, I collect vines from the woods and leaves from my garden; I use the little pieces that loom weavers cut off their looms (called thrums,) and metal strapping, old venetian blinds.  I was challenged to incorporate my weavings into the centerpieces for my niece's wedding recently, using materials found in my mother's garden and action figures.  All sorts of places.

I love your horsehair creations. Curious about the horsehair you use.
Do you have your own horses or do you buy horsehair?

Most of the hair I use I buy; from the same places you might purchase a tail extension for your horse. The hair is clean, cut to length, and a very good value. I am confident that it is harvested in a humane fashion and that it is a "green" resource. 

When someone wants a custom piece, though, I use their horse's hair.  It is more difficult to use that kind of hair, because it is not all cut to length, it tapers on the ends, and is not ordered in the same way that a purchased "tail" is. 

Does the horsehair have to be pretreated? If so, how?

I ask for people who send me hair for custom creations to make sure it is clean, washed and treated just the way it would be if they were caring for their horse.  This is very important, and contributes to the long life of the item I make, using the hair. I don't do anything further to it before I weave with it.  When it is finished, I often treat it with wax, to help preserve it. 

What do you create with horsehair?

I weave baskets from it, using the technique of coiling, which is a very ancient technique, recorded to be at least 9,000 years old. People use the tiny baskets for miniature displays, doll houses, collectibles. I make them into jewelry; my favorite is the cell phone charm or zipper pull.  I also put them into little lockets for wearing on chains or as earrings.  Larger decor pieces are my horsehair wave baskets, centered on a piece of stoneware pottery, which I also make.  That style of sculptural basket has taken awards at Fine Art Shows.

May I send you my horse’s hair for a creation?

Sure. The hair must be clean, and ordered (not in a bird's nest J). I am happy to send instructions to anyone who is interested. 

Working with pine needles, small threads, and horsehair must be tedious. What’s your secret for manipulating fibers/materials?

It's funny, "tedious" is the word that people consistently use when they watch me weaving with horsehair. I don't find it tedious. I find it soothing, rhythmic, and fun.  The way many people find knitting, crochet, or whittling.  Horsehair is harder on my fingers than other fibers, because of the small scale, but the process is far from boring. I don't really have any secrets.  I learned to coil using a popular book, and soon discovered my own techniques and tricks - but I have taught many weavers, sharing what I know. In 1998, I started the Pine Needle Group, an online cyber guild, and we all regularly share information about coiling.  Usual horsehair is a bit more challenging than coiling with most other materials, and there are no real books that teach it.  I have not found a teacher (besides me) who teaches it, either. Traditionally, it was a Native American practice, attempted by only the most experienced weavers.  Baskets from horsehair demonstrated a basketmaker’s mastery of her art, being able to execute it in such a slippery, springy, minute material.  So I had to develop my own techniques and figure out what worked.  I have often thought of writing my own book to share my particular techniques, but have never finished it.  I have taught it before, though, and I have several kits with instructions for sale in my, and some of these are for working with horsehair.  I have also published all kinds of tips and tricks in my blog.

Describe your studio….

I do actually have a studio (it also houses the washer/dryer) and the fibers have currently taken over.  They hang from the ceiling and cover the walls. My award ribbons are strung diagonally across it all.  I have cubbies full of half finished works, beads, hardware, small power tools, different adhesives, waxes, polishes, driftwood, fiber scraps...It is pretty full of stuff.  Most of my weaving right now either happens at the kitchen table, or in the open air.

What type of ambience drives your creative inspirations?

I weave with whatever is available; wherever it is available, and my surroundings don't seem to drive it is pretty hard to NOT do it.  I cannot sit and watch television, I have to be weaving (or folding laundry, maybe.)  I get ideas from many places, my children, other artwork I see, books I read, a pottery fragment, some fiber I find that I have never used many ideas.

Do you have a favorite creation of your own design?  

My favorite series is the Catching the Moon series, and my favorite piece in that series is probably the one on the front of my  website, titled Catching the Pale, Pale Moon.

I ordered clay work from your Etsy page. I love your horse art. How do you create these pieces?

I started using clay in my work, weaving around little clay feet and faces that I hand sculpted. Later, I learned to make them more polished by making and using molds.  I made the basket bases out of clay because the hardest part (for many people) in basket making is starting the basket.  It is really hard to make "something from nothing."  Using a base gives a "jumping off" place.  Lots of coilers only make baskets on bases, and have never started a basket "from scratch."  I get ideas for motifs from fellow basket makers, customers request designs that they cannot find anywhere else.  Some of the designs I create from scratch, using various methods, but some are commercially available rubber stamps, impressed into the wet clay. Horses are some of my most popular motifs.

What awards have you won?

I have won over 500 awards at various Fine Art Shows and competitions, and frankly then I sort of stopped counting.  My peers, basketmakers, have awarded me many at annual convention exhibitions.  But some of the awards I am most proud of are being a NICHE awards finalist in 2009, and being selected by the World Craft Council, division of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO.) as a “North American Craftsman” in their Gallery of Fiber Arts online. Not very many artists are shown there.

Where are you currently exhibiting?

I currently have work at two small galleries in North Carolina, and on my website.  I am taking a hiatus from creating large art pieces, and am focusing on my Etsy shops. I have four of them, and they take quite a bit of time.

Connect with Pamela….


Hayley Mullin - sockprints said...

Great article and beautiful work!

Unknown said...

What a terrific article. Certainly enjoyed every word.

Pamela Zimmerman said...

Thanks so much, Gina, for the feature, you do a lovely job!

Earl said...

Great article.

roberta said...

i am very fortunate to be able to say 'i knew her when...' sitting at her cluttered kitchen table and yakking and watching her work. handheld art is so incredibly special and her work is so personal.
roberta miller
'way small potatoes'

Unknown said...

Fantastic article! Beautiful baskets!

Midnightcoiler said...

Lovely interview. Gorgeous work by a talented artist. Her horsehair work is amazing, and how she gets her fingers to work in such a small scale is impressive. I am a happy owner of a few of her horsehair pieces, and just love them. :)

Unknown said...

Wonderful article! Pamela is such a great artist!

Pamela Zimmerman said...

Thanks so much for the great interview and lovely comments, i am honored!

Kathy Terry said...

I loved reading this.

Jaci said...

Pamela, loved reading this, especially about the horsehair - so interesting!

baymoondesign said...

Really interesting to read about horse hair in your work! I love your style.

Unknown said...

Wonderful interview. Pamela, your work is amazing and so fascinating to the core! Thanks so much for sharing your story and talents.

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