Pamela Palma, The Accidental Weaver
My textile journey began with a childhood fascination for all things made of yarn, thread, and cloth. I watched my elders create marvelous things and begged them to teach me. I was 4 when I first designed, sewed, and knitted outfits for my baby doll – without a pattern. I simply imagined what I wanted and then made it. I thought this was just normal. As time passed, my interests grew. I learned to use a sewing machine, designed and made my own clothes. I designed and hand embroidered boho bags before it was a thing. I made up sweater patterns and knit them, wore them to school. I have always loved being unique, having my own look.
My family did not weave. But like most girls of my generation, I wove a thousand looped potholders. I was fascinated with all the color combination possibilities – stripes, checks plaids! My design creativity took over, and abandoning the loops, I began to weave squares of woolen cloth with balls of yarn left over from sweaters and scarves. I sewed all the squares together and made a patchwork blanket. I was less than 10 years old.
I didn’t weave again until much later. In fact, I avoided weaving like it was a plague.
I was in my 20s, living in New Mexico, surrounded by beautiful Navajo weavings. I had a pottery studio then; I was making pots and fiber art and raising my child. My house came with a small loom which I found offensive and gave away immediately. Soon, a colleague moved in next door with a huge floor loom. She tried to entice me to weave but I found her offensive and refused.
In my 30s I returned to my old hometown of Buffalo, NY to raise my daughter. A college there offered a wonderful textile program. I wanted to learn to silkscreen, to up my game in fashion design. I would design cloth, print it and create original art to wear apparel. This was before the internet, there were no digital prints on demand.
Fate finally caught me. Maybe I didn’t read the fine print. The very first requirement, Design in Fibers, was a course on weaving! Too late to back out, I was all ready enrolled. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I am entirely capable of making anything with yarn. How bad could it be? I was in for a great surprise. I fell totally, head over heels in love with weaving from the start! My fist assignment was to design and weave anything I wished on a Navajo style loom. I was immensely homesick for New Mexico and so I created, from memory, a tapestry of a mesa in the desert, a sacred site, called Cabezón,
And thus began my journey as a weaver. As it turns out, I am a natural at weaving. I can easily read and interpret weaving drafts the way some can read music. They are very similar, weaving and music, both are kinds of codes, one is visual, the other auditory. Floor looms are not unlike pianos, hands and feet create the score.
Through my course work I advanced to using very complex looms, manipulating traditional structures, elevating the process to an artform. My fiber designs incorporate
unusual materials as mixed media fiber art. My tapestries incorporate yarns I dye in my studio to tell stories from mythology. I still create entirely from inside my head. No drawings, no computer. I visualize and then get to it, letting the work speak for itself.
Oh and I am not fond of silk screening; I abandoned that path in favor of other dye-print-paint on fibers techniques.
Weaving is magic, mesmerizing, meditative, wathcing cloth flow from your hands. It is universal, existing in all cultures across all time, as they say, brought by Spirit. It is infinite – patterns, colors, textures; functional, decorative, industrial. We are swathed in cloth from birth to death.
When I am weaving I transcend time. I am connected to all who came before me, all who will come after me. I weave the past into the future through the present.
Cabezon, my first weaving.