Pamela Palma, Fiber Artist and The Accidental Weaver
My Story, Bio, Artist Statement
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 stitched fiber art and raising my young child. My house came with a small loom which I had no use for and gave away. Then an acquaintance moved in next door. She wove on huge floor loom. It looked so complicated so I declined her offers to learn the techniques.
In my 30s I returned to my old hometown of Buffalo, NY to raise my daughter. The University offered a wonderful textile program. I wanted to learn to silkscreen, to print my own fashion fabrics and create original art to wear apparel. That was the plan.
Fate had other plans for me. The first required course, Design in Fibers, was weaving! I accepted my fate, knowing that I can make anything with yarn. I was in for a great surprise. I totally loved weaving. I loved the process of watching the fabric develop before my eyes, like magic. I adored the professor. The looms fascinated me. Many of my classmates were "non-traditional" students, meaning we were not 18. I felt so much at home in that light filled studio of looms and yarn and wonderful people.
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. It was autumn in Buffalo. I took my loom home and sat on my porch enjoying a beautiful Indian Summer, weaving the sacred lands of my past.
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 drafts and musical scores. Both are languages, codes. One produces visual, colorful, textural objects. The other is auditory, producing music for voices and instruments. Floor looms are like pianos, hands and feet work in harmony to produce results. I have woven to Bach for example, his structures informing my visuals.
I advanced from simple looms to very complex looms. I learned to manipulate traditional weaving structures , elevating the process to an artform. I discovered the sky is truly the limit with weaving. There is no limit. I like to say, anything that doesn't move can be incorporated. I have included all manner of non-traditional materials, upcycling as household items. shredded money, paper, plastic bags and more to create my signature style, mixed media fiber art. My tapestries incorporate yarns I dye in my studio; they tell stories from mythology and honor the Goddesses. To this day, I create entirely from inside my head. I never sketch. I use no software. I visualize, play with materials and colors. I research pattern opportunities and then go for it. More often than not, the work has a life of its own and my original intents morph according to the dictates of my Muses, the Goddesses. This is where the magic happens.
Weaving is magic! It is mesmerizing, meditative, both stimulating and relaxing. Watching cloth flow from my hands is the best. Weaving is universal, existing in all cultures across all time, as they say, brought by Spirit. It is infinite – patterns, colors, textures; functional, decorative, industrial. It is inherent in us. Our language derives from weaving terms - loom, shuttle, warp, text(tile) - It is always with us. We are swathed in cloth from birth to death. Weaving is here to stay.
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. My purpose for making art is to make the world around us nicer, more beautiful.
This is what hooked me, the Accidental Weaver. My first assignment at University was to weave a tapestry on a Navajo style hand loom. I was homesick for the magic of New Mexico, which forever holds a special place in my heart and soul. So I wove it. Cabezon.
All images are copyright protected by Pamela Palma Designs © 2021