Pamela Zimmerman is a self-taught fiber artist, using mostly basketmaking techniques, not necessarily in a traditional manner. She admits to being obsessed with fiber, finding it difficult to restrict herself to any one material.
Previously, Pamela was a National Park Ranger, and lived and worked close to nature. Living in the desert Southwest, she admired the native basketry in that area. Having received a book on coiling pine needle baskets as a Christmas gift, she was intrigued by the notion of making “something from nothing.” In the late winter of 1998, she began weaving baskets from her garden. The pine needles in her yard were short and twisted, but her first basket was enough “like a basket” to keep her going.
Soon she realized many materials from the woods and roadsides could be woven. Some very tolerant neighbors (and strangers, too) allowed gathering of dying leaves from their yards to experiment with. Storm-downed trees yielded green needles, bark, or roots with which to weave. Not all of the fibers worked out in that weaving adventure; but finding and trying new materials is all part of the fun of basket making.
It wasn’t long before Pamela began to execute the miniature basket, considered the best demonstration of a basket maker’s skill. She has developed her own techniques for working with horsehair, acknowledged as the most difficult coiling medium. One of very few artists producing these very collectible baskets, Pamela has repeatedly been recognized and awarded for her work in miniature.
The textures and colors of man-made and spun fibers soon began showing up in her work. Polymer clays, glass beads, recycled plastic & fabric yardage, found objects, as well as wood elements draw her, and find their way into weavings. Her works are moving further away from traditional applications, and more towards non-functional art forms.
Pamela admits she finds fewer and fewer boundaries as to what is “appropriate” weaving material, or “acceptable form.” Sculptural “freeform” basketry has become her passion. Pamela says, “It is a continual learning experience, one that brings me great joy. My most frequently used techniques, coiling and twining, are acknowledged as time consuming and thought by many to be tedious. I find these processes contemplative, meditative, thought-ordering. It takes many hours to complete even small woven pieces. My hardbody weavings are all based on gourd pieces, which intrigue and give me new ideas. I find more ‘thematic’ series in my work…like my ‘face’ baskets, which I first began making in 2000…ever more faces keep coming to me, but this is not the only compelling idea I have. It is very difficult to focus on just one ‘style’ of weaving or one theme. My life is so full with ideas, and the world with inspiration!”
Active in the online weaving community, Pamela is credited with fueling a resurgence in popular interest in learning the coil technique, beginning when she founded the website The Pine Needle Group, in 1998. A cyberguild of sorts, The Pine Needle Group showcases coiled work, and provides information on history and instruction in the technique, and a place to interact with others who want to talk about the technique. Pamela co-founded a weaving guild which focuses on natural fibers, The Natural Fibers Group, in 2004. She puts additional time in as a board member for the North Carolina Basketmakers’ Association, as their webmaster, and took over a year off from weaving her own work to coordinate NCBA’s 20th anniversary convention in 2006. She also co-coordinated the 2009 NCBA Convention, ”Baskets, Naturally!”
As of 2012, Pamela has made over 1000 woven pieces, and won over 250 art and exhibit awards. Her work has appeared in Crafts Report Magazine(2005, 2006, 2007,and 2009) Art Doll Quarterly(2007 and 2008,) Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot(2007,2009, 2010) and in numerous Fine Art Shows. Published in the book by Catherine Devine, Coiled Designs for Gourd Art, Marianne Barne’s book New and Different Materials for Weaving and Coiling; All Things Considered IV, National Basketry Organization Exhibition Catalog; and Backwoods Home Magazine , where Pamela authored an article on random weave.
Pamela was selected as a 2009 NICHE Award Finalist for her piece, “Catching the Pale, Pale Moon.” In March 2009, Pamela Zimmerman was invited by the World Craft Council (WCCI, an International Organization affiliated with UNESCO) to join their Photo Galleries of North American Craftsmen on their new website.
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