Peggy Wyman--"Accidental Artist"

HI, I'M PEGGY WYMAN, AN "ACCIDENTAL ARTIST. The “accident” happened when a flyer for a willow basket-making class, taught by traditional Kumeyaay* basketweavers, caught my eye.

At the time, I was beginning research for a novel about the founding of the first California Mission, told from the point of view of a Kumeyaay basketweaver. So, of course, I signed up for the class.  The basket I made that day was about as ugly a thing as you can imagine, but it served as a talisman during the writing of the novel, and it sparked an interest in fiber art that led me to study many different forms of the art before finding the one that speaks to my soul: coiling with pine needles and a variety of other natural materials.

My first attempt at making a pine needle sculpture was awful. The result was so lumpy and lopsided, I shoved it in a drawer and never finished it, convinced that the pine needle medium was not for me. 

It took another year before I tried again. During that year I learned to make six or eight other kinds of forms, and that made all the difference. Although my second pine needle creation was only slightly less lumpy and lopsided, I realized I loved the process: the silky feel and heady aroma of the needles, the soothing repetition of the stitching, the way my mind emptied and quieted. I was hooked.

It didn’t take long, however, before I became bored with coiling “traditional” shapes. One day I decided to see what would happen if I allowed the bias of the natural materials to dictate the direction of the piece.  The result was so intriguing and unusual that I knew I was on to something important. Something I call “Fiber Sculpture”.

Hundreds of sculptures later, the materials are still leading and I am still following. Not knowing what is going to result when I start a new piece is the stimulus that keeps me inspired and trying new things. And working with natural materials serves as a constant reminder of the bounty and blessings of this big blue ball we call home.

(Incidentally, that novel, Mission: The Birth of California, The Death of a Nation, was published under the name of Margaret Wyman in 2002 and was runner-up for the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction).

    *The Kumeyaay are the native peoples of Northern Baja and the area around San Diego, CA.

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