Art Maker: Tamar Shadur | Tapestry artist

Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2016
Florence tapestry artist Tamar Shadur, “almost 62,” is part of a centuries-old artmaking tradition; tapestries are an ancient art form which, she says, has been recognized as a fine art since the 1400s. “For centuries, tapestry has been regarded as the noblest form of decor,” Shadur says. True tapestry, she adds, is defined by the structure of the weave: “a hand-woven material into which the design is woven, forming an integral part of the texture; instead of weaving one piece of yarn from selvage to selvage, the weaver creates an image by using many yarns to weave areas in different colors.”

Hampshire Life: Describe the work you are doing now.

Tamar Shadur: After years of weaving on my 6-foot-wide horizontal tapestry loom, I recently completed the mural-sized “Holocaust Memorial Tapestry — Yizkor.” It was designed by my late mother, Yehudit Shadur, a renowned Jewish papercut artist. Since then, I have been weaving small tapestries on an upright metal pipe loom, and I’m about to continue weaving a tapestry I started years ago.

H.L.: What is your creative process like?

T.S.: It can start with an idea or an image with certain movements, colors and patterns, or a combination of these, which I sketch out and design. For example, two haikus by a former neighbor provided the inspiration to design and weave “Fireflies” and “A High Fever.” Often, I try out certain tapestry techniques or yarn combinations.

H.L.: Does it ever start with a “Eureka!” moment?

T.S.: “Eureka!” moments usually happen to me in the process of the weaving, based on situational inspirations. Or it can start with an opportunity to collaborate with another artist in which I translate their design into tapestry.

H.L.: How do you know you’re on the right track?

T.S.: The track is determined by a basic design or “cartoon” placed behind the warp, but the slow process of this craft allows me to make decisions all along, often deviating from the original track.

H.L.: How do you know when the work is done?

T.S.: This is not a problem: When I reach the edges of the design (the cartoon) and the warp length (the skeletal structure of the tapestry), it’s about to end.

H.L.: What did you do today that relates to your art?

T.S.: I submitted an article I wrote about my collaboration with my mother to produce biblical tapestries based on her papercut designs, for the next quarterly publication of the Guild of American Papercutters.

H.L.: Why do you choose to weave such labor-intensive tapestries?

T.S.: Because by the thread of circumstance, I have been part of this small world community of artisans or artists who weave tapestries, and I value the association with its rich and noble heritage, especially in this age of instant gratification. I enjoy solving artistic dilemmas as I manipulate warp and weft.

— Kathleen Mellen

Tamar Shadur offers talks about the history of tapestry and workshops in tapestry weaving (and papercutting talks and workshops) suitable for beginners and those with some experience. For information, contact her at tamarshadur@hotmail.com.