Tapestry artist Pamela Topham has a special way with materials and subject matter. While there are landscape images by other artists featuring local settings, Topham captures indigenous areas in a way that lingers long after we have seen her work. A favorite place for Topham is Sagaponack, the location of this week’s cover. If the names of work in this five-piece series are not arresting enough (like “Cliffs of Shadmor”) consider the atmosphere created by the artist: mysterious and mythic. These are places where we would no doubt find peace and tranquility. Topham finds the same qualities among flower and potato fields. Sagaponack, though, holds special memories for her.
Can you explain where some of your images are located in your Sagaponack series?
One is at the head of Sagg Road where the pond opens up to the ocean. Another is at the top of the pond on Sag Road by the schoolhouse as you go over the bridge. My tapestry, “Head of Sag Pond,” will be shown at the Springs Invitational Exhibit in August.
How did you discover this area?
I just happened to wander down to the Sag Store and post office in 1975. There was even a gas pump there. You could get your milk and mail at the time. Now the store and post office are separated. Anyway, it was the center of town. It was all farmland. The Whites and the Toppings owned a lot of the land then. Here was a small green place I felt I discovered.
Through the years, what else do you remember about Sagaponack?
I remember Loaves & Fishes when it started as a fish market, before it had a personal connection to Sagaponack in the 1980s. In the 1990s, I had a feeling Sagaponack wouldn’t last, like Parsonage Lane and the potato fields.
Besides this historical perspective, you also have a personal connection to the area.
I loved the flower field, especially the bachelor buttons, and when my daughter Eliza was 10 years old, I took a picture of her in front of the field. I did a weaving of that field which was exhibited at the Textile Museum in San Jose, California. And flowers meant a lot to me. I used to grow them at White’s farm where I worked.
When did you transfer your love of the land to tapestry and what did it look like?
My first work was a big 16-foot tapestry, which my dealer sold. But I’ve done small pieces, too, like for the East End Hospice’s cigar box auction. I remember having a piece at Guild Hall and at a welcoming party, Guild Hall’s new director asked me what kind of artist I was. “I did that,” I said to her, pointing to the work.
You just came back from your second trip to the Czech Republic, participating as an artist-in-residence. What are some nice memories?
I spent a little time in Prague; the tile roofs and the Charles River were wonderful. I went to the Castle side of the river and took shots of the river from above, as it bends. But my main goal was to get out of town. The manager of the artist-in-residence program drove me through the countryside. I remember the foothills and the mountains in the background. I especially loved Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the 8th century monastery there. I stayed in the town with artists from all over the world. I’d love to return. There’s still so much to learn and see around the place.
You also went to Budapest and took pictures.
I spent a week there seeing lots of antique artifacts.
What about art in general in Prague and Budapest?
There’s an enormous amount to absorb. In Prague, there was music everywhere walking down the street. In Budapest, we went to a historical museum about the history of Hungary. We also had a tour of the opera house. It was an exquisite place. I hope to go back, of course.
Pamela Topham is currently exhibiting at Islip Museum, 50 Irish Lane, East Islip, until September 3, 2013. 631-224-5402. She will also be showing at the Springs Improvement Society Invitational Aug. 2-18 at Ashawagh Hall, 280 Springs-Fireplace Road, East Hampton.