Tamar Mason: “Conceptually embroidery is a way for me to subvert gender stereotypes about what is considered as fine art. Pigment and oil paint on canvas, dominated by men, is seen as fine art, while stitching on fabric is regarded as women’s work and is perceived as craft rather than art” .
Tamar has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History of Art, spent a year at art school in Florence and studied ceramics under Kim Sacks. She spent 15 years in rural areas training women to earn an independent income and through this received a commission in 1996 from the Department of Arts and Culture to embroider panels for the Mpumalanga legislature chamber, working alongside Ndebele and Swazi women from community projects in Kwaggafontein and Ekulindeni. Their design and beadwork skills engaged with her primary school sewing skills, inspiring a new artistic medium for her – art stitched onto fabric, and then stretched onto a frame.
It was while commuting to the Lowveld for this commission that Tamar discovered White River, ideally located, she says, as it’s close to schools and coffee shops! In 2002, the family settled in Heidelberg where they live off grid and grow their own food. The tranquil, curving Heidelberg valley, glowing with fertility, is the perfect setting both for her art and The Artists’ Press, the lithography studio Mark established on their property.
Whether rhythmically stitching one of her vibrant embroideries or burying her hands in clay to shape a striking ceramic figure, Tamar is in complete harmony with her surroundings. It’s here she produces work celebrating the strength and beauty of women, defiantly challenging the boundary between craft and art.
The legislature commission led to others as well as invitations to exhibit her work. She was thrilled to participate in “Beadwork, Art and the Body: Dilo Tše Dintši/Abundance” at the Wits Art Museum last year and has subsequently completed a commission for the University of Mpumalanga. Departing from her curvaceous clay feminine forms and embroidery, Tamar drew inspiration from Ndebele wooden pendants and added a dash of Zanzibar / Arab influence to create the imposing ceramic and cement screens that stands some 30 metres high.
Her life is a kaleidoscope of colour and texture and she swirls between helping Mark run the studio, growing their food and soaking up the energy of her surrounds which her hands cast back into pieces of art so beautiful they are impossible not to touch and stir an irresistible urge to possess.
Cell: 083 376 3534