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