Tamar Shadur talks to Ngozi Okeke about how she would like to be remembered through the different ways in which she lived her life. She discusses her artistic passion for tapestry weaving and how it became a lifelong career. She was able to emphasize the different themes that have come out in her work and how she and her Mother have worked together to produce meaningful pieces.
How would you like to be remembered? I want to be remembered I think for someone who has not been afraid to take risks. Because, you know, having such a kind of changeable lifestyle from a very early age I was a little insecure at times, you know because I was always in new situations. When I was growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s I thought, oh no problem you know, I’ll just get married and I don’t have to worry about anything, but reality kicks in when you’re in your early twenties and you realize that no, you have to have a profession, you have to support yourself. But, something saved me from, you know, really becoming discouraged about a lot of things, which was tapestry weaving. I dropped out of art school, I was an art major, and I became a tapestry weaver in the late seventies in Jerusalem and there was this studio and for two years I worked there. Learning this complex skill of weaving very fine tapestries, large mural size pieces with a weaving partner next to me and it's a whole culture that opened up a door to a whole art aesthetic and field of art that wasn’t very much known, but those days are kind of over today they don’t support these kinds of industries so much anymore. When I came to the U.S. later, it became my main career for a while with my ex-husband. We produced tapestries and we basically became tapestry artists. We wove tapestries that my Mother designed, that we designed, and that became my sort of strong hold for feeling grounded and having something to do if all else fails. But it didn’t really support me financially so I had to gain a career and support myself. So I finished two degrees, one in art education and one at the masters school of education at UMass and I became an ESL teacher. And I was a Hebrew teacher, and gave art workshops, for papercutting and tapestry weaving. So I developed a career as a teacher, and now that I am not doing that as much, I would like to be known as one who contributed to my community both in educational ways and as a volunteer. And now lately, that I have more opportunities to exhibit my work and my Mother’s work, and give talks about it, and in fact, right now this month, in May there is a show at Michaelson gallery, Northampton called “Generations” and my work, my tapestry work, is alongside my Mother’s papercuts. One of them is the largest and most complex mural tapestry that I have woven that my Mother designed called, “Yizkor Holocaust Memorial Tapestry”. Yizkor means remembrance, that’s the prayer said over the dead and over the victims of the Holocaust. On my website there is also a description of what this tapestry is about. This one is the major work that took many years for me to complete with all the interruptions in my life. And it’s sort of a memorial piece that symbolizes the life of Jews in Europe before the destruction by the Nazis, with a lot of Jewish symbols that my Mother incorporated in her papercuts and it includes my personal memorials of my own family members, including my brother who passed away early on when he was only 38, and my two parents, and there is a homage to 9/11 by the letters W.T.C., World Trade Center, on the top border. It’s all part of the memorial tapestry and the events that happened over the many years that this tapestry was on the loom that enabled me to commemorate my personal memorials beyond the memorial for the life of Jews in Europe, which was my Mothers intention in the design. Those are some main anecdotes in my life, I think, and who else knows what awaits me.