Woman Reading from a Piece of Paper in an Art Studio 

Pam Perkins

Where are you from and how does it affect your work?

I am from Illinois, born and grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago. Then went to college at Western Illinois University in Macomb which is in the west central part of the state near the Mississippi River and very rural. I loved it so much I stayed after college and all together lived there for about 15 years, the last 7 or so in a town of 1100 people about 5 miles from the college. I worked on the university switchboard and finished my degree in Comprehensive Art Ed. Then I got a job working in the Art Dept. Gallery for a short bit until I got a job as Exhibits Coordinator for the new University Library where I booked shows of art and other things for the library, received the works, hung them and shipped them out among other tasks relating to that. Then I was able to get a job teaching art in a rural community, grades 1-12, the last year I was there. Long story short, the job was cut to ½ time, didn’t want to move back to the Chicago area and couldn’t find a job I wanted where I was so I moved to North Carolina and that was in 1981. All in all I think all of these things had an influence on me and my work in general. I was always in contact with artists, my former professors, some of which I still am and see them when I go back to visit family and friends.


Tell me about your favorite medium.

I have always been fascinated with fibers and beads and those still have an influence on my work. I also have taken many primitive skills classes and use some of that information in my work as well. I love working with brain tanned leather and have made books with the leather as covers and embellished them with beadwork. Used rawhide as cases for some of these books as well. I love to knit and also do other fiber arts…weaving, embroidery, and sewing from time to time. I enjoy finding ways to incorporate these things into my bookmaking when I can. I also like to make pop-up books when possible. One of my loves as a child were pop-up books and I still have some of them, others went off to my nieces and nephew when they were children. I also enjoy the feel of clay in my hands and did stained glass for a living the first 10 years I was in NC. I worked in a shop in Charlotte where I designed large windows for churches, homes, businesses and such that were installed in buildings. I never really did small suncatchers and such or craft fairs. I also did my own commissioned glass work for homes and businesses as well as teaching glass part time in the Art Dept. at Gaston College. Hot glass was a big draw for me and I did fused glass plates and other things for a bit and went to Penland and did glassblowing 3 sessions and loved it. I also took some classes there that involved bookmaking and paste papers as well as a beading class with Joyce Scott.


How has your style changed over time?

I have changed mediums overtime working in glass, drawing, printmaking, weaving, and others but always gravitated to book arts, fiber, beadwork, and brain tanned leather. I try to combine these when I can.


What are your ultimate artistic goals?

I love sharing what I know and how to do it with others who are interested. I have found this group of talented and interesting women a great way to do this.


Do you have a network of other artists, and how do they support you?

Yes, I do have several networks. One of them is our Bookies Group which meets monthly to share ideas, teach each other various things we know and have learned, for socializing while we do this and enjoy each other. I also have several knitting groups I belong to which meet on a regular schedule from weekly to once a month. These groups are also very important to me and my creative spirit. Like bookies we share, we socialize and we help and teach each other.


Why do you do what you do?

Mostly because I love what I do, it relaxes me and energizes my creative spirit. I enjoy time with people and being creative. I can’t just sit and do nothing. The fiber work gives me something to do with my mind and my hands plus things I love to make and wear. It is very portable. The bookmaking also feeds my creativity in other ways. I love the hands on doing of making a book. I am not always interested in content of making a book, but the actual making, so I guess I would say I like making blank journals that others can use and fill with content of their choice. I also enjoy using my journals for various subjects and workshop notes. I have one for beading, one for knitting, one for my primitive skills notes and such. I also enjoying giving them as gifts.


What memorable responses have you had to your work?

When I did stained glass work I had a gallery owner tell me that she thought I had a fantastic sense of design when she had my work in her gallery.


What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be true to yourself. And I share this with others as I feel it is very important if one is to be truly happy in life and what you do.