Tamara Thomson – Focus on Local Artists – Issue #142

May 2024

Tamara Thomson

For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features visual artist, Tamara Thomson. Although she doesn’t consider herself a real artist, she works with plaster cast, driftwood, glass, light, rope and all the treasures she finds along the way. She said, “I’m someone who loves to play with different materials, given my current mood. I’ve worked with buckets of broken and discarded items that I love to bring to life again.”

Thomson grew up on a farm outside of Arborg, and lived with her grandparents for the first twelve years of her life. After a move to Winnipeg for high school, she ended up in Dugald with her husband Rob, where they resided for seventeen years. In 2008, they acquired a Lee River cottage. She said, “Although we loved it, in November of 2022, we settled on a farm near Seven Sisters Falls, our final move and one that brings my husband back closer to his home community of Whitemouth.”

When asked about her inspirations, Thomson noted her grandfather was a leather craftsman and her nanny made clothing through sewing and knitting. She said, “My nanny was taught by grandpa. They’d both let me play with the scraps and encouraged me to spend time being creative.”

As well, her Auntie Katie was an artist, rug maker, and poet. Although her aunt’s hand were misshapen from polio and hard work, the woman spent hours and hours cutting reclaimed materials, hooking rugs, painting, and writing.

Thomson said, “Also, in my early 20’s I was fortunate to visit Wayne Arthur at his studio by Oak Hammock Marsh, and was inspired by his sculptures. He encouraged me to just continue to create and play with different mediums.”

Most recently, she spent time at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas with the late great Mimi Sammis. This woman’s playful-no-mistakes approach to life helped Thomson feel confident enough to try different ideas. She said, “The colours of the water, sand, sea glass, shells, driftwood and natural materials sparked my creativity more than anything else, especially when I add lighting to the piece.”

Thomson does not have formal training and admits it feels like a bit of imposter syndrome being interviewed for this article. She learned through play and having a farm kid’s budget. Art supplies weren’t available so she used the clay she dug out of the ground, along with plants and parts from the scrap pile. She said, “You can always make something out of basically nothing. It wasn’t really art per se, just curiosity and creativity. I have ADHD so I have a significant amount of high intensity interest to many subjects and low level commitment to bringing projects to fruition.”

Thomson has taught both adults and children, but not in an arts capacity. Trained as a Sivananda yoga instructor, she has led yoga classes for preschoolers and children with special needs.

In 2009, Thomson organized and hosted “Simply the Breast: Plaster Cast Art Show and Auction” at her studio. She cast more than thirty women’s torsos and the group created works of art, sharing space as survivors and supporters. Then they auctioned them off and the proceeds went to Palliative Care Unit at St. Boniface Hospital and Cancer Care Manitoba. She said, “I was incredibly proud of this event and would love to bring it back this fall.”

This spring and summer, Thomson and her husband plan to start sharing their beautiful property with others, and will hold events at the OSAAT Farm, including three flea markets. As well, they want to facilitate and host programs, such as creative classes and life skills sessions.

On May 10 to 12, Mother’s day weekend, they will open their store at the farm. On July 5 to 7, their first flea market will coincide with their Grand Opening, featuring 50’s and 60’s music, some old cars, and themed photo props. Thomson said, “We hope people will dress up and have fun with it. We chose a flea market versus a craft or farmers’ market, to encourage diverse collections and treasures and for our guests to enjoy exploring.”

The next Flea Market will be August 9 to 11 (70’s and 80’s theme) and September 6 to 8 (90’s and 2000’s theme). She said, “I should clarify the items at the market aren’t from those eras, just the entertainment and decor.”

Once these events are rolling, Thomson plans to focus on collaboration with other artisans, by offering her farm as a location for facilitated classes and sharing studio space. If all goes well, she’d like to bring “Simply the Breast” back this fall and support the Cancer Care Program at Pinawa Hospital.

Her words of inspiration: “For some of us with disabilities, it can be hard to communicate without being considered overly emotional or “too much.” Right now, I’m gathering items for a piece that will help me process and convey my feelings on some very complex issues. Art, in all capacities, has the ability to convey emotions when words sometimes can’t.’

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