PAMELA WEIR-QUITON HAS CARVED OUT A CELEBRATED CAREER IN A MALE-DOMINATED ART FORM
By Katie Nartonis
Pamela Weir-Quiton is among a handful of important wood-workers to emerge from the West Coast art scene of the post-World War II period. As a female artist operating in a largely male-dominated art form, her early success and long career has been hard-won through persistence and the sheer force of creative imagination. Her acquired skills with power tools didn’t hurt. Pamela’s finely crafted sculptural works from exotic woods have been seducing collectors and curators since the mid-1960s.
Our Collecting Heritage
Known for her whimsical life-size rocking animal forms and stylized “Georgie Girl” functional dolls, her vision is a fresh take on the artist’s desire to maintain a childlike sense of wide-eyed freedom and self-expression. Her work resides in the space between sculpture, woodworking and toys crafted for grown-ups. Her chunky, geometric dolls and animal forms measure from 24 inches all the way up to 8 feet tall.
First discovered when she was in her early 20s, Weir-Quiton was celebrated widely in the press as a Southern California “fashionista with a band saw.” A striking and fashionable young woman in the swinging early 1960s, the contrast was a powerful combination. Soon the artist was being featured in magazines across the country. She was billed as the vibrant and hip young L.A. wood- worker who could emerge from the studio covered in saw-dust in the morning – and don a fabulous frock for a photo shoot at the beach later that afternoon.
Pamela’s first dream was to become a fashion designer and as a young college student she won a spot as guest-editor for Mademoiselle magazine in New York City. She approaches her work from a fashion angle and she even likens her skills with woodworking tools to that of “operating a sewing machine.” Always aware from a young age that she was an artist and meant for a creative life, it was after “a very cute male advisor” in college suggested she try a woodworking course that Pamela was hooked. She never looked back.
Early in her career, her large-scale work was sought out by architects and many public and private commissions were realized including retail spaces, shopping malls and playgrounds. In the 1970s, she was the subject of the documentary People who Make Things and has recently been featured in a number of new short films and fresh magazine articles about her work. Always willing to share her space and her work, her studio is now open regularly for tours, classes and by appointment.
Weir-Quiton is celebrating her 50th studio year and her work is included in important collections and institutions across the country. With her stunning green eyes and her easy laugh, Pamela has spent her long and legendary career inviting the world to “come play with her” in her spacious Venice Beach, Calif., studio.
KATIE NARTONIS is consignment director for 20th and 21st Century Design at Heritage Auctions. She is founder of the Nartonis Project, which is dedicated to telling the stories of the West Coast art scene. She can be reached at KatieN@HA.com.
Historical examples of Pamela Weir-Quiton’s work will be featured in Heritage Auctions’ 20th & 21st Century Design Signature® Auction scheduled for May 17, 2016, in Beverly Hills and online at HA.com/5252.