Wasatch tapestry artist in Park City with her work
Take a trip through the Main Street Mall, and you might notice a big tapestry hanging on a gallery wall. From a distance, the work looks like a painting an image of the Wasatch Mountains writ large.
But with a closer look, details begin to appear. Downtown Salt Lake City emerges from the valley, ski runs manifest themselves winding their way down the mountains, and Park City shows up in its snowy Canyon.
Another kind of detail becomes visible too, as the tapestry’s thousands of tiny stitches come into focus, revealing how the yarns paint the mountainsides, form the rivers, add sparkle to the Utah snow and height to the top of Mount Timpanogos.
Looking at each of the thousands of and thousands strands as they twist and pile on top of each other, the work suddenly seems more impressive.
The piece is the work of Sola, a traveling artist who works alone, moving from city to city creating tapestries in each of the places she stays. She uses only a first name, which is derived from the feminine term for "alone" in Spanish.
She made the Wasatch piece when she came to Salt Lake City before the 2002 Winter Olympics, working from April, 2001, through the Games, finishing in May of 2002.
The 6.5-by 10-foot Salt Lake City work hangs on a hand-built loom (hinged in the middle, so it can fit through doorways) and is woven from the yarn of old sweaters.
The tapestry shows nearly the whole sweep of the Salt Lake City Games, from Snowbasin to Park City, the Heber Valley and Provo. And Sola said she spent some time ensuring everything was included from Salt Lake City’s skyline to the area ski hills.
"I had to get every ski resort in there accurately," she said.
She said she first started doing the city tapestries when she made one for Vancouver’s World’s Fair in 1986. Since then she has made several, including pieces for Olympic venues Atlanta, Sydney and Salt Lake City.
"Five-hundred years ago, if there was a major event, the king or the church or whoever would commission a tapestry," said Sola. "I commission my own."
She does her best to sell the pieces in each city, so she can leave them there before traveling to a new destination, but since she finished the Salt Lake City work after the Olympics she failed to find a buyer. She brought the tapestry to its current location in The Art Is In Park City, in the Main Street Mall when the gallery opened two months ago.
"I thought that with the Olympic fervor four years later, maybe we’d find a buyer," she said.
She offered a 10-percent finder’s fee for anyone who knew of a buyer. She said the tapestry is worth more than $200,000, and if she finds someone to purchase the piece she plans to donate a significant portion of the money to charity, giving the funds to Paralympic athletes and possibly the National Ability Center.
"This is the first time I’ve been able to do that," said Sola, "but that’s what I plan to do from now on."
The contribution, she said, was inspired by her time talking to and watching the athletes she has met at the different Paralimpics Games she has attended.
"I’m really excited about where these tapestries can lead," she noted.
For her part, Sola said she’s simply happy to have the opportunity to make a living doing what she loves. She works without a commission so she can control her destinations and the works themselves, and she appears to revel in the freedom they allow.
"I think you’ve only got one life," she said. "You’d better be doing what you like."
Sola’s tapestry, is on display at The Art Is In Park City in the Main Street Mall. For more information about the piece, call 655-0401.
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