Feature: The Twelve Days of Christmas à la Pamela Marie Pierce



Pamela in her studio with work in progress. Photo credit: Judith Mackin

When I heard that Judith Mackin had invited Pamela Marie Pierce to produce a series of paintings entitled "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to show at her shop TUCK Studio, I immediately knew it would be GREAT.  Pamela is such a talented artist with a striking style, and I like everything she makes. She has come through a dark year of illness and healing, and this show is her way of showing she's back folks!  I asked Judith if she would like to share about this fabulous artist and the show they put together. Judith and Sarah, who also works at TUCK Studio, visited Pamela in her studio to have a chat with her about the pieces and the show. Here is what they came up with. -MH

"We are what we believe we are!" C.S. Lewis

TWELVE DAYS is a puckish reinterpretation of a well-worn Holiday carol. It pays tribute to the traditional lyrics while creating its own narrative, a unique tale within each illustration; they are what they believe they are.

TWELVE DAYS is a series of twelve ink and watercolour gauche illustrations on Stonehenge 90lb cotton paper.

Photo by Jamie Wilson

Photo by Jamie Wilson

~~Words by Sarah Martin / Photos of works by courtesy of Pamela Pierce~~

It’s a rainy late autumn afternoon when we visited Pamela Marie Pierce in her studio on Mecklenburg Street – the kind of afternoon that makes you look forward to the sheets of cold rain turning to snow. The studio is lit with small, twinkling lights and natural grey light from windows covered in rain drops, and the smell of dinner cooking wafts up from downstairs. We settle in for a chat about her upcoming show at Tuck Studio on November 17th, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Our eyes are immediately drawn to five of the ‘Days’ works adorning the walls and easel. Pamela gestures to them and says, “The ink is just drying on these ones; they’re waiting to be painted. The other seven are off being photographed.”

The show will feature 12 of these 2 ½ ‘ x 3 ½’ ink and watercolour pieces on 90lb cotton and various smaller counterpart, 8”x10” prints. The larger pieces are brown ink and painted gouache which produces a more pigmented effect than traditional watercolour. The smaller size will be coloured prints. A year ago Pamela was diagnosed with a physical illness that made working difficult and her future uncertain. Now fully recovered, “the joy of working is back.” Her joy fills the studio with a confident and peaceful energy as she walks us through each piece.

Though 12 Days of Christmas is an old standard this time of year, Pamela has come up with her own unique take on it. She has created themes from the original characters rather than caricatures– such as turtle dove earrings instead of two physical doves – ensuring the pieces will remain relevant and beloved all year round.

Pamela rarely sketches, preferring instead to picture each piece in her mind’s eye before putting pen to paper. She points to her head, smiling and says, “It’s all done in here before I start out there.” As soon as the theme for her show was discussed Pamela says, “The challenge was the catalyst; I had to make it my own. Each piece had to stand alone.”

We wanted to get to know the inspiration behind this unique series and Pamela says the ideas came quickly. The first ‘day’ to come to mind was the Ten Lords a Leaping. When questioned why, Pamela admits that she loves a man in good shoes and socks. “I don’t need to see your feet!” she clarifies, laughing. “Just the shoes and socks!”

The day that gave her the most trouble? “Seven Swans. But I really like where it went. I had to sketch it out and as I said earlier,  I rarely have to do that.”

After covering the nature of the physical and mental processes behind the artwork, Judith asked Pamela five rapid fire questions about Christmas to see what kind of holiday experiences may have had influence on her artwork. We were surprised and delighted by Pamela’s answers and warmed by her Christmas spirit. You’ll have to stop by to see her show in person in order to see exactly how these influences played out in this show.


Work in progress, from the verse "nine ladies dancing..."

What is the best gift you ever received and who gave it to you?

“The best gift I ever received was a wool sock from our tuxedo cat who my father insists named himself – Xandu. Two years ago, we were all sitting around the Christmas tree and heard Xandu thu-thump his way down the stairs.  He was a bit of a robust cat.  You could always hear him coming. He had a wool sock in his mouth and dropped it under the tree with my other presents. Xandu sadly has passed on but our cat, Stella C. Pearl, with the help of my partner, continues the tradition and gives me socks each Christmas.”

What is the best gift you have ever given?

“When I was six I made ornaments from little pieces of wood -- which I’m not entirely sure where I scavenged those from – and painted different scenes from the nativity on them. My parents still have theirs at their home in Nova Scotia.”

What frustrates you about Christmas?

“The music.”

And what is your favourite part?

“Christmas Eve.  The peace you find after all the festivities of the evening are over and you’re a little kid again. The night is pregnant with the idea of the next day and you’re surrounded by the people you adore and who you feel safe with.”  

If one of your pieces could come to life, which one would you want it to be?

“From this series, it would have to be the French hen.  I’d like to have a drink with her.”

Please join us at Tuck on November 17th at 6:30 for the unveiling of “Twelve Days of Christmas.” And enjoy a safe, happy, peaceful holiday season!

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