Silvia Heyden, admired far and wide for her unique gift of weaving vibrant tapestries, died peacefully at sunset on Monday, March 2nd at age 88. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends both here and in Switzerland. Her rich legacy of well over a thousand tapestries and her passion for the arts will continue to inspire us all.
Born in Basel, Switzerland on February 28, 1927, Silvia studied in the Bauhaus tradition at the School of Arts in Zürich before coming to Baltimore with her husband, Dr. Siegfried Heyden in 1954. In 1966 she moved to Durham with her daughter Françoise and son Daniel following her husband’s new position as professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center. Here Silvia began to blossom as a tapestry weaver, taking this ancient art form to new heights. Her first major exhibit at the Duke University Art Museum was followed by countless awards, commissions both large and small for public spaces and private homes, local and international exhibits in museums and galleries, as well as numerous workshops and conferences over the course of the next fifty years. Her work is in the permanent collections of numerous East Coast and European museums, colleges and private collections as well as public buildings. Only a year ago she had a memorable exhibit entitled “Together Again” in which her tapestries were paired with the paintings of the late Edith London at the Durham Arts Council.
Silvia drew inspiration from both her daily violin and piano practice and walks along the Eno River as she interpreted the motifs she saw in a ‘weaverly’ way. Her first book, “The Making of Modern Tapestry,” published for her 70th birthday was complemented by a documentary, “A Weaverly Path,” showing her approach to weaving. A book she had been working on, entitled “Movement in Tapestry” highlights her recent work and will be published posthumously. Never interested in weaving a preconceived image, for her, every tapestry was a voyage of discovery through improvisation into the unique possibilities of warp and weft.
She is survived by her son, Daniel, her daughter, Françoise, four grandchildren, Paul, Nina, Vincent and Daniel, as well as her two brothers living in Switzerland, Georg and Dieter Stucky.
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A celebration of a life well lived will be held at her home in Durham, on Saturday afternoon, March 21st. Please send online memorials to firstname.lastname@example.org (the family will create a blog that will be linked to her documentary webside, www.aweaverly path.com.) Donations in her memory may be made to the Eno River Association.