The Artist

Born in Switzerland in 1927, Silvia Heyden’s artistic talent was soon recognized and her father promoted it whenever he could by painting with her.  Her original intention to build violins was thwarted by the fact that girls at that time were not allowed to be apprentices. After this disappointment, Silvia made a commitment to practice violin every day.

From 1948-53, Heyden studied in the Bauhaus tradition under Johannes Itten and Elsi Giauque at the School of Arts in Zürich.  After her studies, she won the Achievement Award of the City of Zürich.

She married Dr. Siegfried Heyden in 1954 and spent the following years with her daughter Françoise and son Daniel in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Berlin. During this period she focused primarily on fabric printing and hooked rugs. Her early commissions included a major work for the Hospital Bombach in Zürich.  In 1964, she bought her first tapestry loom for a large commission for the Expo-Suisse in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Following her husband’s new position as professor of medicine at the Duke University Medical Center, the family moved to Durham, NC in 1966.  It was at this time that Silvia began to blossom as a tapestry weaver, remaking this ancient art in abstract modern “weaverly” form.  In 1968, she completed her largest commission to date, a 10’ x 99’ piece installed in the Boardroom of Banker’s Trust Co. in New York City.  This commission was followed by numerous others and by her first major exhibit at the Duke University Art Museum, Durham, NC in 1972.  She took First Prize Awards at the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC and in 1974 at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC.

After her Dr. Heyden’s retirement in 1993, Silvia returned to Switzerland with her husband, this time to her parental home on the Lago Maggiore in southern Switzerland. She became a member of the String Orchestra of Locarno and exhibited in many public buildings and museums across Switzerland, Italy and Germany.  In 2005 Silvia and her husband moved back to Durham, NC.  Their architect son designed a solar home around a weaving studio near the Eno River in Durham, NC. She continued to play her violin and weave in her Durham home until her death on March 2, 2015, drawing inspiration from her daily walks on the Eno River and her many years of exploring with the loom.

Major Exhibits and Commissions

  • 2008 – Horace Williams House, and Tyndal Galleries, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 2003 – Casa al Centro, Vairano, Ticino, Switzerland
  • 2002Palazzo Oppesso, Chieri, Torino, Italy
  • 1998Gut Sandbeck, Osterholz-Scharmbeck, Germany Galleria Amci Dell’Arte, Brissago, Switzerland
  • 1997Knecht Arredamenti, Locarno, and also Atelier AAA, Lugano, Switzerland
  • 1996La Rada, Locarno, Switzerland
  • 1995Gallerie Rageth, Riehen, Basel, Switzerland
  • 1994Textilmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland
  • 1993Horace Williams House, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 1991Textilmuseum, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 1989Fayetteville Museum of Art, Fayetteville, NC and also Glaxo Headquarters, Research Triangle Park, NC
  • 1987Interwoven Design, St. Louis, MS
  • 1986Stadtmuseum Graz, Austria
  • 1985– Boehringer Mannheim Pharmaceutical Traveling Exhibit, Germany
  • 1984, 1985 and 1989 – Somerhill Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC and the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Arts, Greensboro, NC
  • 1983Landis & Gyr Foundation, Zug, Switzerland and Duke University Library, Durham, NC
  • 1982The Swiss Society of New York
  • 1981Marine Midland Bank, New York and Boehringer Mannheim    Pharmaceutical, Germany
  • 1980Bank of America, San Francisco, CA
  • 1979Gallery Ten, Washington, DC
  • 1978 – R.J. Reynolds Industries, Winston-Salem, NC
  • 1977Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
  • 1972Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, NC
  • 1965Ginnasio di Locarno, Switzerland

Permanent Collections

  • The Gallery of Art and Design, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
  • Landis & Gyr Foundation, Zug, Switzerland
  • Textilmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland
  • Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
  • Williams College Museum, Williamstown, MA
  • The Equitable Life Assurance, Art Society of United States, New York
  • Mary Lou K. Stevenson Collection, Princeton, NJ
  • Michael Wisniewski Collection, Vienna, Austria

Tapestries in Public Spaces

  • 2009 – Judea Reform Congregation, Durham, NC
  • 2008– Judea Reform Congregation, Durham, NC
  • 2002 – Town Hall, San Nazzaro, TI, Switzerland
  • 1997‘Die Glocke’ Concert Hall of City of Bremen, Germany
  • 1991– Maryland Art in Public Architecture Competition, Washington, DC: Community Recreation Center, Chevy Chase, MD
  • 1988– Renaissance Plaza, Greensboro, NC; Duke Power Building, Charlotte, NC; Art in State Buildings, Caswell Building, Raleigh, NC;   Davis Library, UNC Chapel Hill, NC
  • 1983– Round Hill Community Church, Greenwich, CT
  • 1975 – 1995 – Duke University Fuqua School of Business, Medical Library, Rare Book Library, Music Department, various medical offices, Duke Diet and Fitness Center; Durham Technical Community College; North Carolina Central University; Durham Public Library; North Carolina School of Science and Math; Wachovia Bank offices; City Hall, Durham, NC; SAS, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM and Center for Humanities in the Research Triangle Park