Please tell us about yourself.
I have always been self-employed as an artist and craftsperson. I started my first business at 18, designing clothing in natural fibres. When I came across feltmaking in 1996, it opened up a whole new exploration in textiles. I have been working in felt since that time, selling my work at large craft shows, teaching and exhibiting. I work full time in my studio and divide my year into creative seasons. I teach online and on location in the spring and fall, and preserve the summer and winter for personal artistic work. This breathing cycle of artistic attention works well for me, and keeps me inspired and excited about my work. This year I am the international tutor at the Southern Hemisphere Feltmakers Convergence in Auckland, New Zealand, as well as teaching through Australia in October and November. Teaching and exhibiting while travelling brings about so many opportunities for meeting other artists and observing the impact their environment has on their work.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I could not imagine working in any other field other than as an artist. About 3 years ago, after working for years as a production craft person, I realized it was time to explore the art of my craft. I slowed down on the amount of work I produced and began to think more deeply on narrative. I now create one of a kind pieces for exhibition, exploring themes of identity, relationship and sense of place. I am interested in our shadow sides. We all have lifetimes of history that inform our every word and action, but we only show a small portion of this to the world in every moment and conversation. Felt created with resists in openings, pockets, folds and transparencies lends itself perfectly to this theme. I love storytelling and chose to use surface design in feltmaking to create tactile metaphors.
This creative path is not always an easy one, and I sometimes need to remind myself that the day’s tasks are not a burden, but exactly what I chose to do, and what I want to do, everyday.
What emotional response do people have when they view your work or hold it in their hands?
The themes that I work with often draw a strong response in people, but like my messages in the work, they are not always displayed publicly but communicated quietly in letters and private words. Everyone has faced challenges or overcome traumatic life experiences, and people see these reflected in my work. The wool felt is so soft; warming and comforting, and this soothes the stronger messages. I enjoy the way people see their own stories told in the felt metaphors, and also have the opportunity to communicate them through my classes.
What do you do when you are not creating? Does it feed your practice?
I have been working obsessively for the last 24 months in my medium. I love what I do and can easily forget to maintain some balance. In mid-April I start my summer artistic development season, and am looking forward to a quiet, reflective period. I love spending time with my three teenage sons and partner. We all thrive when out in the wilderness, camping, hiking, observing the natural world. Breathing deeply. Slow time like this is so important to be able to keep a full time, supporting artistic practise sustainable. This time in nature is renewing and regenerating, allowing my energy to be refilled and ready for the torrent of ideas and creative activity that make up my working days.
You can keep up with Fiona Duthie on her Facebook
And you can see more of her work at www.fionaduthie.com