Meet Fiona Duthie, the artist behind Resilience – an exhibition about nurturing our inner strengths through times of crisis. Fiona talks to us about herself, her practice, and her inspirations.
The interactive craft installation is currently on view at the CCBC Gallery – click here to learn more about the exhibit!
Tell us about yourself and your practice.
“My creative practice is based in an intensive use of surface design and textures in felt and using these textures as tactile metaphors to embed narrative in my felt work.
Over the last few years I’ve been exploring the use of new material combinations including ceramics, paper, burnt wood and natural inks, in combination with wool fibres. In my work, the materials themselves tell a part of the story. Materials transformed through challenge but emerging stronger for the experience.
In every piece I use materials created by fire. I use sumi-e ink created from soot from burning wood, suspended in natural resins or glues. I also work with charred wood- wood burnt and worked over to press the soot into the surface and reveal the textured grain. This aspect of fire in the materials relates to nurturing our inner strengths through times of crisis, finding a path to access our interior coals and blowing gently over them, fueling our plasticity and ability to move forward.
Every piece is worked multiple times, through many processes and all by hand. While the end result and visual aesthetic is important to me, it is the process of making and the intent embedded in the work that drive my practice.
I have been based on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia for almost ten years. Being in this beautiful natural space surrounded by forest, rocky beaches, the ocean and a strong artist community has allowed my creative practice to thrive.”
What first made you want to become an artist?
“I have always been an artist and maker. I started my first business designing clothing in natural fibres when I was eighteen, thirty years ago now, and have my supported myself and my family through my craft since that time. It is not always an easy path, but it is my only path- a passionate pursuit! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. This is my vocation. Making is essential to my days. Being able to communicate stories that resonate with others, and also build community around this practice of making, feels like a great gift. I love going out to my studio to work and sometimes just to think. It feels like my inner self expressed in an outward, tangible space.”
What emotional response do people have when they view your work or hold it in their hands?
“My work is very bold in colour, contrast and form. People respond to that visually, but it is the messages embedded in the work that people connect with. These are tactile metaphors for our psychological states, experienced by everyone in varying degrees, at different stages of life. As with us as individuals in community, these stories need to be told to be heard and felt, otherwise we only see the surface. When people hear about the symbolism in the work, they often approach me to express how moved they are by those metaphors and how relatable the work is to their own lives.”
What do you do when you are not creating? Does it feed your practice?
“I travel a lot with my work, exhibiting and teaching internationally. I love meeting people and connecting through our shared love of making. To me, these connections are the most important aspect of what I do. This involves a lot of time spent online and to offset this, I shut off my computer and get outdoors, even if just for ten minutes, but longer when I can. The movement of water and wind speak to me, and I love to recharge in either element, feeling cleansed, renewed and invigorated. It is not so much that I am inspired by nature, but more that my creative well is replenished through time spent outdoors. I love to be in wild remote places, both at home and also while travelling. As an introvert who often needs to be active publically, that time spent in the natural world, sometimes alone and often in silence, replenishes my internal resources, so I can then be most available to others in my classes and my work.”