Circuits (Wall installation), 2017-18, abaca paper, leather, Karakul wool, sisal, cotton twine. Photo: Jerry Mathiason
Circuits (Wall installation), 2017-18, abaca paper, leather, Karakul wool, sisal, cotton twine. Photo: Jerry Mathiason
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In this interview, Marjorie Fedyszyn discusses the genesis of her relationship with textiles and how she addresses the heavy subject matter of her work for herself and audiences.

How do you navigate working with such personal subject matter?

The art making process helps me better understand my origins and the disempowerment I felt due to the abuse I experienced as a child and young adult. After decades of professional counseling, I have had time to work through a range of emotions, my interpersonal relationships, and feelings of shame to feel more complete. This emotional work has given me the clarity to see how my art guides my journey on healing and gives me the strength to share my story with a broader audience. As a survivor of abuse combined with this social climate of transparency and truth, I have gotten comfortable telling my story through my art.

In your artist statement you talk about finding your voice through art. How has working with fiber/textiles helped you particularly over other mediums?

My former career as a scenic artist provided a creative outlet where I was trained to execute large-scale stage settings in collaboration within a creative community. After my work in theatre, I dabbled in observational painting, the medium didn’t resonate in a way that brought me meaning. Instructors talked about the importance of finding my voice. When I discovered felt making, I was drawn to its tactile allure and felt a spark like never before. I spent the next few years discovering the possibilities were limitless. As a process driven artist I recognize that felt making was a bridge to sculptural work. I am now exploring fibers beyond felted wool, using fabrics, leather, and over-beaten abaca paper. The haptic nature of fiber art and its process are often meditative in nature and you will find elements of hand stitching in much of my work.


Circuits I, 2017, cotton twine, abaca paper pulp. Photo: Jerry Mathiason

You also talk about how people respond to your work in intimate and intense ways. What has been one of the most rewarding experiences in seeing how others interact with your work?

The work has moved people enough to openly share their own personal traumatic experiences with me. These intimate conversations help me understand the impact of trauma especially as so many of us carry it quietly. For some, it may be the first time they are telling the story aloud. I’ve found my art can create a space where it might trigger a memory and then people feel safe enough to give voice to their pain. From my years of therapy, I am equipped to hold and honor the stories without letting the weight of their pain burden me.

Do you consider your work to be primarily for yourself or for others?

It’s both! The role of a studio artist may be a solitary one but my career in theatre gave me the perspective of knowing that what people create is best when it is shared with an audience. My work is process driven. I use this style to guide me to not only solve problems but to tell a story. People seeing my art tend to bring their own emotional history and interpretation to the experience. Then it becomes their story.


Sad Bags/Sorrow, 2017–18, leather, sisal, felted wool. Photo: Jerry Mathiason

You mention the importance of the Women’s Art Institute in the formation of your practice. Can you speak about how that experience is feeding your work today?

My time at Women’s Art Institute (WAI) granted me permission to work in any medium, scale, and style in creating new work. This freedom turned my practice on its head. Before that summer, my routine included rendering an exact design to scale and calculating the logistics on paper before beginning my work, often creating exactly what I had drawn, much like in theatre. My time at WAI opened up a channel through which I could work more intuitively. I journaled about subjects that mattered most to me and then jumped into the work to see what would emerge. As a result, when ideas come to me now, I sketch the essence of an idea and expand my exploration through journaling. This leads me to clearer choices about the materials and execution needed to tell the story best.

What is the role of collaboration in your practice? Do you find that you work better together with other people or alone? Or does it depend on the project?

Collaboration has been a part of the way I work for most of my life. I engage with colleagues, artists, students, and viewers of my art for input. In the past, as a scenic artist, I worked with all types of creative people and experienced the benefits of learning from others through the exchange of ideas as we worked toward shared goals. Now, much of my creative and studio time is spent alone.

As an extrovert, I need to augment the time I spend alone working on my art with outlets for engagement to enhance my practice. I am active in two separate critique groups. We meet regularly to review our work, offer different points of view, and act as sounding boards to support our individual creative journeys. Additionally, I share studio space with two women artists in the Casket Arts Building whom I respect and admire. I also relish opportunities to teach youth fiber arts. I’ve taught at area schools, the Textile Center, the American Craft Council show, and other public events at the Walker Arts Center.

Most of what I’ve made to date has been solo. However, I’m no stranger to collaborative projects and am open to opportunities that might include working with others.