Meet Anne Fiala, one of our 2017 LEAP finalists and a feature artist in The Store for October through December. Fiala is an interdisciplinary artist who relies on instinct, process, and materials to create objects about memory and emotion based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Read on to learn more about the artist and her process. And Remember to stop by The Store to try on a piece of her work when it is available at Contemporary Craft.
Tell us about your work.
I am interested in the interchange of nature and the manufactured. Steel, galvanized steel, plywood, and other materials designed for mass consumption are common place; removed from any source of origin or narrative. In contrast, natural elements such as branches, flowers, and other natural forms are entangled with symbolism and personal narratives. As an artist using jewelry as a vehicle for self-expression, I borrow from both of these worlds, creating jewelry inspired by man-made structures and the natural world.
Making and working with my hands was a big part of my upbringing. My parents were really hands on, so from a young age I helped with gardening and other projects around the house. Because of this I knew how to use basic hand tools from an early age and would explore different techniques and materials from the Childcraft “Make and Do” book. I remember the stages of my childhood by the objects I was making or mediums I was exploring. By age 12 I was consumed by jewelry and began sketching ideas for pieces made from glass and metal – even though I had never worked with those mediums or had any idea how I would make them.
My formal education in jewelry began when I was a freshman at the University of Illinois. Though I was a marketing major at the time, I decided to “rebel” in my second semester and take a jewelry course. University of Illinois has an amazing jewelry/metals studio – and the faculty and grad students were making amazing things utilizing a variety of materials and techniques. It was heaven! Shortly thereafter I changed my major to art and never looked back. After college, I went to graduate school at Indiana University where I studied with Randy Long and Nicole Jacquard. They pushed me to explore my creative habit and hone my sources of inspiration, which helped me to develop the aesthetic and work I am currently making.
Why were you drawn to making art pieces?
This is hard to explain – making has always been a part of me. It’s part of the way I think and so much of who I am. It’s inherent. I just need to.
I am inspired by industrial materials, organic elements, and patterns. There is something very interesting to me about the way industrial materials afford us to live – and how we integrate them into our lives. I use a lot of flora and floral patterns in my work, mostly because they are such a perfect vehicle for narrative and counterpoint to the sterile cold feel of the industrial materials. When creating a piece I am always looking for some balance between organic and industrial, narrative and ambiguity.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an artist?
I took a workshop with Ruudt Peters in 2010 and left that experience with 5 rules to guide my making:
- Action is best. (start anywhere)
- Investigate and experiment
- Allow that you don’t know why you make something
- Instead of trying to solve the world in one piece, split it and make 10 pieces
- Be rooted
What advice do you have for others considering a career in the arts?
Lots of people will discourage you from pursuing a career in the arts. I think a lot of it stems from people being taught from a young age that they don’t understand art, they can’t be an artist, or that art and creative expression is something eccentric and not practical. When I switched my major from marketing to art as an undergrad I was constantly berated by family and friends – “What are you going to do with an art degree?” I couldn’t answer them at the time – the truth was that there was 1000 things I could do with the degree, but as a 19 year old I was just excited to totally immerse myself in my craft, learn as much as I could, and make! Now my friends and family (and random strangers) say “You’re so lucky you followed your dream/do something creative every day”.
What does being a finalist mean to you?
It’s a huge honor to be a finalist! It inspires me to keep researching and investigating. My students are also aware that I am a finalist, and as a result, have begun applying to more exhibitions and contests. It’s awesome to see them become more engaged in the field!