Seven Questions for Fei Disbrow

Greetings fellow Thrivesters! 

I've been invited to share an interview series that I completed on the Thrive Blog.  Recently, I asked 7 artists 7 questions about their careers.  It was a great way to compare and contrast the variety of creative approaches to an art practice.  Below you'll find the fifth artist that was interviewed for this series: Fei Disbrow. Love her work, I am sure you will too!  - Sunshine Frère

Fei Disbrow’s work has been in numerous solo and juried exhibitions in the US and Canada. Disbrow earned an MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She was awarded the public Art Grant from RACC in Portland and a residency with the Intermedia Department at PNCA. She was also awarded the MST Bronze Award at the Emerging Sculptors Exhibition at the Canadian Sculpture Centre. In 2015 Disbrow was an artist in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Her work is held in the Portland Art Museum Print Collection and the TD Bank Art Collection as well as numerous private collections.

What social media platforms to you use and why do you use them?

I use a personal website as a survey of my work. I also use Instagram a lot as well. I find Instagram is a great place for showing my inspirations and influences. I also use it as a brainstorming tool. I find it very helpful to capture a piece that I am working on like a collage and then putting it into a particular format. Seeing it on a screen and also amongst other images, it creates interesting juxtapositions and helps me to think about it in a different way and often also as a jumping point to another piece.

How do you brainstorm and work out new ideas for projects?

I am a big collage person, when I’m feeling any obstacle, I always go back to collage. I’ve got a box of images that I’ve collected that are roughly categorized. I also collect a lot of print media that I work with as well. I’ll just pull stuff out and put it on my desk and just start moving stuff around, with my music playing. Something that is really important for me. I don’t like to work in silence. I get lost in the music and in making of forms.

If I’m putting together a proposal or given something with a directive, I often also use the dictionary as a starting point. Books are also often also a great starting point. Being able to sit there and take the time with a page, online when I look up things, my pacing is quite different. I use trace a lot and trace over an image in a book and save it in a book for later. Not as easy to do when looking at things online. It feels very indulgent using and looking at a book so I don’t often do it as I often as I would like, I feel that I am more efficient when on a computer, even though, more often than not,  the opposite is true. Online you get side-tracked and you don’t really resolve what you originally set out to do to begin with.

When you have a big project, how do you manage your time to make sure to complete it by the deadline?

Can you think of something that you wished you had learned earlier in your career which would have saved you a lot of time and effort?

Apparently I have a masters in fine art and sculpture… I say that because I switched my masters part way through. I’ve always been an object maker, but I had only really done a foundation 3d course so I’d never taken sculpture classes other than that. I’ve always been curious about joinery in sculpture, but I’ve always been self-taught. If I’d had a foundation in structures, that would have been one thing that would have been helpful. I also bounced around with my schooling and I also moved often. Networking is something that I wish that I had put more effort into whilst I was studying. I was really focussed on developing my tool-set and my pieces and my thinking. I was less interested in developing a personification of myself, but I think in retrospect, I think I could have done more networking and I would have benefitted from that.

What is the least favourite part about what you do?

My least favourite is the rejection, proposals, trying to place your work. As an artist you have to embrace rejection, starting with critiques in school, you getused to it and they are helpful so that you can take rejection with more strength.

Isolation as an artist does wear on you from time to time, but at the same time I think the opportunity to work in a solitary manner is a huge gift for my practice.

There is lots of failure, often a huge part of the work. But then again, I find the more I fail the more I succeed. Often we are on this track of making… the next ‘best work you’ve ever made’. If you allow yourself here and there to make some really awful work with the intention of learning something through that, I find that success comes in the form of a new work based on what I learned from the failed works.  

What is the most favourite part about what you do?

There isn’t anything that I can in my life with my time that fills me in the same way as art does. When life takes over and takes me away from it, I find that the edginess just grows in me and I’m very unsatisfied, I know what it is from, I need to get back to my work and to make. I am so grateful that I have this. I used to ski race and there are other things in my life that I can do that makes me feel good in different ways, but nothing makes me feel the way I do when I make work. That is a huge gift.

Any advice for someone interested in pursuing a career in fashion design or visual art?

A non-art background is healthy. Whether that means that you never did art and have a completely different background altogether really helps to feed an art practice for its longevity. There is this huge world out there, all of that feeds what it is to make art.

Get away from what it is to learn about art and give yourself the opportunity to learn about other things. That will help feed ones practice in a very strengthening manner.