Monday, March 08, 2021

SATURNA CAFE ART SHOW - Interview with Donna-Fay Digance



Saturna Dreamscapes - March 10 - April 15, 2021
Interview with Donna-Fay Digance
by Monica Morten

Tell me about yourself and your art. 

I have a B.Ed. in Art Education from the University of Alberta and a M.Ed. in Art Education from the University of British Columbia. I have also taken summer courses at Emily Carr in viscosity etching and paper-making. Maiwa courses were a great resource for learning to dye fabric, silk painting and batik. I taught for three years and then moved to London, England to do an extra year’s study at Goldsmith’s College, University of London where I met my husband, Leonard We opened a pottery studio in an historic coach house across from Greenwich Park. Our son, Avrom was born two years later. When he was 11 months old, my mother had moved to Vancouver and persuaded us to return to Canada, because of all the ‘opportunities for artists.’ Hah!  So I began teaching again and had absolutely no time or energy for my art. Twelve years later I enrolled in an art class at UBC with a wonderful  artist, Dick Bond, and those early skills came back, better than ever.

Now I exhibit with professional fibre art organizations: Studio Art Quilts Association, Fibre Art Network, Surface Design Association and Vancouver Island Surface Design Association.

How did you come to Saturna?

When I took early retirement, we wanted to open a B&B on the Gulf Islands as Len had completed his chef’s training and hospitality courses. That way we could also have our art studios to use in the off-season. Saturna was the island that resonated most. We planned to find a fixer-upper but nothing was available, so instead of following sage advice to downsize, we built our six bedroom, five bathroom B&B home. Now really being retired, we wondered what on earth we were thinking.

What's the best thing about living here?

The best things about living here are of course the people, the incredible scenery, the peace and quiet, and now in the midst of a pandemic, the safety.

Where do you get your inspiration?  What inspires you?

My early work always featured the human figure as I had attended my first life drawing class when I was in high school. I did a series of etchings, “Masked Dancers”, which used a theme of transformation juxtaposing combinations of animal and human forms which I called “Dreamscapes.”

Since we moved to Saturna full time in 1996, the pristine environment has me now creating landscapes from my imagination, but the iconic Arbutus trees now move and sway like my early dancers.

How did you become an artist?

I was raised by a single mother, at least between two marriages, who always bought me quality art materials because she knew I’d keep myself busy for hours. We returned from San Francisco, after many moves, to Vegreville, Alberta so my step-father could manage my grandfather’s hotel. I enrolled in an adult art class, at age 11, where, Laura Reid, a well-known Alberta artist, encouraged my foray into art creating watercolour landscapes. 

Why did you choose fabric for your art?

My early training was in drawing and painting. I then explored etching, and intaglio printing using different grounds, zinc plates, solvent and nitric acid. I used to work towards a summer show each year, of my etchings, at Dundarave Print Co-op on Granville Island. I certainly didn’t want to use those toxic materials on Saturna, so when an opportunity to learn quilting with Lynne Piper arose, it seemed a perfect opportunity to explore fabric. I was terrible at trying to do precise piecing so it was more rewarding to transition to my own images. There are so many processes to use with fabric: appliqué, dyeing, piecing, batik, painting, hand embroidery and endless variations of machine stitching. I especially like the freedom from rules so one can keep experimenting and exploring possibilities. I still have my etching press though, so maybe someday I’ll use it with fabric.

What projects are you working on/looking forward to?

I look forward to working on larger original art quilts based on themes set by juried shows.

Tell me about a piece that you are really happy with and why. 

I’m pleased with my latest painted silk art quilt, 20” x 34,” that has three layers: a painted top, batting and a silk design backing. I used free motion machine stitching through the three layers which adds to the depth and texture of this Saturna inspired landscape.

Tell me about your show and one piece in particular. 

For my March Saturna Cafe Show, “Saturna Dreamscapes”,  textile pieces  are mounted on black stretched canvas. I’m really pleased with the small version of the Parks Canada Saturna Field Office Triptych. The original is three art quilts, each 27’’x 60”, but this new piece has all three images reduced in size to 20”x 16.”  I’ve been experimenting with having my original designs professionally printed on different types of fabric, and in different sizes, modifying with paint and stitch to create new pieces.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I miss the opportunities to sell my work directly at the summer and Christmas markets and directly in my studio but my Facebook page, Saturna Dreamscapes Studio and my new website:, designed by , Avrom Digance, have provided some new opportunities.

Excerpts from ‘Art in Stitches’ by Cherie Thiessen,  Aqua, Gulf Islands Living, Volume 12

When you take a classically and extensively trained artist with a sense of adventure and a zest for experimentation and put her on a small island where there are few distractions but copious natural beauty and serenity maybe this is what you get: riveting fabric multi-media collages that look remarkably like traditional canvases but are three dimensional and tactile.  To bring her canvases to life, the artist uses a variety of  fabrics combined with drawing, painting, batik and textile dyeing, enhanced with machine and hand embroidery