Doug Fiely

Growing up on Grand Lake in Northwood proved to be a fertile stimulus for a life of art for me. Simple cottages, wooden boats and boat houses, a lighthouse, and endless excursions through the wooded areas along the lake and within the thickets of the untamed areas around my home became a subconscious springboard for images which were to emerge many years later. The neighborhood was a lively one with back yard cookouts, boats and rafts meandering in and out of the nearby channels, and yes, the fishing….the catch which often went straight from the pole to the frying pan.

It was hard for me at first to hop aboard the school bus which delivered me to the Immaculate Conception elementary school in Celina. The idea of sitting at a desk for a good portion of the day was unfamiliar to me. The tall ceilings and cavernous halls delivered an initial sense of anxiety to this boy. And then there was the church, filled with images of the Catholic faith; the place was visually awe inspiring to me. Fear turned to curiosity, and curiosity into observation. I studied those carvings and paintings. When I was in the fifth grade, artisans remodeled the interior of the church. It was the beginning of my interest in art and the stories that art could tell.

By my junior high school years, the music scene (particularly the “British Invasion”) had caught my attention in a big way. The Beatles seemed to come from a place of creativity on their own terms. They were in charge, writing and performing their own music. Bob Dylan addressed issues of our time and told stories within his songs of people and places that were his and his alone. I learned the guitar. I played in bands. I wrote songs. I began the search that led me to Bowling Green State University as an art major.

Having had no art training in high school, I entered the Bowling Green Sate University art department with the same subtle anxiety that I had experienced as a child getting off that bus. Everybody there knew the fundamentals and the basics of art. I didn’t know what a woodcut print was. The tools I brought with me were my own invention. I quickly realized that success would involve not only tapping into my wealth of life’s images but also simple persevering. By my sophomore year I won a second place in the student art exhibit with an intaglio print called “Guard at the Gate”. This award gave me the confidence I needed, and printmaking became my passion. I lived in the art department toiling with ink, images, and my own iconography for many years, receiving a Master of Arts degree in Printmaking in 1975.

Throughout my studies I became close to a particular professor at BGSU. David Cayton not only was a fine teacher but a superb artist and human being. After several visits to his home in rural Perrysburg OH, I realized that he worked in a variety of media. Not only did he produce award winning prints, but he was an excellent potter and painter. Once again I began to stretch my boundaries. Having taken a teaching job in Stryker Ohio in 1972, I began to work and teach within the realms of all visual media. I began to paint and work in ceramics while working on my MFA. Cayton and I remained close and near the end of my teaching career in the public schools, I would often take groups to his studio for a demonstration in clay. In the summer of 2000 I worked daily with Cayton in his studio mixing glazes and eventually making pots and bowls. It was during that summer that I created my first ceramic pieces applying a printmaker’s approach to the surface decoration of “humped” bowls. I began working on these pieces at home and felt a new direction emerging as I carved through the applied slip on leather hard clay as in a woodcut.

I had been invited to an international ceramics workshop in Wooster, OH by my new colleague, potter Steve Smith, at my new place of work, Defiance College. I had been an adjunct printmaking instructor at Defiance College since 1985. When a full time position opened, I applied and was hired in 2001. Smith encouraged me to bring a couple of these bowls along to the workshop. Amazingly, the curator of the show, Phyllis Blair Clark, asked me to be a featured artist in next year’s exhibit. What?……a printmaker being asked to exhibit in an international ceramics show?? I was called a few names by potters who would have given a body part to be asked to exhibit in that arena. Currently, Smith and I collaborate; he throws the piece and I carve into it.

I now divide my time among many pursuits: teaching full-time @ Defiance College, exhibiting @ many art festivals throughout the Midwest, running my home gallery/studio in rural Stryker, but most of all….creating …always creating.

Though my story has many twists and turns which could wind on and on, suffice it to say, that a direction of my life in art developed and continues. From the life on the lake, the lofty images of old ICHS, the smell of presses and ink of the Evening Leader where my family ran a daily newspaper, to schools, colleges, workshops, galleries, art festivals, and in my own backyard, the road to discovery goes on. Sometimes I think I am just beginning.
Doug Fiely

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