Interview with Claire Duffy, runner- up from the Coffee Art Project, London 2015



Maria Pia Masella (MpM):
At 16 while studying Art for her A levels, you started a weekend job at Modern Art Oxford teaching children how to draw. You then did art foundation at Oxford Brooks University and enrolled to Bristol UWE to study illustration. How inspirational was working with children for you?

Claire Duffy(C.D): I really liked working with them; my weekend job at Modern Art Oxford carried me on to do what I am doing now which is working on my own things alongside been involved in activities at Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership which is an organisation based in Oxfordshire doing community projects for young people.

MpM: Since leaving education in 2011, you have worked with Urban Outfitters, had an exhibition at Arts at the Old Fire Station, in Oxford; you were commissioned the illustration of a book and you are now thinking about your own first children’s picture book…

CD: Yes, I did a canvas for Urban Outfitters for their Paris store at Galeries Lafayette, a couple of years ago. It was exciting to see my work there. My show for the Arts at the Old Fire Station last November was about birds. I created silk prints of British birds you can find in and around the UK. I also illustrated the inside of Pete Mosley’s book, “The Art of Shouting Quietly”. This is a self-help guide for introverts who want their voice to be heard within the art world. It is brilliant. I was given very specific instructions on what I had to draw, but the whole style was left to me. Now, I am finally working on my children’s book. I have no excuses. Things usually come out and I always say yes to everything because I see that as an opportunity to get better and experiment, but I think it is time that I do what I have always wanted to do. Since I started university, I came up with an idea of a picture book about an old man and his life…. There is often an educational undertone to my work.

MpM: Your work, whether print based or drawings comes across as very economical and uncomplicated…

CD: I find myself having lots of space between things. I do not know why. For Bean Berry Brew, the silkscreen I presented for the Coffee Art Project London competition 2015, there is lots of space between the figures.

MpM: Some figures stand, others sit, some contemplate a cup of coffee before drinking it. All elements seem part of the same movement made of circles which repeat themselves.

CD: What I had in mind was to present the life cycle of coffee and showing people planting, harvesting and drinking coffee. I decided to underline the beans in gold because of how precious coffee is. And, yes, I tried to make it as simple as possible, trying to tell the most I could with elementary shapes and basic colours. This is what I tend to do for most of my work. I start with many messy ideas and then I paired them down to a point where it is only few, simple things which tell the same story.

MpM: It made me think of the late Matisse, of his cut outs…

CD: Yes, you mentioned that to me before at the opening and then it really made me think. I do not really have any artist I would say I really admire. I like so many different artists. But I had a Matisse book and that was the only book that I really remember loving as a child. To make that connection, something must have slipped in there. He must be very influential in what I do.

MpM: How did you find out about the Coffee Art Project Competition?

CD: I entered in 2013 the first time. I think that I stumbled across it online maybe through looking at the Coffee Festival. It is a great thing to be involved with.
Interview with Claire Duffy, runner- up from the Coffee Art Project, London 2015
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