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Deborah Dumka :: Creating During Covid

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Deborah Dumka  has lived most of her life in British Columbia, occasionally in other parts of Canada, and almost always on the shores of an ocean.

Her post secondary education and short career in electrical engineering has given her a problem-solving lens that carries into her interactive textile-based craft practice. Those who attended the 2016 felt :: feutre canada symposium will remember her wonderful Art Talk, and her interactive piece in the exhibition.

The physical and emotional landscapes of rural settings are the backdrop to her explorations, blending colour, texture, and sound into installations based on hand-made felt.

Deborah’s work explores themes of belonging, place, and our connection with nature. She uses wool, silk, dyes, and carding tools to blend raw fibre into thin layers that are assembled through felting into low relief tactile elements. Using electronics, she integrates landscape sounds, expanding the sensory snapshot, connecting into our private experiences through a constructed moment.

Recently we spoke to Deborah about creating during these difficult times.

Have you felt creative during the pandemic? If so, what are you working on? If not, how have you dealt with this?

I felt paralyzed by the uncertainty around my 2020 project commitments during the early months of the pandemic. Although most spring and summer 2020 events were cancelled outright with the first shutdowns, I was too agitated then to focus on new projects. Instead I dug into gardening and exploring local trails and talking dye plants with my gardening friends.

To get back on track with my studio practice, I applied for a microgrant from the BC Arts Council, to support a virtual tech mentorship during September and October. Touch has been the trigger mechanism in my interactive work but Covid protocols mandate a new touchless approach. I hope to implement that in new work presented next March 2021. As well, to get me working with fibre again, I signed up for my first online felting class, Texture and Dimension, with Pam de Groot. Such fun shapes and classmates from around the world!

Where do you find inspiration? 

My work usually draws on a theme from Nature, either in pattern or texture. I use my phone camera when I’m outside to capture landscape details and colours and I collect bits of stone and shell as a basis for abstracted designs. Over the past few years though, I’ve been working on a series called Resistor, based on my experiences as a young woman studying and working in engineering. Using the ten colours of the resistor code, I’m exploring issues of social justice and the landscape around women in the workplace. I’ll be presenting some of this work at the Comox Valley Art Gallery under the theme Visible Labour, at the end of March 2021.

What are you looking forward to creatively during 2021?

I’m contributing work to Dance:Craft, a collaboration between the Craft Council of BC and Vancouver based Joe Ink Dance Company. Five craft artists, three dancers, a new way of experiencing objects. This project was rescheduled to the fall of 2021 but may be pushed further into the future as it relies on an intimacy with the audience. I also have a curiosity around locally-sourced natural dyes and, of course, want to delve deeper into the fantastical forms from Pam de Groot’s class!

To learn more about Deborah’s work visit:

We thank Deborah for sharing her thoughts with us.

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