Issue #63, How We Teach

Sharp Scissors

An interview with Mary Dorfner Hay

Samantha Edwards

Sharp Scissors

Mary Dorfner Hay, whose illustrations are featured in Creative Nonfiction #63: "How We Teach," lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two sons. These works are from Dislocation, a series of paper collages that explore the idea of disrupting a set order or system. Inspired by the artist's own relocation to San Francisco, these works reflect shifts in both environment and identity. View her work at

CNF: Can you describe your creative process? Once you’re done with a piece or series, what are your hopes for it? 

Dorfner Hay: My process varies. At times a visual comes to mind and I work backward to get to the desired image. Other times I am attracted to a single element and work forward until that element becomes a piece.

My hope is always that others will understand and connect with my work.

CNF: Who are some of your influences?

Dorfner Hay: There are too many to note. Some of my favorites are Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, and Robert Longo.

CNF: How did you come to develop an interest in collage?

Dorfner Hay: I started making collages in high school with found bits of paper. They are immediate and fun to create, which can be refreshing.

CNF: Our current issue, #63: "How We Teach," focuses on lessons learned. What is the most useful lesson that you have learned?

Dorfner Hay: It is useful to learn how to trust yourself. I have a lot of ideas and it is sometimes hard to sift through which ones are worth my time. But as I age, it seems I am better at trusting that I will find solutions to my ideas.

CNF: On your website, you mention that your Dislocation series “explores the idea of disrupting a set order or system” and was inspired by your move to San Francisco. What shocked you the most about the San Francisco culture in contrast to Pittsburgh?

Dorfner Hay: At that time, San Francisco seemed like a much more transient place than Pittsburgh. Many Pittsburghers, like myself, were born and raised and stayed here, but it is different there. I came to like the anonymity that was created from not knowing anyone.

CNF: To you, what is the most challenging element in crafting a work of art?

Dorfner Hay: Making decisions. The constant decision-making of creating work can be exhausting.

CNF: What are some other forms of art that attract you? Why?

Dorfner Hay: Within the visual arts I love printmaking. It feels so productive to create multiples of something with such ease. But I also love to make prints with my kids. Watching them understand the process as they lift a print from a block is very sweet.

CNF: What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

Dorfner Hay: My sharp scissors.

CNF: What are you working on next?

Dorfner Hay: Abstract paintings, realistic portraits in pencil, small screen prints, and probably a few more collages.

Author Bio

Samantha Edwards

A San Francisco native, Samantha Edwards came to Pittsburgh to pursue her MFA in fiction and publishing from Chatham University. She... read more

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