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Meet Heidi Dauphin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Heidi Dauphin.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I believe each artist creates her/his own path. We all find our way no matter how many hills and turns are on our journey. My journey began in Michigan, where I was born. For as long as I can remember, I was always making something and have always had a love for collecting, organizing, recording, and categorizing things. Both come from my interest in nature and an appreciation of the outdoors, which began when I was very little, and I went camping with my parents.

While exploring, I learned that collecting things that have fallen, died, shriveled, or were in abundance was OK. Whether it was Petoskey stones (the Michigan state stone) collected from the shores of the Great Lakes, rocks and fossils, to pennies, stamps, trinkets, stickers, and stuffed animals. These objects would find their way into groups, contained in boxes or jars and organized into some system that I would create. My passions to make and collect are intrinsic to the artist that I am today.

I was incredibly influenced by my ceramics teacher, Mr. Pluhar, in 10th grade. Little did I know that he and clay would change my life. His passion, energy, guidance, and encouragement led me to pursue my art. I applied to art school and received a BFA from the University of Michigan School of Art with a concentration in ceramic sculpture. After graduation, I went back to school to get a teaching certificate and then taught high school art for four years. Following that, I returned to UofM to get my MFA degree.

Grad school was an amazing experience. I started in the ceramics department but quickly found myself thinking about art in new ways. “Installation” was a buzzword that I interpreted as a way to make art environments with lots of stuff! My collecting bug was in full swing, and my thesis exhibition consisted of approximately 8,000 thumbprints (made mostly in clay) arranged in a large gallery that were collected from people all over the country. I also did my first-year long project, where I made a postcard every day for a year that recorded the events of my day. I’ve done three more yearlong projects since then, and I am interested in the repetition and discipline of doing something artistic every day.

After grad school, I moved to Boston with my husband. I worked at a non-profit art center as the Exhibitions Director and ran two art galleries. We had a baby girl and after three years moved to Phoenix where we have lived for almost 15 years. Here in Phoenix, my artistic path took a turn in the direction of making public art for city governments as well as private residential and commercial art. Between large projects, I find time to create studio art pieces usually made from my many accumulations and collections. I also occasionally teach art as an Artist-in-Residence or Guest Artist at area schools or art programs.

In my spare time, I love to spend time with my husband and daughter or go on an “Art Day” to see exhibitions around the city. I also love to hike and have hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim once and rim to river many times. Last fall, I hiked Half Dome in Yosemite with eight women. Over the past ten years of hiking in the Phoenix area, I have started a new collection — the treads left behind from the bottom of people’s shoes. The rocky trails here provide a plethora of small bits of color and texture that I am fascinated with.

Please tell us about your art.
Currently, there are two sides to my art-making career. I have the public art that I do to make a living and the studio work that I do to explore my creative ideas. I find similarities and differences in both areas of work.

The public art I create is usually large scale and created with custom-made ceramic tiles. It involves an administrative part and then the creative art-making part. The administrative part is necessary but certainly not my favorite. It involves researching public calls for proposals; preparing proposals; costing & budgeting; conversations & meetings with the client; working with subcontractors; recordkeeping & accounting.

The actual creative art part involves a long design process including lots of sketches and brainstorming until a final project is agreed upon. The ceramic process then begins with drawing the entire design in full scale and then dividing it into tile sections that I can cut. From there I roll slabs of clay, cut each tile shape, label it, dry it, fire it in a kiln, glaze it, and finally set it in place. An individual tile may be handled at least ten times before it is done. My last project had about 500 tiles in it. I am constantly arranging and taking apart a giant puzzle of tile pieces.

My studio work can be categorized as mixed media because it is mostly created from the extensive collections of many objects that I have amassed over the years. I incorporate multiples and repetition and am drawn to patterns, grids, numbers, and organizational systems. I create strong overall designs to draw viewers in from a distance, but love to incorporate small details that are discovered upon closer inspection. It is really the studio work that gives me the freedom to explore personal creative instincts, that then find their way into the public art.

In both my studio work and public art I am inspired by quilt patterns. I am drawn to the historical designs with repetitive patterns that have been passed down for generations. I am also inspired by the patterns and repetitions that occur in nature on both the micro and macro level.

Overall I think of my creative process as a journey that began long ago in the woods of northern Michigan. I am a collector traveling through life picking up bits and pieces of memories, items, places, and people along the way: all affecting my work. I also realize that we store the important moments in our subconsciousness, all the information we need to create has already been gathered and stored along the journey. My curiosity leads me to look for connections and similarities in all that I find.

What do you think about the conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
Every artist has to make her/his own path. There is no “right” way to be an artist. It is an incredibly hard career to be a professional visual artist because you are always looking for the next job or commission, but at the same time, it is so rewarding when you really get to do what you want and put your creative vision out in the world. I find connecting with other artists and being a part of an art community helps when things are slow and frustrating.

After moving to Phoenix, my world was opened up to public art, and I love that city government have laws in place for Percent for Art. These laws mandate that there must be art when new development occurs. It beautifies the cities and neighborhoods and also employs artists. That being said, there are still hundreds of artists responding to each call, and many more artists are rejected than accepted. Artists must have very thick skin to handle all of the rejection and stay true to their vision and path as an artist. I don’t know if it is easier or harder now. I just know that being a visual artist always has many challenges, which make artists stronger and truly interesting people.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Follow my blog at Send me an email at to get on my mailing list for announcements. Follow me on Instagram @heididauphin.

You can also see lots of my public artwork around the valley. Here is a list of locations for several pieces:

Solterra Suns, 2018, Bridgewater Assisted Living, 295 E. Van Buren St. Avondale, AZ 85323

Gong Yoga Sign, 2016, Center for Divine Awakening, 15801 N. 40th St., Phoenix, AZ 85032

City Flow, 2016, (collaborated with Nina Solomon on this project) Valley Metro Light Rail TPSS building, Glendale/19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ

Extracting Shadows, 2014, (collaborated with Nina Solomon on this project) City of Phoenix Pinnacle Peak Water Reservoir, 5506 E Pinnacle Peak Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85054

History of Green and Blue, 2012, (collaborated with Nina Solomon on this project) Palmateer Park, 200 Western Ave. Goodyear, AZ 85323

Floating Weft, 2008, (collaborated with Nina Solomon on this project) Heard Museum, Ben-Horin Garden, 2301 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85004

Thumbprints in the Hundreds, 2006, Carl Hayden High School, 3333 W Roosevelt St., Phoenix, AZ 85009

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
City Flow photo, Dan and Nina Solomon
studio picture of me, Maya Channer
All other photos are by Heidi Dauphin

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Becky Fasulo

    March 13, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    Very interesting article – it is wonderful that you publish information on local people – especially artist! It does seem like Phoenix is good to artists with their Percent for Art and you publishing articles like this make it even better!

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