Sharp Scissors

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

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.

About the Author

Samantha Edwards

A San Francisco native, Samantha Edwards came to Pittsburgh to pursue her MFA in fiction and publishing from Chatham University. She previously worked as an intern at Creative Nonfiction and is now currently working as a freelance writer and photographer.

View Essays