Sonoran Desert & Fabric Artist: Fiona Fenix

Discover Dusty Moon Studio, an up-and-coming art business in Tucson, AZ

By Brianna Hall

Fiona Fenix’s art is a heavenly escape for any Southern Arizona enthusiast. Drawing from the Sonoran Desert’s prickly nature and colorful landscapes, Fenix encompasses the Southwest with a modern, minimalistic twist. From wall tapestries to bags and more—Fenix’s business, Dusty Moon Studio, will soothe the eyes and spark passion in the hearts of many.

Portrait of Fiona Fenix shot by photographer Birdie Fyffe

As an artist and a mother of three, Fenix, 36, is also a yoga teacher and a self-proclaimed witch, loving and learning from her ancestors and spirit guides. Fenix is also a Pima Community College student studying art.

Dive into conversation with the artist as she guides us through her love for the Sonoran Desert and the artistic world.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

A: My cultural lineage is Haitian and Irish. I was born in Miami on Tequesta land but raised here in Tucson, the home of the Tohono O’odham. I love the Sonoran Desert, and I’m so happy to call it home. On top of creating photo patterns and fabric, I love ceramics and working with fiber as well.

Q: In what mediums can a person purchase your artwork and where?

A: Right now, I am focused on fabric, bags, and wall tapestries that I refer to as “Dusty Desert Flags.” I am considering extending my work to include paper products but haven’t made any moves on that yet. Eventually, folks will be able to purchase my work through my website … and I plan to open in early August.

Q: Where does your artistic inspiration come from?

A: My inspiration comes from the diverse desert plants. When I see the sun hitting an agave just right, I can’t help but to capture the moment. Also, working at Artesana Tile, a local art tile showroom, for nine-and-a-half years allowed me to see the beauty in patterns. I’ll be forever grateful to have spent so much time immersed in handmade art.

Q: What motivates you to create art?

A: The beauty I notice in the subtlety of nature. A lot of people think the desert is just brown and dull—my younger self included. What I showcase in my work is how colorfully diverse it really is.

“Functional art is my jam, and I can’t wait to walk around town and see folks carrying their precious things around in my bags.”

Q: When did you start your artistic journey, and when did your business begin?

A: About six years ago, I was living in Florida, and I started creating fiber art as a way to cope with depression and anxiety. Upon moving back to Tucson four years ago, it was with fresh eyes. For the first time I picked up on the color variations in our desert plants. It was the plants that called out to me, and I couldn’t help but to capture their essence with my camera. Dusty Moon Studio was born about two-and-a-half years ago.

Q: Where did your business’ name come from?

A: Living in Florida made me miss dust and dirt. Everything in Florida is lush and green—the complete opposite of the desert. For me, there is magic in the smell of dirt and creosote after the rain, which always brought fond memories to mind when I was away from home. That’s where the “Dusty” portion of the name comes from. “Moon” came to me … as I pictured a circle of dust around a desert moon. From that vision, I became more aware of the phases of the moon and was excited to learn about all the ways the moon influences our life. After having the vision, it seemed obvious to me that they should go together.

Q: Did you always know you would start your own art business someday, or did you have other plans?

A: I definitely never thought I’d own an art business. I’ve always wanted to work for myself but never knew how it would happen. Seeing other artists making a living selling their work inspired me to take my work and myself seriously to take the plunge into creating my business.

Q: What is your artistic process when creating something new?

A: First, I take myself outside to explore the desert. Most of the time, it’s just walking about the block that brings inspiration. So many plants to see in your neighbor’s front yards! Once I take the photo, I use an app … to create my patterns by flipping, duplicating, and rotating the image. Once I’m happy with a pattern I’ve created, I upload it to the fabric printer’s website. From there, I choose the type of fabric and the size of the image. Once the fabric arrives, I cut and sew it into “Dusty Desert Flags,” “Werk” bags, and anything else I can create.

A bag with a cactus design and rope handles is laid on a rock with a pillow inside.
A “Werk” bag, created and photographed by Fiona Fenix

Q: What’s your favorite artwork you’ve completed and why?

A: I think my favorite piece would be my “Werk” bags. Functional art is my jam, and I can’t wait to walk around town and see folks carrying their precious things around in my bags.

Q: How would you describe your art, and how would you describe yourself?

A: Colorful, creative, functional, and fun. I’d probably describe myself the same way. Ha!

Q: What challenges and criticisms have you faced, if any, in owning your own business?

A: My biggest challenge so far has been getting my online shop up and running. There are so many elements I had never contemplated … when I took the business online. Previously, I mainly showed and sold my work at in-person markets. I love seeing my customers, giving and receiving hugs, and them being able to see and touch my work before deciding to purchase. Going online has been a process, but one I am attempting to take in stride. The only real criticism I have received comes from my own inner critic.

Q: What makes you proud?

A: Bringing a vision to fruition.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: “Success is being who you are, in such a complete and stable way, that you become the foundation upon which the next generation will feel secure.” —Bayyinah Bello (Ayitian Ourstorian)

Q: What are you passionate about outside of creating art?

A: I’m passionate about my kids, honoring nature, cultivating community, yoga, meditation and body movement in general, and decolonizing my concept of god.

Q: What do you envision the future of your business in five years?

A: I haven’t thought too much into the future. For now, I’m just enjoying watching my previous vision unfolding so beautifully and in right timing.

Q: What do you hope people can learn from your artwork?

A: Changing your perspective can shift your reality.

Follow Fiona Fenix on Instagram to stay up-to-date on her shop opening soon to be one of the first to purchase her artwork online.

Explore more Sonoran Desert art.