Fairclough’s artistic career began as a printmaking and sculpture major at the South Australian School of Art. While studying for a graduate diploma in Education and Training of Adults in 1998, she became entranced by glass during a weekend workshop with leading glass artist Nick Mount. Once hooked, Fairclough furthered her studies with a Bachelor of Applied Art majoring in glass, which she completed in 2000.
Creating lyrical works from domestic objects, Fairclough employs the tropes of still-life paintings in three dimensions, arranging her glass forms in restrained tableaux or impressive installations in which she often introduces found objects. For Fairclough, the staged power of the still life is a means of engaging the audience in ideas beyond simple formal investigations, and of exploring the notions of home, journey, land and the sense of belonging.
From early investigations of her culture, Fairclough has been drawn to travel. Alert to the ideas of the romanticised ‘other’ and the anthropological gaze, Fairclough turned down the opportunities of artist residencies, instead choosing to immerse herself in the culture of India and Tibet by volunteering to teach English to Tibetan refugees and live in Indian home stays. This fed into ongoing themes in her work that explore significant commonalities found in the lives of ordinary people across many cultures.
Through the lens of the domestic space and its objects, Fairclough investigates the ideas of shelter, the inherent need for safety, and the need to create order and beauty in simple acts such as folding cloth, sewing, sweeping and preparing food.