An Insight Into Cynthia Toops and Her Amazing Work

Cynthia has been working with polymer clay since the 1980s. While she is known for her figurative micromosaic pieces, in the last few years she has been concentrating on thin sheet work, creating the cone and claw necklaces and the rolodex series. Most of her work is inspired by ethnic jewelry and ancient beads which she and her husband collect. Cynthia has a BFA in printmaking from the University of Washington and a BA in Biology from Drake University. She spends long hours researching and planning work with Dan Adams, her husband and collaborator. Besides her jewelry work and teaching, she enjoys sushi.

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What’s your background? Is it in art, or something else?  I have a BA in Biology from Drake University and a BFA in Art (Printmaking) from the University of Washington.

You often use unusual materials in your work, when did you start making experimental jewelry? What do you like about it?  I work primarily with polymer clay.  I started making beads in 1986 and then made small brooches and necklaces.  My first necklace included glass and stone beads and found objects combined with my polymer beads.  This was inspired by African jewelry where they use disparate material.  Glass is another medium I have worked with – micromosaics and enameled glass pieces.  I also enjoy dry felting but developed frozen shoulder and trigger finger which necessitated a temporary haitus.

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What attracted you to polymer clay?  I cam across polymer clay during a visit to Hong Kong.  It is a very accessible material and requires very little equipment or outlay that was a big attraction to a beginning artist.

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Your works exhibit huge attention to detail, have you always worked this way?  I like to work small, especially on micromosaics because I hate conditioning clay!

What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?  Lot’s of times the image is dictated by the theme of the gallery show.  When left to my own devices, I often use folk stories or animal imagery.  Sometimes I incorporate simple everyday life (e.g. knitting, hiking, enjoying a cup of coffee, etc…) into my pieces.  In my necklaces they are often about color, textures or playing with different shapes and materials.

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You regularly collaborate with your husband, Dan Adams.  How is working as a team different from working on your individual work?  The first thing we have to decide on is a piece that is exciting to both of us.  It could be a color theme or story line.  Then we work separately on the beads and then discuss whether they work together or if its back to the drawing board.  It is more difficult that working on your own, but sometimes the piece is richer because of the additional challenge.

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Have you had any one teacher who have shaped you most as an artist?  I think Glen Alps, my advisor at the University of Washington Printmaking program, is my biggest inspiration in regards to work ethic.  Even into his 80’s he still spent time in the studio every day.  I believe in hard work and commitment which often means long hours.

 

 Cynthia Toops thin work 1Cynthia Toops Flora II, closeup

 

If you like what you see and would like to learn more from such a great artist sign up for her class at Danaca Design Today. Cynthia’s Class “Polymer Micro Mosaics” will be on January 10th and 11th 2015, come visit or give us a call before all the spots fill up! Check out our website for more details, http://www.danacadesign.com/index.php?p=index

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