MIPCES Exhibition: Cynthia Toops

Cynthia Toops, Anemone Hat, 1997 3 1/2? h x 7?w x 7?d

polymer clay, brass, velvet, aluminum screen
7” diameter, 3 1/2”h

In the MIPCES catalog, Cynthia Toops wrote: “Dan and I create beads for elaborate jewelry pieces. For this project I wanted to make a full-size hat and imposed one restriction- no beads. We partially encased wire elements in polymer clay in a different way and by forcing myself out of the jewelry mode, it automatically gave me freedom to experiment. What began with the hat will become a starting point for new jewelry ideas.”

More recently, this is what Cynthia had to say about her piece: “I wanted to make a hat and I’ve always been interested in marine biology. Growing up in Hong Kong, I went to the beach every chance I could. I would swim and beach comb all day and that was my idea of a perfect day. I missed that horribly in Des Moines, Iowa where I did my undergraduate degree in Biology. It was better in Seattle where I could see the ocean often but getting there was another matter. In art school I would do silkscreens of marine life and sea creatures.

Then came polymer clay and jewelry.

In 1997, with MIPCES, I was interested in hollow forms combining with aquatic imagery in my jewelry. Included in this series are: “Anemone” , “Chitin”, “Barnacles” and “Lobster” necklaces.Cynthia Tooops, Anemone Necklace, 1997 Cynthia Toops, Anemone Necklace, 1997

Cynthia Toops, Chitin Necklace, 1997 Cynthia Toops, Chitin Necklace, 1997

Cynthia Toops, Barnacle Necklace, 1997, 34? long Cynthia Toops, Barnacle Necklace, 1997, 34″ long

As for the hat, I envisioned a clump of anemone on my head. I wanted the branches to be movable. So all the elements were on wire and the wires were attached to a piece of mesh. What I had not anticipated was the weight of the finished piece. It was not wearable art. I still have the piece and over the years I’ve done small versions of it in jewelry – a ring , a cuff bracelet, another anemone bracelet.

Cynthia Toops, Anemone Ring Cynthia Toops, Anemone Ring

Cynthia Toops, Anemone Bracelet Cynthia Toops, Anemone Bracelet

On the to-do list is a bandolier version I’ve been thinking of since the hat ten years ago. This year, Dan and I have been going to this beach on the Washington coast with amazing tide pools so the urge to make the piece is strong again.

My fondest memories of the hat were all the people at the conference taking pictures of each other wearing the hat. It reminds me that art is best when shared.”
Cynthia Toops, artist with Ruth Anne Grove modeling Anemone Hat, 1997 Cynthia with Ruth Anne Grove modeling Anemone Hat

Yamashita modeling Toops Anemone Hat, 1997 Kaz Yamashita (Kono) modeling Anemone Hat

Regan modeling Toops Anemone Hat, 1997 Margaret Regan modeling Anemone Hat

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.