Sum & Substance: Cynthia Toops

Sum & Substance: Cynthia Toops

Cynthia Toops Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle, 2010, micro-mosaic (glass, polymer clay, seed beads), enamel on lampwork glass beads, sterling silver, aluminum, vinyl heishi beads, 24 in. long; Photo: Doug Yaple

Cynthia Toops’ process is meticulous and laborious. And, even among jewelry artists using polymer, her work is distinctive. “Cynthia practices craft at the highest level,” says Mike Holmes. “Her micromosaic polymer brooches are a marvel.”

How she got started: In 1986 my husband, Dan Adams, and I came across The History of Beads by Lois Dubin and began collecting beads in earnest. We started making beads and later jewelry to pay for our bead addiction.

Her training: I have a BFA in printmaking from the University of Washington. Unfortunately, I was not interested in jewelry in college. In 1986, while I was visiting my sisters in Hong Kong, they introduced me to polymer clay, and I have been working with it ever since. Most of what I do is trial and error, spending long hours with the material.

How she describes her work: My work, especially the micromosaics, is technically simple but very labor-intensive. Most of the pieces are figurative; they may be inspired by events or the title of a show or color combinations or an inspiring museum exhibition.

Her biggest challenge: Right now my damaged vision (macular hole) makes it difficult to see at night, and by 10 p.m. my vision starts getting blurry.

What makes her work unique: What I make is what interests me at the moment, and even though some pieces involve a bit of research, the result is still my own drawing style. Also, the technique of micro-mosaic is very tedious and not very remunerative. It is probably not a wise career choice!