Talking with Cynthia Tinapple

Talking with Cynthia Tinapple

Episode #168

On today’s show I have a  fun chat with polymer clay artist and blogger, Ms. Cynthia Tinapple.

She talks about her trip to Nepal where she taught polymer clay techniques to a very receptive audience of female artists. Check out her slideshow of inspiring pictures. (see link in the show notes)

Also, this week I have a website, a book, and an app to share. I love them and I hope you do too! xo


Cynthia’s Links
cynthia’s photo album
studio mojo newsletter

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Interview transcript

Transcription of Interview with Cynthia Tinapple

Alison Lee: OK well I have back today. I guess it was on CraftCast a while back. I don’t even want to think how long ago, Miss Cynthia Tinapple. Her blog Polymer Clay Daily has been, she has been blogging over there since 2005. It’s so crazy. Wonderful blog where you get updates daily, all kinds of inspiration. If you are in the polymer clay world or even if you are not in the polymer clay world it’s always fun to see what’s going on over there. And Cynthia, of course, teaches many a great class here with me at the CraftCast studio. Cynthiawelcome.

Cynthia Tinapple:: Thank you. Thank you. Good to be here.

Alison: It’s always fun to talk. We always have a good time together. So excited to talk to you but before we get into some of the things that I’ve been wanting to hear and I thought why not record it and share it with everyone, tell everyone a little bit about your background and how you got into polymer. Because I know you have been doing it, you are one of the pioneer people in that medium

Cynthia:: Well, I’ve always worked with communications but I have a daughter and when she was about 10, we got into making a dollhouse and you know, all the stuff. So, I tried this (inaudible) to make some dollhouse stuff and I thought oh this is such cool stuff. And so, she outgrew the dollhouse but I never outgrew making stuff from Polymer. And I went to the museum of modern art and at that time it was Citizen Kane, it’s now Ford and Forlano had some things there and I just looked at them and I thought oh my God, I get it.

Alison: Wait you saw jewelry pieces that they had made back then?

Cynthia:: Yes.

Alison: Yes, their work is Ford Forlano. If you guys, anyone listening, beautiful work. So, you saw that. Did you think, because when I saw their work the first time, I thought that’s Polymer clay. Because when you think of polymer clay, you don’t, now I have learnt but I didn’t think that way back.

Cynthia:: Yes. I don’t know. I looked at it and I thought, oh I get it.

Alison: You did.

Cynthia:: So.

Alison: So that’s why you were able to go on and make beautiful things and I am still trying to figure out one of your beach pebbles.

Cynthia:: I don’t make that much. I talk more about it. I make enough to be credible and you know to have fun with it. But I am not a production person.

Alison: Right. Well, what drew you in at first? Did they have all of the colors in the beginning? I’m trying to remember back when you would see that in the art supply stores.

Cynthia:: Yes. Sure, they did.

Alison: They did?

Cynthia:: Yes. It was just, honestly it was the geometry and the math of it. And then of course then I started meeting people so it was the people.

Alison: What do you mean the geometry and the math? You mean you make the canes

Cynthia:: A kaleidoscope cane, yes.

Alison: Oh, ok

Cynthia:: And thinking in 3D, thinking geometrically and you know all of a sudden, every stripped rug you think oh I can make that a cane. I remember going to, you know a fast-food restaurant looking at their () thinking oh I can make that into canes. You know thinking oh I have gone too far.

Alison: No that’s when it gets good. I don’t think that way about canes I can’t say but I do understand that sort of lovely obsessive type of thinking because it pushes the envelopes you keep it going.

Cynthia:: Oh, and so then I would.

Alison: Good ahead.

Cynthia:: I met lots of people who are scientists, who are looking at pattern matching under microscopes, accepting that they were medical technologist or whatever. But they were intrigued by the same thing. It’s pattern matching, seeing patterns.

Alison: Oh, I got it. So, it’s that puzzle of that.

Cynthia:: Yes.

Alison: Definitely the kaleidoscope thing.

Cynthia:: Yes.

Alison: So did you try figuring out how to make canes on your own or was there, I know there was like one book out at that point or something probably.

Cynthia:: Right. I went to a class, Kircile SHleton who is now in Pittsburgh who is teaching a class at the arts center. She had figured it out. And there were some other people around who had figured it out.

Alison: And you just kept playing?

Cynthia:: We formed a guild and the rest was history.

Alison: The rest was history. And then how do you decide that you are going to start one of the known blogs for this medium? How does that occur?

Cynthia:: So that was a little circuitous. I knew I was going to retire and I was looking for something to do. And my children came to me, had a little come to Jesus meeting with me saying mom, you can’t take about us on the blog anymore, the family blog. We are adults, you may not put silly pictures of us. So, I thought, well they are right. So, I have to channel my. You know I have always been a communicator, that’s what I do.

Alison: So, you switch?

Cynthia:: Yes.

Alison: I love that. Your kids are like. I have to ask my son; I don’t do it too much. I do it on rare occasions where I can’t help myself. But they have to sneak in a little bit. And now did you think Polymer Clay Daily would grow like it did?

Cynthia:: No. But it’s been a long time. I mean It hasn’t been skyrocket but I thought when I had a thousand people reading my () already I have caught every fool who was doing polymer in the world.

Alison: Hey, I remember when 20 people checked something it seemed like who are these people?

Cynthia:: Right.

Alison: And they are from around the world.

Cynthia:: Right. So, it surprised me. It sure has and what else has surprised me is that my children are now coming back to me. They both work in the web and they both think that I’m quite good at it.

Alison: Yay! They are impressed.

Cynthia:: Yes, they are.

Alison: It’s nice when our children are impressed back a bit. I always enjoy that. Well, let’s talk about though your trip. Explain to everyone what you did and why and what happened.

Cynthia:: Oh dear. Well, I met Wendy Moore online. Wendy Moore is from Australia and she had helped start a project in Nepal because she has for many years travelled to Nepal and back. And she and her husband were living and working there at the time. And she had started a project for women who had been in domestic abuse situation and helping them out legally with life skills. She really didn’t want to do polymer but when she took the products these women made to the fair-trade organization, they said everybody does beads, everybody does felt, come on. We can’t sell this but we can sell whatever that is you are wearing around your neck. And she was of course wearing polymer.

Alison: That she had made?

Cynthia:: Yes. So, she reluctantly decided, alright I’ll try to get polymer to Nepal. I’ll try to teach them. And that was a few years back and she contacted me because she was, you know in the middle of doing this and I said I don’t know how can I help you but you need a website. So, I can make you a website. So, I made her a website and the website helped get some grants and help, you know have a presence and things kind of snowballed. And so, she would them starting doing tours and so she was having a tour. And wondered if I could teach, come on a tour. So.

Alison: She was bringing people with her just to take a tour of Nepal?

Cynthia:: Yes. She set up tours. Since she had lived there for quite a while and she speaks both Nepali and English and you know knows a lot of about the country, I mean I think that’s a fun way to take a trip. Someone who really knows the landscape. So, there were eight of us on this tour. I went early so I could teach the women. I taught them something that I had researched that I thought would be easy to produce and you know, was sellable and would ignite them. Was based on their culture and their colors and their way of seeing the world. They were just like sponges, they picked it up quickly. There were eight women who have been through three years of training in this. They picked it up quickly. They wanted more, more more. I took a bag of various peoples work from the US that I have from over the years and I saw them sorting through everything, studying it, figuring out how things have been made. Some of the things have been in books and have seen them in the books but had never seen them in person. So, when they learnt everything, I wanted to teach them the first day, I thought it would take two days, it took them one. So, the second day we just jumped into some of the other, I checked with Kim Curring, the one that they really liked and I wrote, I emailed her and said is it ok? And she wrote back and said sure, sure. So, I taught them that the second day and.

Alison: What was that that attracted them?

Cynthia:: It was colors, it was flowers. I didn’t realize how tropical it was in this part of Nepal but it’s really quite a tropical area and so this really resonated with them. They loved it. They put them on and they looked like perfect. And I have them, my pictures are up on my Flickr site. Pictures from Nepal, there is a set there and you can see them wearing these things. And these girls are beautiful. They were color, they do color like intuitively and so they did a marvelous job. At any rate it was wonderful and I didn’t realize there was going to be a graduation ceremony and I was giving the graduation address and there were certificates and there was much crying. These are women who have never graduated from anything.

Alison: That’s great. So now, will they make things that will be for sale over here?

Cynthia:: They will and I will have a Esty page up for them and I know that Wendy is working on some things. It’s difficult on their site to get that up because Nepal is still, their political stuff has settled down a lot but, you know banks aren’t really that hot to work with them right now. So, we have to work with them through Australia and the US so that we kind of bypass their banking system.

Alison: Now how much money can a woman make? Not necessarily dollars but how would you compare it to something like? Does it give them enough to take care of themselves?

Cynthia:: I ‘m not sure at this point that is does. But what it does do is it empowers them in other ways. They can say, I’m having, their families are loath to take them back. If their husband has left them or beaten them or done whatever, their family of origin does not want them back because it’s another mouth to feed in a very, very poor country. But if they can say, I’m an artist and working on this, then the family is much more, I don’t know, gives them credibility and it gives them some leverage in that situation. And these women, they are earning something. I think they earn, it’s kind of peace work, I think. I think that’s how they are paid but I’m not real clear on that. They do make some and they make enough that they have started their own, what do you call it, micro lending thing.

Alison: Oh yes.

Cynthia:: So, the eight women save their dollars, their pennies and so one of them comes up with an idea and they say well this is where I can sell some of my work. The others will loan them the money to get started. I mean they have taken real ownership of this project so; you know that’s a real plus.

Alison: It sounds like it. What were you most impressed with? Well, the speed of learning impresses me because I would need the two days for sure. It was more cultural things.
Cynthia:: I was impressed by what these women have done given their culture. I mean I would go to a town or to a bazaar in Nepal and there would be 100 booths of people selling beads, let’s say glass beads. And they would all be selling the exactly the same glass beads, laid out exactly the same way, then the price would be exactly the same. And I would think what? Did anybody talk to you about marketing? Why don’t you locate down somewhere else where they are not selling beads? So, I didn’t quite understand that in the culture btu there is a big resistance to being different and to because they are very poor. To be different is a risk and if you are very poor you don’t take a big risk. But that can get you into some crazy places. I mean. So, these women have taken a huge risk in asking for help. So, once they have taken that first risk, then developing their own and developing their own voice is easier but it’s a huge risk. In that this is not a culture where you develop your own voice, I don’t think that.

What people are saying

  • Your classes are just amazing and I have learned sooo much from Cindy Pope’s classes on the Silhouette machines. She breaks it down so any beginner can learn. I didn’t take my Curio out of the box for a year until I watched her class. Now I’m addicted

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