I think there’s something truly enchanting about semi-precious jewels skillfully set against silver. Cynthia Sutcliffe of Cultivated Dreams & Designs creates particularly charming pieces in her Halstead, KS, studio, and she has graciously agreed to do an interview with me! Take a moment to learn a bit about this talented Kansan and her work…
M&R: How long have you been creating jewelry?
Cynthia: Nearly 7 years total. Silversmithing has been only the last couple of years.
How did you become interested in this art?
Creating has always been a necessity for me. I don’t do well if my life is filled with dull, repetitive work. There has to be some kind of outlet to break up the mundane, and this has been it for me.
Were you involved in any previous crafts? Are you now involved in other crafts?
I began illustrating as a kid. Spent about a decade working in that outlet, going through high school and some college to pursue a career in some form of illustrative design. I quickly learned that in a professional sense, I could not be content going that route, at least not in rural Kansas. You hit a wall, and no one seems to understand that someone working in that field has to survive. I loved illustrating in many forms, but did not want to continue without some form of progress.
What are some of the processes involved creating your pieces?
When I started out, I only used wire that I could hammer into simple forms to frame the stones that I wanted as a focal point. Now that I have started smithing, I am attempting to learn something new with every piece. Each piece has the same process of deciding on a stone, designing a setting, and soldering each detail. There sometimes are a lot of steps needed to polish a piece when it is done, including sanding out any fire stain or scratches, to deciding on the finish. I just make sure to push myself to do better in some way, even if it is the most minute detail at times.
How did you learn to do this?
I just picked up some beads one day, and it just kind of clicked for me… fast forward about 7 years, with a TON of trial and error… and you just kind of learn things. My lifestyle doesn’t really allow me to spend extra time going to school or paying for resources to learn from, so most every process has been self taught, along with the occasional knowledge of other smiths.
What is the most satisfying part of creating jewelry?
Seeing someone wear a piece of mine at a show, in photos, or making someone feel good when I hand them their custom jewelry. Some folks will try to challenge you and say that you are perpetuating a materialistic society by selling merchandise like this… but I know that is wrong when I am able to make something that is meaningful for a client. There is a look that people get that can’t be recreated by mass produced items.
What are some of its challenges?
I would say that is when I have to tell someone “No” on crafting something.
Where do you find inspiration?
So many things in life that you see on a daily basis… it makes it difficult to sort through all your half-thought-out ideas without really sitting down to make a plan. It could be something another artist has done, and thinking, “wow, I gotta try that!” Or simple things, like music, old rpg’s, nature, or, my favorite, “happy accidents” when I am playing around with stones on my bench and something just “happens.”
How do you hope your work will impact others?
I just want more people to understand that despite what life throws at you, how many rules you have to obey in your daily life, there is some room to say, “I will do what I want and I will succeed.” I am no major success when you look at the financial side of things. But, I am genuinely happy to be able to share what I do with the world. The rest will follow.