Cinder Hypki is a mosaic artist, creative consultant, and a long time advisor & friend here at W&W. She taught us both how to write grants during out graduate programs & has journeyed with us through making art for healing. Her studio space is always warm & inviting. Some of the greatest & most enlightening conversations happen in that space, so naturally we wanted to showcase her for this series. You'll also notice a new question at the end - this is actually thanks to Cinder herself for giving us the idea!
1. How long have you been in this current space and how has your arts practice affected it?
I’ve been in this space for about five years. My good friend, Dennis Livingston, who was a master carpenter and fine artist, designed and built these amazingly multi-purpose storage units for me—this big easel, library shelves and the Wall ‘o Buckets enabling me to stack many five gallon buckets for storing mortar and tile. He actually asked me about the stages of mosaic making and we talked about how I would move in the space and what I would require. We made this worktable out of an old pallet I found in an alley in Fells to be the height at which my shoulders would drop comfortably while working – to prevent fatigue. What is so beautiful is that these were originally built for a previous studio, but they were designed to be transferable to any space, so I reconfigured them when I moved here.
2. What do you require logistically to create a usable space?
Safety is one priority for sure, and proximity to my home, so that I can walk or bike here, and don’t have to get in a car. That also means I use it more often. This neighborhood is where I live also; it is rich and vibrant in culture – living on this block there are white people, African Americans, Hispanic folks, and around the corner is the Baltimore American Indian Center. I love that rich soup of humanity! Within a block in either direction is a hardware store and delicious Salvadoran pupusas! Affordability was crucial too of course, so I share the space with a wonderful studio mate, Alice Dvoskin. We were victims of gentrification at our former studio – the owner raised the rents really high, forcing out the artists and craftspeople so as to rent to higher-end businesses. We found our way here thanks to a tip from Lillian at the hardware store.
3. What are some of the reasons why you have a space dedicated to your making practice?
Mosaic materials take a lot of space! I simply could not have done this work out of my home. But really this space transcends any artistic medium. I needed a place to meet with clients and collaborators; space to focus on my own artwork and then be able to leave it and pick up where I left off days or weeks later. I also hold workshops here, community gatherings, and I build large commissioned works here. Most everything is easily movable so I can reconfigure the space differently for different functions. And I can make big messes without anyone complaining!
4. What kind of sacred space(s) do you have in your studio – is it an altar, a meditation space, a nice moment of repose?
Besides this comfy chair? I have a few sacred spaces here, actually. This shelf seems to have naturally accumulated all kinds of little gifts, sketches, natural bits from walks or beachcombing, funny things people bring or leave behind – the flotsam and jetsam from students and friends and collaborators over the years. It is also where I keep some of my books on art, mosaics and community building. It all reminds me of beautiful moments here, sharing ideas and insights without judgment, brainstorming, experiments, great laughs, creative inspiration, cups of tea or bad coffee -- the magic and the shenanigans of it all.
The other sacred space is in between these two windows. Two pieces hang here – one is the first piece I made for my pivotal series called Talking Stones, and the other is an old print decoupaged on wood that I found in a second hand store – an old farmer’s hands, calloused, scarred, with cracked gritty fingernails, holding a broken down hat. The hands in the print represent the humility of hard work to me—an ethic I was raised with on a farm in Wisconsin. On another level, the whole studio is sacred space for me. I feel really fortunate to have it, and I never for a moment take it for granted.
5. What was the greatest feat that you overcame in this space?
We were robbed within the first week of moving into this space. In a flash, I lost most of the tools I’d collected for doing community projects over 15 years. It has taken a great deal of intention to change the way I see this space, to feel safe and comfortable here, but I’ve overcome it. I'm grateful we have such a great landlord; he's been supportive and generous since we've been here.
6. What are you excited about in the future?
The most exciting “project” moving forward is that I’m tackling a big shift in my approach to and understanding of my own arts practice. My work in community has always been oriented to social justice in one form or another, and for years, mosaic as a medium was well suited to creative projects bringing non-artists together. Now, it is just one part of what I do, because I’m collaborating more and more to use art and to design ritual more consciously as a healing tool in the face of trauma, illness, even death. So I’ve been exploring this, expanding my practice, conceiving of it in a broader, more holistic way.
And the studio is a reflection of that process – a place where I explore big questions, big ideas with others – community artists, art therapists, healers, organizers, folks like you. So the studio itself is a place of transformation and growth. A pile of smooth stones almost always lives in the middle of the meeting table and by the end of each encounter here, people have often subconsciously balanced little stacks of rocks, built little cairns, as they were talking. Since the 5th century, cairns were built as memorials or landmarks in the British Isles. I like the idea that we’re building little signposts to point the way on our journeys as we come together here to explore, to create-- and also that they’re transitory, as we move on to the next discovery. Art is like that, isn’t it? It will speak the way if we’re listening.
Thank you so much Cinder for running this interview with us, and for being the font of knowledge and goodwill that you are. You are appreciated. She is currently raising funds to turn her Dad's journal he kept the first year of their farm into a book of poetry. Check out the indiegogo here & consider donating!
With love & light & beauty,
Ashton & Claire
Posted on a Waning Gibbous