The Sculpture in the Park show in Loveland (CO) is one of the largest juried sculpture shows in the country. One hundred and fifty artists are selected to show their work over a long weekend in August. When I attended it a few months back, much of the art intrigued me. The works on display were striking, beautiful, or clever, but none of them spoke to me. Then I saw Thelma…
The second I laid eyes on her I knew she belonged in my home. Thelma — a 16” high ceramic figure — has a long face, large ears, angel wings, sneering lips, and a nest of red hair. But it is her expression that grabbed me. Thelma projects power, skepticism and a “don’t mess with me” persona. And underneath that, I just know she has an open mind and heart.
The sculptor, Cindy Britan, saw the glow in my eyes and came over to chat. Then Cindy formally introduced me to Thelma, the Bad Ass Fairy (the artist’s name for her, not mine). Cindy told me her ceramic sculptures are meant to be one-of-a-kind storytellers. During the creation process, Thelma emerged as a woman who puts up with nothing and can do and say anything.
I bought Thelma, and she now resides in a prominent place in my living room. Thelma intrigues visitors to my home and has become the catalyst for many discussions about women’s strength and the ability to speak up. The strong reactions to Thelma encouraged me to have a further conversation with her creator. So I contacted Cindy Britan, and we spoke about how she became a ceramic artist and the inspiration for her work.
Cindy told me she was interested in art from a very young age. Her hope was to become a professional artist. She has painted her whole life, doing commissioned portraits of people and animals. But because she has three children, she didn’t think she could support her family from her art. Her painting became a side avocation, while she practiced a full-time career as a play therapist. Then she discovered ceramics and sculpture.
“That was it. I was like, this is my medium. It was a passion.”
After her family moved to Colorado, Cindy continued to take ceramic classes at the local community college, bought a kiln, and set up a clay studio. Her sculpture took off, and two years before the pandemic she retired from therapy because her art career was going so well. Cindy was winning awards, getting into bigger shows, and selling her work.
When the pandemic began and therapists were sorely needed, Cindy returned to counseling part time. But now, once again, she’s easing her way out of it.
Cindy grew up in Florida and spent a lot of time at Disney World. That began a lifelong love of characters. Surrealism, stories and metaphors are incorporated into her creations. Working with children is another inspiration.
“Kids are amazing, especially the little ones, under five and with trauma. We’re working with toys, and the stories they make up about the world they live in just makes you young again.”
Cindy likes big ears, long noses, and expressive eyes.
When she started working with clay, she sculpted realistically. Then she experimented with over-exaggerating expressions and elongating faces. She likes big ears, long noses, and expressive eyes.
“We need to have more whimsy and laughing at the darkness. I want my pieces to have that dark edge that you laugh at, and you can connect to it.”
She definitely succeeds in making that connection. Cindy’s characters, both human and anthropomorphic, display unique personalities that provoke powerful reactions. One of her favorite parts of exhibiting at shows is people watching.
“I love when people walk by, and they kind of look. Then they lean in to read the name and they start laughing. Whether they buy or not, I really want people to engage and feel it.”
The characters’ names and their stories seem to come directly from her creations. In addition to Thelma, there’s Stanley; Stanley is a rabbit who Cindy describes as “loves to engage with patrons at shows. He especially loves kids. He has the keys to the castle and knows the secrets. If you listen closely, he might tell you one or two.”
“A teacher said to me ‘Sit with the piece and let it talk to you.’ When I first heard that, even being as open as I am, I’m like, really? It’s going to talk to me? And yes, it does. It’s amazing. If you look at it and engage with it, it does speak to you.”
Cindy’s new goal is to create more impactful figures in metal.
When I asked Cindy what’s next, she told me she’d like to create something huge, like a six-foot high piece. Using clay and a small kiln limits the size of the work she can produce. So, she’s learning to work with metal — shaping, welding and plasma cutting. The goal is to create more impactful figures.
“I never know what’s going to show up. I love the characters. I think a big giant character would be wonderful. Somehow a giant figure will create even more connection.”
I’m looking forward to seeing Cindy’s work in metal, and hearing what those enormous characters have to say to her… And to me.
© Karen Gershowitz (11/14/22) Special for FF2 Media®
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Follow this link to Cindy Britan’s website. Note that a section will be added soon for holiday shoppers!
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Photo of Cindy and Thelma by Karen Gershowitz.
Images of Stanley and Thelma can be found on Cindy’s website.
Karen grew up in Manhattan.
During her long career as a marketing researcher, she crisscrossed the globe, conducting thousands of focus groups and interviews. While traveling, she used her interview skills in ordinary conversations to get strangers to open up and connect with her.
Read all about her adventures in Travel Mania.