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Bloomington-based artist creates sculptures from recycled materials

Bloomington-based artist Cappi Phillips’ parents always encouraged her to pursue a “real job.”

Following their advice, she never took any art classes during college.

But after graduation, she decided to take a clay working course.

“I always knew that I wanted to do something with art, and after taking my first clay course, I was hooked,” Phillips said.

Following this class, Phillips knew she wanted this art form to be a large part of her life.

She then worked primarily on clay sculptures for about 20 years.

Phillips’ work is currently on display until Nov. 23 at the By Hand Gallery in Fountain Square Mall.

However, after working with clay for so long, she reached a point in her life where she decided she wanted a new challenge to pursue. 

“When I was a kid, I took art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art,” Phillips said. “Our first project was to make a paper mosaic, and after that I had always longed to work with mosaics again.”

Unlike her instruction in clay working, Phillips said she was mainly self-taught in the art of mosaics.

When she first began making her mosaics, she created her own tiles.

At first she tried using broken china and soon moved on to broken glass.

“The color possibilities with glass are endless,” Phillips said.

Now, Phillips relies on her friends who work with pottery to give her their leftover shards.

Though she still creates mosaics, Phillips has once again accepted a challenge and has moved on to another art form — sculpting.

She creates her animal sculptures using only recycled materials.

“I think my love of recycled goods stems from my childhood,” Phillips said. “Barbies were really popular when I was a kid, and I used to make my own Barbie houses out of old boxes and things I’d find around the house.”

Phillips’ mosaics gained the attention of Tova Lesko, the gallery manager at By Hand Gallery.

“Her work is definitely unique,” Lesko said. “I think it’s great that we have something local that’s so different from everything else.”

Phillips said she draws her inspiration for her animal sculptures from the materials themselves.

She said she likes to look for forms that resemble various animals and then embellish them with additional materials.

Perhaps her most well-known pieces are the range of roosters made out of hair rollers, Phillips said.

“The roosters are definitely a favorite,” she said. “I love seeing people’s reactions to my pieces.”

Anita Hacker, owner of the Merle Norman store adjacent from the By Hand Gallery, said she really enjoys being able to see Phillips’ artwork.

“The bear sculpture is my favorite,” Hacker said. “She really brought him back to life.”

Phillips’ artwork has won many awards, including second place for a piece of 3-D artwork at the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts in Bloomington.

Phillips said she encourages young artists to pursue their artistic interests.

“Follow your heart. Do what you love,” she said. “Just follow your own passions.”

— Claire Waggoner

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