Meet

Cindy Hsu Zell

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born and raised in Southern California. I love living and working in Los Angeles, especially being so close to the ocean, mountains, desert, and forests. The geography, diversity, and sunshine all influence my work immensely.
Why do you choose to work with thread?
My work was mostly focused on woodworking and metalsmithing before I started using thread. I found myself wanting to work with something softer and textural to contrast the rigidity of wood and metal. I wanted to figure out how to make rope, so starting with thread as a foundation made sense to me.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
My work involves techniques in woodworking, soldering, rope-making, and dyeing, which requires the use of many tools. I can’t make art without podcasts, though!
Slant
I found myself wanting to work with something softer and textural to contrast the rigidity of wood and metal. — Cindy Hsu Zell
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I begin my day by creating my to do list and tidying up the studio. Outer order creates inner calm for me, and I can’t begin a new project without cleaning the old one up. Then I’ll switch between soldering brass, dyeing/spinning rope, and answering e-mails.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
My color choices have to be very deliberate because I dye my rope when they are just thread, before they are spun. I usually end up spending more time figuring out the colors for a piece than designing its overall composition before I begin. As a result, some of my pieces have evolved into studies on a particular colors itself.
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
I have a general idea of how I want my pieces to look, but the rope usually has a mind of its own. Gravity plays a big role in how the weight of the material will drape and rest. I try not to force my material to do something it doesn’t want to do naturally. The end result is a rather organic form that is a collaboration between my intangible ideas and a very material-driven process.
Are you formally trained?
I grew up drawing and making things, taking art classes as a kid. I attended USC for sculpture and animation, which had a very broad art curriculum that allowed me to experiment with many different mediums. Most of the techniques I use in my latest pieces, like rope-making and soldering, are self-taught.
Slant
Gravity plays a big role in how the weight of the material will drape and rest. I try not to force my material to do something it doesn’t want to do naturally. — Cindy Hsu Zell
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
I remember falling in love with the work of John McCracken. His minimal yet playful use of scale, color, and finish are fascinating to me.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces?
Nature influences a lot of my work. My latest pieces have been inspired by desert hues, the cascading of waterfalls, and mountain landscapes.

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