Sisters Wendy Sumner and Cindy Sumner comprise SisterBloc, a jewelry design and production
team based in Tucson, Ariz. The two collect antique
cookie and keepsake tins from thrift stores for their
line of miniature sculptures in the form of earrings,
necklaces, pins, and tiaras.
“What we do is almost like traditional collage,
except tin is harder to cut than paper,” explains
Cindy from the sisters’ shared studio, just off the
kitchen in her pink and purple adobe home.
Images are cut from the tin using aircraft shears
and tinsnips, then are flattened and filed in shoe-boxes for later use.
Photography by Sanford Furrow
“Pins and big necklaces are much more like a
canvas, while the earrings are mostly about color
and design and playing with historical shapes,” says
Cindy, who received a BFA in metalsmithing and
jewelry from the University of Arizona. Once the
tin is soldered to a brass or stainless steel backing,
tools such as a jeweler’s saw and bench shear are
used for finer work.
The two don’t collaborate on pieces but work in
tandem, critiquing each other’s work and helping
one another through creative impasses. Their
designs evolve from what Cindy jokingly calls their
“genetic aesthetic.” The work is suffused with a
quirky wit inspired by found images and text —
pineapples paired with hearts, skulls dangling from
pagodas, and Japanese kanji coupled with Milk-Bone dog biscuits, to name a few.
“One of the things I like about working with a
partner is the synergy and silliness that happens,”
says Wendy, sitting in the spacious sunroom studio
crammed with materials and tools.
This silliness is evident in their line of tiaras. The
two wanted to do “something fabulous and big and
sculptural and fun,” according to Cindy. Jelly-Bean
Rain consists of a little boy in a yellow rain slicker
walking through a downpour of jellybeans. “This
way you can have your own little wind chime in your
brain!” Wendy explains. —Katie Kurtz