Meropi Toumbas

Hi Meropi, and thank you for letting us interview you for the site. Can we start by you telling us a bit about yourself, your own journey as an artist, how you got started, and where you are going to.

I will start off thanking you for this opportunity to present myself and my work through our website.

My journey started back in 1963. Born in Cyprus, a small island in the Mediterranean, I live there with my husband, my two sons and my two furry babies.

For a number of years I worked in the hotel industry and then, I spend a few more years in the Training and Development department of one of the major local banks. I was struggling in my daily routine in jobs that I didn’t really enjoy, a work environment that was not very exciting to be part of because there was no opportunity to be creative. Eventually, having realized that something seemed to be missing from my life, I went through a two-year fashion design course.

Ten years ago, the Universe heard my prayers and following the recommendation of a good friend of mine, I attended a series of jewellery making courses at a local hobby store.

The beaded jewellery course revealed a whole new world right in front of my eyes.  Being a person that has always been searching for creative activities and a person that never gives up, I kept searching my new world for new techniques and new materials.  Completely by accident, I ‘discovered’ silver metal clay, the most fantastic material I ever came across.  From that very moment, I became addicted to it knowing that, at last, I found what I was looking for all my life.

Without a second thought, I found myself in the UK attending the Certification Courses for Artclay. I was really happy to give up my full time job and to start my small creative business: Meropi’s Art.   Almost seven years later, I am now working hard to pass on my passion and knowledge to new artists and thus, help them start their own creative business.  Like me, they could quit their boring jobs when their individual time is right and find their own path to true happiness through creation.

My commitment is to continue working and developing myself and my skills; to spread the message to more and more people about the most wonderful environmental material one can work with; and, to expand this small business outside the boundaries of my small Island.  At the same time, it is my objective to help new entrepreneurs to achieve their artistic goals. This is my ‘why’ and this is why I am doing what I am doing !!!!

 As an artist living in Cyprus, what kind of unique challenges does that present you with?

Living in Cyprus is like a gift from God! The natural beauty of the island, the centuries-long history of the island, as well as the contrasts regarding the weather or the landscape, has always been a source of inspiration for me.

Beyond this, I have to say that there are also challenges that I face, not so much as an artist, but more as an instructor. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and interacting with other metal clay artists, however, the small size of the country cannot accommodate a large metal clay community.

Recently, you had one of your pieces featured in Vogue magazine. For many, that would seem to be a major accomplishment. How did that happen?

Since December 2012, I run an online shop on Etsy under the trade name MeropisArt Jewelry where I sell the jewellery pieces I craft. Vogue Magazine search for jewellery pieces that can be featured in their ‘Vogue Gems’ page and invited me to present one of my rings in their 2014 autumn edition.

It sure is an accomplishment especially when you find one of the items that you have created yourself, among the pages featuring the super giant names of fashion! When you consider that these names are known everywhere in the world and that these companies have multimillion dollar sales, only then you can appreciate that just ‘standing’ next to them in a magazine such as Vogue is by itself an achievement and an honour to your work.

You have become a popular teacher in Europe. Can you tell us a bit about your seminars in the Netherlands last year? As a teacher and artist, how inspiring was the experience for you, and what did you learn? (If you have any other seminars planned this year, please mention them.)

During October 2014, I taught two master classes in the Netherlands. For me it was a fantastic experience in all respects: I had the opportunity to be among friends that I had met in 2011 when I spent a whole week in the Netherlands as part of the New Mokume Gane certification course; as a teacher, these classes were a major challenge for me because it was the first time I had to teach such a demanding project away from my workshop. This meant that the preparation required was tremendous because I had to be 100% sure that all the required tools and materials would be available. Also, given the time limitations, I had to be sure that everything would be completed successfully within the time available. I have to say that the outcome was impressive and all the participants were very excited.

What I learned is that a teacher must be fully prepared for the class, you need to physically and mentally run the class in advance in order to prevent any unexpected difficulties, and above all, you need to place yourself in the position of the participants so that you can be prepared for any questions they will have.

I am really excited that we are currently working on planning another similar session in Czech Republic and even more excited that there is a possibility for a presentation and workshop how to create jewellery using silver metal clay at a University Fashion Design School in Italy. What is definitely there is that I am open to suggestions!

Is there any one thing that you turn to for inspiration? What motivates you to create?

My inspiration comes mostly from the past, my studies in fashion design and nature, as well as from my desire to create pieces using new designs and new materials. Silver metal clay is for me a fantastic material that can unlock the skills and bring to life the inspiration of artists. I enjoy undertaking new challenges with new themes that result in unique pieces. I also love experimenting using natural materials for my textures and forms.

You have a popular online shop on Etsy. Is that an effective way for you to market your jewellery? What other ways do you use to market yourself?

Beyond an online platform where I can exhibit and sell my jewellery, Etsy has given me the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world that respect and appreciate my work. My jewellery was sold from Cyprus to Indonesia, and from Norway to Australia, but mainly to the United States.

Obviously, this cannot be the only marketing approach used. I use demonstrations and presentations to promote finished products and classes. Hopefully, the national economy will recover soon which will open up new opportunities. Also, I use my website and the social media as alternative ways to promote my work.

What’s next for you?

One thing I know for sure is that I want to learn new things every day. The other thing I know is that I want to keep developing and improving as a person and as an artist.

Among my objectives for the future is to organise a big metal clay event in Cyprus. I aspire to bring together on this beautiful land metal clay enthusiasts from Europe, from the West and the East and under the bright sun of the Mediterranean to give them the opportunity to exchange new ideas, new techniques and new approaches to creating using silver and other metal clays. Above all, I aspire to provide through this event, a bridge that will join as many members of the metal clay community as possible and thus, create new and stronger relationships among them.