VICTORIA "TORY" HUGHES 1958 - 2018
Victoria “Tory” Hughes is a great example of someone going from impassioned enthusiast to fervent professional—with Tory her outsized passion was sited within the exploration of a material called polymer clay and its creative potential. She was among the earliest practitioners of this new compound, known primarily for children’s use as a modeling medium under brand names Fimo and Sculpey.
Tory loved jewelry for its “seductive qualities,” as she put it, and for the energy it radiated from the female form. She created meaningful statements in her craft. There was no confusing Tory’s jewelry with any other artist working in polymer clay. From the ancient, ethnic to the contemporary, the world endlessly supplied her special vision and was supplely captured by her hand.
While first and foremost a polymer artist, Tory was also a writer, teacher and maker of instructional videos. Revered as a pioneer and respected as an inspiring teacher, she also touched others’ hearts with her generosity of spirit, caring and attentive nature. To be with Tory was to be kept on your toes, as she was curious, ever inquiring and challenging. You left an exchange with Tory expanded and perhaps a bit exhausted.
Ever instructive, she said: “Part of the process of being an artist, in the sense of a practice, like a martial arts practice, is you just keep moving into and through that spot. Let there be discomfort and then move through it anyway. Make a choice; you can always come back and make a different choice. Because until you make one choice, you can’t learn from the experience of it, so you can’t make the next choice.”
Tory was a mentor to thousands over her career for those who attended her workshops, read her articles or viewed her videos. She was a star in the polymer community and held in high esteem for her deep understanding of the material. She said she knew exactly what it could do, nevertheless, without hesitation, continued searching for new qualities polymer clay could bring to a piece. She felt that it seemed impossible to do anything wrong with Fimo—“It’s like a golden retriever with a big heart that really wants to please.”
She gained her reputation over the decades for her innovative techniques, among them developing methods for imitating natural materials, such as ivory or malachite. For her, the point of using these techniques was not to make perfectly rendered simulations or replicas but to use them creatively. For Tory, anything she developed was quickly shared with others eager to learn and participate in a creative experience. “I think that teaching is a sacred trust. I really believe that. Teaching art reminds people to relate to their intuition. Our culture supports a schism between the artist and nonartist, which I like to think I am helping to mediate. I tell my students that art illustrates life. The way you do your art is exactly the way you do your life because in the end they are the same thing.”
With a nomadic upbringing for an influence, Tory lived in many places, peripatetic with a wanderlust that took her over the world, but her last home was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she died far too young at age fifty-nine. Her Facebook showed Tory teaching in January until a few weeks before she died. She was going to keep her mission alive to the very last.
See Ornament Volume 13, No. 2, 1989 “Tory Hughes: Art Is A Conversation, Not A Conversation Piece” by Barbara Hamaker;Ornament Volume 32, No. 4, 2009 “Tory Hughes: The Path From Nothing To Something” by Jill DeDominicis.