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Artist uses creations to educate public

Cyndi Cogbill has found her niche for using her education and experience in art and biology.

She’s opened Joplin’s newest teaching studio, using art to give people a better understanding of nature.

Cogbill, who holds a biology degree with a minor in art, is a former naturalist for Prairie State Park, near Mindenmines, and Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center in Joplin.

During her time in those positions, she used her penchant for working with polymer clay to teach people about nature or, more specifically, how to view nature more carefully by recreating it in clay.


Cindy Cogbill displays some of her unique artistic creations that help educate the public about nature.


Arts columnist


“Art gives another dimension to learning science,” she says. “It makes you look at everything in a more critical way.”

Now, she’s furthering her goal of teaching nature through art by opening a studio. Not only will it provide place for her polymer clay classes, she’ll be opening it up for studio rental space for other artists.

The studio is located at 4940 Highway 43, south of Petro Travel Center at Interstate 44.

It’s a quaint, rock house that shares a parking lot with Jim’s Heli-Arc and Welding, where Cogbill’s husband is a welder.

The place exudes a warmth more indicative of nature than of a teaching studio. A fireplace insert against a natural wood wall dominates what was once a living room, now a community teaching space. Throughout the studio, walls are painted white, and sunshine pours through multiple windows, providing a favored lighting environment for working artists.

An open house will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. During it, people can submit entries in a challenge to name the studio. The winner will receive 50% off a class or one of Cogbill’s polymer tutorials, available through her website, www.pawpawpatchproductions. com.

The day of the open house will kick off with a make and learn class from 9 a.m. to noon. Aimed at families with children 6 and older, it’ll offer lessons on creating a bison sculpture in polymer clay while learning all about the North American bison.

The class is $25 for individuals or the first family member and $12 for each additional family member. Clay and tools will be provided, as will be the case for all classes. Registration is required by noon Thursday by emailing cyndi@pawpawpatchproductions. com or texting or calling 417-553-1583.

Make and Learn classes will be offered regularly, focusing on such activities as sculpting trade beads while learning about Native American culture or creating dishes shaped like leaves while getting a lesson on the biology and varieties of trees. But sculpting mixed with nature teachings won’t be the only classes provided at the studio.

Cogbill also will offer Make and Take classes, the first set for 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4. These will focus less on learning about nature and more on creating functional items from polymer — treasure boxes, jewelry, masks, light covers or whatever is requested. These classes will be aimed at people 15 years and older, and they too will be $25. Registration for the Dec. 4 class is required by noon Friday.

A new series of classes will be offered after the first of the year. Beyond that, Cogbill anticipates that she’ll schedule six sessions each spring and fall. She also plans to have open studio time, allowing people to work on personal projects as they wish.

People interested in classes can track them by registering for her email newsletter or checking the website or the Pawpaw Patch Productions Facebook page.

In the next month, Cogbill hopes to start accepting inquiries for studio rental space for artists or people wishing to teach music, crafts or even yoga. Three rooms with storage closets are available, plus there will be a communal kitchen and storage room available and access to a patio area.

Cogbill will continue to offer nature- based polymer classes off-site at such places at Spiva Center for the Arts or state parks, where she’s led classes previously.

Her work is a marriage of her loves — art, polymer clay and nature.

“Polymer is really diverse,” she says. “You can make it look like wood. You can make it look like glass. That’s one of the things I like is pushing what I can do with polymer.”

As for teaching about nature, she sees art as a vehicle for viewing nature with a more critical eye in route to understanding the science of it.

She likens it to studying a butterfly wing under a microscope, where the wing structure and the way it reflects light is brought into detail.

“I want people to see those things,” she says. “That’s really my goal.”

CONTACT MARTA CHURCHWELL with column ideas and comments at

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