Leave cotton candy to its own devices for a while, and the thin strands of pure sugar and food coloring implode in on themselves, leaving a crusty residue that can be either very delicate or extremely tough. This process fascinates Dutch designer Martijntje Cornelia, who harnesses the material for a unique type of jewelry.
"Before a piece of cotton candy reaches its solid state I place them in a special environment," Cornelia tells The Creators Project. This process takes the form of public cotton candy installations. She's left the decorative dessert in parks, hung a sculpture of the stuff from a bridge, and even made a fluffy pink suit to walk around in. Each take on cotton candy art affects the final product. "Literally every minute can give another dimension to the substance. When you expose cotton candy to the surroundings, like air and humidity, it will transform from its fluffy shape to a flexible and soft substance. After that, a piece of cotton candy remains that can vary from fragile to robust. It totally depends on the environment you expose the cotton candy to."
Cornelia picks out the most aesthetically-pleasing bits of residue, embeds them with resin, then mounts them on clear plastic rings. Unlike diamonds, rubies, and other "traditional" gemstones, her work changes shape and color as time goes on. It's both a challenging and rewarding medium. "It sometimes feels like an eternal fight with the material, but because I experiment a lot and let the material lead me it made me patient," she says. "For example a piece of cotton candy can break as easily as ceramic or glass when you drop it. Although this sounds like a shortcoming I don't avoid this 'problem,' I actually see it as the basics of my concept... I would like people to embrace the instable character of my jewelry. I would like people to understand the changeable character as something positive instead of something negative."
After two years of research, she recently developed her first round of finished cotton candy rings, just in time to exhibit them at this year's Dutch Design Week and SIERAAD, an international jewelry design fair. Cornelia hopes that people embrace this reimagined version of cotton candy as much as she has, and has a few words of reassurance for those who have been burned by Ring Pops, and other jewelry-based confectionary in the past: "No, people will not get sticky hands anymore from wearing my jewelry."