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Feathered Moth Mask in Earth Tones

Leather moth mask with feather work accents

Here’s another recent commission for a feathered moth mask. It went to a repeat client (thank you, I appreciate you!) who already owns a similar mask that I made in olive green. She wanted this one to have more of a steampunk vibe, with rich browns, metallic golds and coppers, and just a bit of green. It’s the first time that I’ve created one of these masks in these hues, and I really like it! Even more importantly, my customer was very happy with it.

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Halloween Ordering Info 2016 (or “he who hesitates is lost”)

leather masks in progress
leather masks in progress

As this photo suggests, I’m already up to my elbows in Halloween prep! I’ve had several requests for custom costumes, so it seems like a good time to let everyone know that commission spots will be very limited this year. Like, extremely limited. So if you’re hoping to have something made from scratch to your specifications, you should definitely contact me soon! To order a one of a kind costume piece, please visit the “Custom Work” section of my website, and fill out the inquiry form there. This form outlines the info that I’ll need in order to understand your project, and it will really streamline the process for both of us. My commission spots fill up quickly, so please don’t put this off!

If you’re simply hoping to have one of my existing designs painted in your colors, I can usually be a bit more flexible. My turn around time for these types of orders is generally around two weeks before shipping, though that wait time gets longer the closer we get to Halloween. You can check out my “Made to Order” section to find mask styles that can be made in your choice of colors.

If you’re in a hurry, please visit my “Ready to Ship” section, for a selection of masks that are in stock and ready to ship quickly. 

Last but not least, I’ll be adding a small selection of unique, one of a kind masks and costume accessories this year. Keep an eye on my website, as well as my Facebook fan page, in order to see these pieces as they’re added.

And just to reiterate: Halloween commissions will be very limited this year. If you’d like a custom costume, now’s the time to get in touch. Please don’t be one of those silly people who contacts me three days (or even 3 weeks) before Halloween in hopes of commissioning a one of a kind piece!

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Artchain Day 1

Arthchain Day 1 – I was nominated to post an item of artwork a day for 5 days (and to nominate others…).

These are some of the oldest masks that I can find photos of (though they were made a few years into my mask making journey) and they’re quite different from what I’m doing now. They used a lot more of the intricate featherwork, and though none of these really show it, but I used to incorporate a lot of detailed beadwork and gemstones too. They were made while my family and I were doing the pow wow circuit, and each one told a story about the people and places we encountered along the way. These would have been mid 90’s – just as I was transitioning from wallhanging/art masks, to wearable art masks.

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Featured Artist – Aaron Silverman

Aaron Silverman of Silverman Workshop is a fellow mask maker. He was one of the winners in the recent “Mask of Death” contest over at the Leather Mask Art group on Deviantart; his entry is shown below:

Bog Mummy by Silverman Workshop
Bog Mummy by Silverman Workshop

In his own words: ‘I chose to model my mask after a picture I saw of a bog mummy named, “Tollund Man”. It amazed me how well his face was preserved! He looks as if he just laid down and fell asleep. I can even see ancient stubble that grew on his face. Because of his remarkable preservation in a Danish bog I would consider his face a mask of death.’

When asked for a bio, Aaron said “I’m not professional by any stretch of the imagination. I mainly just consider myself a tinkerer of sorts. I think since I’ve started about 2ish years ago I’ve really been trying to find a style of my own. Emotion is really what I’ve been wanting to convey in my mask making. Like the one I made for the contest and I made another like it a while back called the crying mask.

Really though, my collection of mask styles have been pretty diverse. I was enjoying making Mardi Gras or carnival masks just because they are outlandishly decorated and historically rich.

So yeah besides that I’m very much a hobbyist, though I’m not one to turn down a commission.”

I’ve just liked his facebook page, and I hope you’ll do the same. Between his innate talent and his willingness to explore and take risks with his work, it’ll be fun to watch him develop his style and skills. On that note, please enjoy these images of Aaron’s work:

The Crying Mask by Silverman Workshop
The Crying Mask by Silverman Workshop

He posted a very cool back story on this piece over on his DA page.

Royal Jester by Silverman Worksho
Royal Jester by Silverman Workshop

 

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Questions for the mask making community

A recent bout with copycats made me realize how many other artisans struggle with this issue. While it may seem like a personal problem, I think the long term effects are problematic for the whole community. Hopefully, prompting a discussion can also prompt solutions …

In the last few years, leather mask making has become wildly popular. What was once a fairly obscure craft is now a rapidly growing niche, with an abundance of newcomers. It’s great for the art form – new blood brings fresh ideas and energy, and established artists can pass along their techniques, ensuring that they won’t be lost over time. What’s not so great is that many hobbyists aren’t taking time to develop their own style before they start selling. Instead, they replicate established artisans’ work and sell the copies at discount rates alongside the originals. This practice is counter to the spirit of good craftsmanship, and it’s damaging to everyone involved: A flooded market decreases uniqueness, quality and value, and it confuses customers. Experienced artists are forced to compete with low quality copies of their own work (often priced at or below wholesale) and the copycats barely get paid for their materials, let alone their time.

I’m really feeling the impact of this and sadly, I’m not alone. Some mask artisans no longer show their work online, while others have simply given up the craft in frustration. It’s hard to feel excited or inspired when your ideas and livelihood are copied before you’re finished exploring them. That may sound like a whole lot of whining, but really does go deeper than that. When talented artists stop showing their work or leave the field completely, it’s a loss for the whole community. While experienced artists are giving up, there’s an incoming crop of artisans that aren’t actually learning to create. They’re hungry for (and sometimes demanding) free tutorials and patterns, yet they seem afraid to experiment on their own. A critical facet of creativity is being willing to take risks and make mistakes. How will the art form grow if everyone just plays it safe and regurgitates what’s already been done?

Let me clarify that I’m not hating on beginners. We all start somewhere. Some of the newer mask makers are creating outstanding work. They’ve used tutorials as a springboard for their own ideas, with innovative, high quality results. What’s more, they acknowledge their teachers, graciously showing appreciation and building community. With this mutually supportive approach, artisans of varying experience can build each other up and expand the art form. And why not? There’s enough room at the table for everyone, as long as we’re all being authentic and respectful. If you’re a mask maker, you’ve probably made (or will make) a dragon, skull, fairy, cat, owl, wolf or Anubis mask at some point in your career. This overlap is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be a problem if each artist is exploring these themes using their own vision and style.

So if you’re still with me, here are my questions:
How do we foster a healthier community?
Is it possible to share while still maintaining good boundaries?
Is there a way to teach skills and techniques, while also teaching ethics and craftsmanship?
How can we encourage people to refine their skills and personal style before jumping into the market? Likewise, can we encourage respectful competition?

Please forgive the length, and know that I’m not out to preach or put anyone down. I’m sticking my neck out here in an attempt to spark discussion and positive change.

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Peacock Moth Mask v6

© 2014 Andrea Adams

This is the 6th version in this series of masks since 2009. Each one is a bit different, but they’re all made from the same pattern. This one is a gorgeous electric blue, accented with peacock, parrot and pheasant feathers in shades of blue, green and bronze. At the forehead is a shimmering green beetle wing, set in a bezel of glass seed beads.

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Day of the Deadheads V2

“Day of the Deadheads” leather mask © Andrea Adams 2013

I haven’t been doing much custom work lately. I’ll probably start accepting commissions again in late spring or early summer; but for the time being, I’m trying to focus on some larger creative projects of my own. As such, I am guarding my studio time preciously, and seriously limiting the number of custom orders I accept.

With that being said, here’s a recent custom piece. It’s the second variation on my “Day of the Deadheads” mask. A fun little pun, made especially for an old friend from back in the day 🙂

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Thank You!

Sugar skull fascinator © Andrea Adams 2012

Whew! Another Halloween has come and gone, and man was it a whirlwind. I had a lot of fun, and met some truly amazing people. For whatever reason, “serendipity” seems to be the keyword in my transactions this season, which makes me incredibly happy.

I have been doing this for many years now, but I still learn something new each time around. This year had quite a few lessons, and there are several things that I intend to do differently — hopefully, better — next year; but overall, it was quite a successful Halloween. Many, many thanks to my fabulous customers for that!

Entries for my annual costume contest are due tomorrow. If you haven’t already submitted a photo, please send it soon! I’m excited to see everyone’s costumes, and to be able to give a little something back (the winner gets a $50 credit at my Etsy shop)