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Opening up commissions soon!

Halloween 2015 Commission Info Coming Soon!
Halloween 2015 Commission Info Coming Soon!

Hello friends! I’m already getting quite a few requests for custom work for Halloween. On that note, I have good news and bad news:

* The bad news (just to get it out of the way) is that commission slots will be very limited this season. My apologies in advance, but I’m taking on several new commitments this fall, and I know that I’ll need to be protective of my health and sanity if I’m to accomplish all that I hope to!

* The GOOD news is that I’ll start accepting custom orders again very soon, and past customers will get first dibs on those commission slots. If we’ve worked together before – and especially if we have already discussed your idea – your project will have priority.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be posting more details soon!

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WIP – Lady of the Roses(?)

Lady of Roses leather mask
Lady of Roses leather mask

This piece is a work in progress. It’s a new iteration of my “Lady of the Leaves” design, which I usually create in either summer  or fall colors. She was inspired by the first blooms of spring.

When I shared this piece on my facebook fan page, and asked for suggestions for a name, “Lady of the Roses” was the one that I liked best. It fits well with the rest of the series … and I suppose that once she’s finished, I’ll need to create a “Lady of Winter” too.

 

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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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Throwback Thursday

I began making masks around 1991. My early masks were decorative wall hangings with elaborate bead and featherwork designs. During this same time period, I also began working with garment leather to create bags and purses. After a few years, I realized that I could fuse these interests to create *wearable* masks using leather bases. These masks are from the mid 90’s, and they show that transition from decorative to wearable.

It’s challenging to find pictures of my earlier pieces, since we were on the road for several years and simply didn’t take many photos. Even the masks that I made later (say late 90’s/early 2000’s) are not very well documented. Somewhere around here, I have floppy discs full of images… but my current computer doesn’t even have a slot for floppies! Likewise, I have slides floating around that I used to use to jury in to art shows (that’s how we did it back in the day 😉 but I have no idea where. I’ll keep an eye out for those, and share them if they ever crop up. It’s been fun to look back and notice how my work has changed and evolved over time.

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The Art of the Mask

© The Art of the Mask

I had the good fortune to meet Cyndy Salisbury of The Art of the Mask while vending at FaerieCon West this past weekend. Typically, I wouldn’t call it “good fortune” to have my booth directly beside that of another mask maker, but she is special. Not only does she do exceptional work, she seems like a genuinely kind and interesting person. I really enjoyed meeting her.

Cyndy’s masks are very labor intensive. She creates her own molds by creating life casts of her family members, and she uses these molds to create elaborate designs in paper mache. She has spent a good deal of time researching traditional Venetian mask making techniques, and the influence is very evident in her work.

© The Art of the Mask

Many of her masks look as though they came directly from Italy, while others suggest characters from Greek mythology. Other styles, like the “Autumn Winds” mask to the left, hint at her Northwest roots. This one is constructed with intricate layers upon layers of handcrafted paper leaves, blended with earthy feathers. The photos are nice, but they only scratch the surface — her masks are rich in detail, and absolutely stunning

During the event, Cyndy gave a demonstration on the life casting process. The workshop was very informative, and it really illustrated how much thought and effort goes in to her work. Her lighthearted banter with her son and husband helped to make it very entertaining as well.

© The Art of the Mask

I’ve never tried life casting, though I’ve always wanted to learn how it’s done. It looks like it will take a fair bit of experimentation to get it down, but I think it will really help me to improve my mask designs. With that said, I’m deeply grateful that she was so generous with her knowledge!

You can see more of Cyndy’s work at her Etsy shop, and you can also “like” her on facebook to keep up with her new work and upcoming shows.

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Vampire’s Masquerade Ball

one of my painted domino masks

We traveled down to Portland Oregon this weekend to vend at the 9th annual Vampire’s Masquerade Ball. It was a fabulous experience — despite the fact that I had a raging migraine the entire evening, we had a blast! The show’s producer, Lady Raven really goes all out to create an elegant event. Her careful planning and attention to detail are evident everywhere you turn.

The crowd was amazingly well dressed, colorful and friendly. I foolishly forgot to bring my good camera, so I’ve only got these blurry camera phone photos to share. Sorry about that, folks! Hopefully they at least hint at the elegant characters and vibrant costumes at this event.

 one of my “Fae” masks

Oh! And I got to meet my fellow Fae Team member, Susan Tooker (of Susan Tooker’s Spinning Castle). I have long admired her amazing jewelry and costume design skills, so it was a real treat to see them in person. I wish I’d taken a photo of her (the vampire pirate to the left is not Susan) but the aforementioned migraine really put a damper on my thinking/social skills. So,  for now you’ll miss out on photos of Susan as a dark and mysterious faerie queen; however, we had such a great time at this show that I hope to make it down for more Oregon costume events. Maybe I’ll get another chance to connect with her and share some photos on this blog — in the meantime, do check out her store link above. You will not be dissapointed!

red and black “Imp” mask

Another very talented artisan that I met at this event was Laura of Taken by the Sky. She creates exquisite corsets and fantasy clothing. In getting ready for this show, I realized that R & I are in desperate need of new costumes! When we quit smoking, we both gained an absurd amount of weight and nothing fits anymore … I am working on losing the extra pounds, but of course it’s a slow process. I think I will set aside money for one of her cutaway pirate dresses (or a fancy coat?) so that I can reward myself when I’ve made some progress toward weight loss goals.

“Cat” mask

As fate would have it, I was set up close to Cindy of Portland’s Mystique Artisan Gallery. She and I had traded a few emails before the show, to discuss whether my work would be a good fit for her gallery. Almost as soon as we met, we realized that it certainly seems like a good fit! Robb and I stopped by the gallery the next morning on our way out of town, to check out the space and deliver a selection of masks. She’s got a great eye for quality, and she represents some of the most talented mask artists in the US. I am thrilled to have my work included there, and I hope you’ll stop by and say hi if you ever find yourself in the Portland area!

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Evolution…

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I was recently searching through some old files, and I came across this picture (to the left) of one of my imp masks. It may be my original prototype, which I created around 2001.

The reason it caught my attention is that I still

create this style of mask today. The picture at the right shows the current version. I’ve made some minor modifications to the original pattern, such as lengthening the tips and horns, and rounding out the cheek area at the bottom – but for the most part, the pattern is still the same. I think the biggest changes are in the intangible factors, like time and skill.

In the 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making this particular styleof mask, I’ve honed my skills and learned better techniques for shaping and coloring. In addition, I’ve had the benefit of a few mistakes along the way, which have taught me which paints and sealants to use. It may not have felt “beneficial” at the time, but the knowledge has really helped me to improve the quality of my work.

I still have much to learn, and I view my work as a constant process of experimentation and evolution … which includes plenty of mistakes. Still, it’s nice to be able to look back and realize that I’ve made a bit of progress along the way. Here’s hoping that my work will continue to improve and evolve over time.
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FP Anyone?

 

Woot – my work was included in another treasury!

As much as I enjoy it when someone chooses to feature my work, I think that one of my favorite things about these treasuries is simply seeing how (and why) different people make their selections…
 Some of the treasuries that I’ve seen combine items that I’d never imagine together, but they totally work (like this one, which includes items found using the search term “wicked”). Others connect diverse works by using themes or colors.  
This treasury is in the latter group – the curator (Flahwiz) selected items done in soft lavender. I love her choices – the pieces in this collection blend and compliment each other nicely,but they still stand out as separate and unique works.

Thanks Flahwiz!  I really appreciate that you included my work, and I hope this act of consideration comes back to you tenfold.


 

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MASKerade Party Treasury on Etsy

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I’m always honored when someone includes my work in an Etsy treasury … and I’m especially thrilled with this one. The curator ( folkartbydonna ) has such a great eye!

All of the choices are whimsical, wonderful and inspiring. Check out that awesome birch bark mask, or the adorable Buho mask by ccaspia. I also fell in love with this Black Crow Farm print by the curator, Donna Atkins.

Once again, some really great stuff. I’m grateful to have my work included alongside these other artists. I say this every time, but it’s true — these treasuries always brighten my day 🙂

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Formative work

When I was little, I dreamed of being a professional artist like my father. I had this vision of myself as an artist (ahhtist?) — hair blowing in the wind, heart brimming with inspired, mystical energy that would move me create exclusive masterpieces in my large, brightly lit studio.

While that’s a lovely vision, it really doesn’t jive with my reality as a working artist. Putting food on the table via my craft means working as efficiently as possible. It means being disciplined and working every day (even when I’m not particularly “inspired”). It means balancing creative time with administrative time — and it means doing some degree of production work.

When I started selling my handwork, the mere mention of production work bothered me. I dislike repetition and the idea of assembly line art. “Producing” seemed counter to “creating”.

My dad had a different take. Rather than production work, he viewed it as formative work. He saw value in those little projects, and the way that repetition hones your skills.
As I grow older, I realize how much I agree with him.

Many of my simple designs remain popular — but I still enjoy (and learn from) creating them. Each time I make one, it calls me to focus on shape, color and detail. It challenges me to improve my existing ideas, and to explore new lines that are more graceful or expressive. This study, these skills become the building blocks (and often the inspiration) for my larger/more involved work.

I’d love to tell you that every time I sit down to my workbench, a brand new design masterpiece just leaps off the table — but that’s not how it works. For me, “inspiration” is most often a gradual process that evolves from simple (and consistent) work.

When I was a kid, I imagined that this lifestyle would be far more glamorous than it is. What I could not have imagined, is how much satisfaction I would find in the ‘boring’ parts ;o)


This is a sample of what my worktable looks like right now:

(okay — my worktable isn’t really this tidy, but it *is* piled with masks!).

At any given time, I usually have several masks & crowns in various stages of completion. The ones shown have been sculpted & painted with a base coat; they’re now awaiting finishing details like accent colors, glitter, beadwork & feathers.