Thursday, 2 October 2014

Take a Deep Breath......

I can't believe that I actually first set up my  Etsy account back in 2010!  I had  loads of enthusiasm, plans and  such good intentions to sell my masks online. Then doubts started to creep in and I managed to conjure up reason after reason why I couldn't put anything on there just yet... a feeling I'm sure many people can understand. And so next week,  turned to next month, turned to 4 years later! Then that moment came when I understood  I had to step back and take a good, hard look at why I just could not take the plunge.

And of course, as it so often is, I realised I was afraid.  Over the years I've mainly sold my masks through chance meetings with people, through exhibitions and to friends and family. People who could see my creations in the flesh, touch them, explore them, and I find that a rewarding and very inspiring experience. I also sold a few via the internet. These were more often individually commissioned pieces, for a wedding, for a masquerade, for a photo shoot perhaps. But I found that a wholly different experience, always very stressful and full of worry! It seemed to just trigger all those feeling of self-doubt about my art that I try and keep neatly tucked away. To be honest I didn't find it a remotely enjoyable experience even though the people who I had created pieces for were always so kind and thankfully very happy with their masks!

                                                Requiem- Private commission

I just didn't feel comfortable about people buying what they couldn't actually see for real. I am also very aware that compared to many artists I create very few pieces. Sometimes people must be wondering what I'm doing with my time as months pass by and I have nothing new to share. Well this is mainly due to the fact that my mask-making is fitted around my full-time job. However it is also because over time it has become more natural for me to allow the masks that want to be made to find me, rather than thinking, well maybe I could make this mask or that mask now because that would probably be popular and sell. The scarcity of time I have to devote to them has made the choice of the mask I give those precious hours to far more important and personal than it has ever been before.

I've come up with all sorts of plans to make my work more accessible. Creating masks that I can more easily reproduce if people want them. I quickly got very bored and frustrated with that :-/ For me, once I have made a mask and solved all the problems that come up in the creation of that piece I want to take those new skills onto the next new piece. I love challenge and pushing myself ever onward! I got irritated remaking work, it made me feel as if I were standing still and took the pleasure and excitement out of creation and those are the things that fuel my mask-making passion. I love the journey, the exploration the surprise of each fresh new mask I make :-) I've tried creating simpler pieces to reduce the time spent on each one. That didn't work for me either. I experimented with other materials that again would reduce time, meaning I could create more work. No joy :-/  For me personally, nothing could beat the versatility and possibilities of working with paper. My plans always came to nothing and I eventually admitted to myself that I had to concentrate on what felt right for me, and so that place is where my masks all spring from now ;-)

Along with everything else, I also realised that it was becoming more difficult for me to part with the masks I was making, They have become more intensely personal. I want to keep them close, to work with them  and see what they could tell me or teach me. But the projects I am working on now or are to come are getting ever more ambitions, complex and in many cases larger and I have only so much limited space in which to keep my work. So I became very aware earlier this year that I really would have to offer some of my previous pieces for sale. Not an easy decision especially as I realised that the most practical way to do that was via Etsy... so back to the scary realms of long distance selling, that I had run away from for so long!

 Decision made, it still wasn't easy, but I was actually helped by one of the masks I was working on. "The Storyteller" was proving to be a much more complex piece than I had thought and I needed to create all sorts of different parts for her. I made leaves with eyes and eyed leaf moths! I was so thrilled to get such good reactions to these that I was inspired to turn some of them into brooches! This then began nudging me gently towards Etsy again and so I understood it was now time to finally take a deep breath face down all that self doubt and set up my Etsy shop for real! So it's all done and come Saturday I'm on leave from work for a week so no excuses and plenty of time to begin putting up pieces for sale :-)

 I know that this may seem a very long and waffling post but I hope it explains me and my work a little more :-)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Of Woods & Water

Out in the wilder places there is always a sense of peace and the time to find yourself a little more. For me it has always been woods and forests that have the strongest pull. Last week Chris and I decided to go and explore Centurions Copse near Brading. It's a small but very precious piece of ancient woodland. It is also a place of mystery and folklore with many stories whispered amongst it's darkling trees. It's name seems to have nothing to do with romans but appears to comes from the fact that once long ago there was a chapel within the woods dedicated to St Urians... a name which to me conjures up Arthurian tales (minus the saint bit of course ;-) )  Yet there is no record of a St Urians so even that appears to be a name lost and distorted as it passed down the centuries. My mind always leads me to wonder what was at this place before the chapel.
 This is a little piece of woodland that holds within it tales of drowned villages, mass slaughter, ghostly monks and sacred wells. You can read a little more here

To reach the woods you can walk through the very beautiful Brading Marshes, the only RSPB managed nature reserve on the Island. We had never been there before and it was the most wonderful treat, it's a place so full of life! I don't think I have ever seen so many butterflies before, the air seemed full of their dancing bodies as well as striking yellow, gold dragonflies. Marsh Harriers are nesting here for the first time this year, a most handsome bird of prey and we were so honoured to see one sweeping gracefully back and forth across the sky and dipping so close at one point that as he turned I looked straight into his eye! Swifts swooped and dived catching tiny flies and other insects. A majestic Egret flew slowly past, a snow white cloud in a blazing azure sky. Sadly my little camera was not up to catching such sights but I hope these photos share a little of the beauty of our journey :-) 

The narrow footpath wove it's way through swaths of gently blown grasses and green rushes

Across a little wooden bridge, we were rather tentatively greeted by a small flotilla of ducks

The river Yar wearing her green gown of Water Lillies. We must try and get to see her when they are all in flower, it must be the most spectacular slight.

 There were masses of these gorgeous purple flowers all along the river bank. I think it is Tufted Vetch.

As you get nearer the woods, you follow water all the way. We accidently startled moorhen chicks and ducks along the way, they would plop into the streams with splash a little squawk of panic. There are parts where the trees look as if they are part of an ancient mangrove swamp!

Then the ancient wood is suddenly upon you, though the path that leads in does not seem often travelled. We passed through head-high bracken and stinging nettles.

The entrance to the woodland was watched over by one of the biggest and healthiest looking Ash trees we'd ever seen. I tried to take a picture but sadly the sun was just too bright and the photo too bleached out. It was so sweet to come out of the hot sun into this refreshing, soothing, dappled shade.

Following the small ever winding path, we were flanked on both sides by dense clusters of obviously very old pollarded Hazels. The trees and undergrowth so dense that though tempted from the path it was impossible to walk deeper into the woods.

There were a few less overgrown areas where the hazels thinned a little. This old Oak stood handsomely bedecked in his ivy green cloak.

As I photographed this shower of tiny star flowers we were enchanted by the song of a Skylark.

Then we came upon these beautiful and delicate wild roses, which filled the warm air with the most intoxicating scent.

 We found a little spot to picnic, and from there we could see the work being done to try and create more corridors of native trees and join some of the little pockets of woods scattered around the area, which will be very good news especially for the red squirrels that live here.

Then a slow wander homewards, though it was difficult to say goodbye.

One last look.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Isle of Arts exhibition 2014

I was very happy to be invited to exhibit some of my masks as part of the Arts Trail during this years Isle of Arts Festival held in Ventnor Isle of Wight. My masks are on display along with a work by other local artists,  at the main Arts Trail venue at the Youth Centre hall in Ventnor. The exhibitions runs from Tuesday 29th April until Saturday 10th May and the venue is open daily from 12.00-4.00pm.

I hung my pieces yesterday and grabbed a few pictures, they are not too great as my little camera was a bit fussy about the lighting but they are fine as a record for me :)

Visions in Blue. Winter. The Countess. The Lovers. Dark Angel

The Pale Queen (large mask). Nightshade. Bleeding Hearts. Absinthe

Visions in Blue


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Journey to an Unknown Region.

I hadn't really realised how long it's been since I last posted. There has been a lot going on in my life over the past months, some  very wonderful,which I meant to post about but didn't ( I may catch up with that later :) ) Some very stressful but I definitely won't bother sharing that!  From the beginning I had planned to keep this blog  purely for my masks and what inspires and drives me in their creation. Certainly for a few months leading towards the end of last year my masks had been left quietly waiting. Watching for the time to be right for me be able to come back to them with a fresh mind and renewed energy.

With the new year  and certain changes finally happening, I felt re-inspired, excited about the ideas and plans that were flooding my mind. So I turned back to "The Storyteller" once again to see where she wanted to take me :) Well she's proved to be one of the most complex masks I've made! I never guessed how many new skills she would demand of me. To say she is a mask of many parts would be rather an understatement. She is leading me on a long, demanding and often frustrating journey and I admit there are times when I feel I will never finish her! But I realise now that she is a beginning, a catalyst of other things for me and I  feel ready to share a little. So here we go! Most folk who know me, know my love for and interest in folktales, fairy tales, myths and legends. They are an essential part of my life, their influence weaving in and out. I have a  such passion for stories and for the importance of stories and their sharing. Storytelling is a powerful art that has carried our wisdom, knowledge and understanding of ourselves, of  life, nature, spirituality, throughout the centuries. I've long had a desire to be like those wonderful individuals who can transport people to other worlds through the power of story. This is of course traditional Oral Storytelling, I speaking of, not reading out loud from books (though that is of course a very valuable gift to share). With my masks I hope and it is certainly  always my intention to tell a story, though a silent one I admit. To open up doorways and  give people a glimpse of the world seen in a different way. Yet always there has been this yearning to be able to stand up and tell a tale to an audience. It is a wonderful thing to see and experience a group of people entranced and utterly caught up in a true Storytellers words. They are taken on a journey and lose or perhaps even find themselves during that journey, a time when nothing seems to exist except the story!

Well, there are dreams and there are realising that however unlikely it might seem to those who know you ;) The idea of getting up in front of an audience and becoming the focus of attention is just too terrifying and intimidating to contemplate.Difficult I know for some people to believe, but I'm actually a shy person and it's just not something I could even imagine myself being able to do. So it was a dream left to just brood in a corner, but it never left me. Then a year or so ago Chris and me went to an evening of Grimm Fairy tale retellings. Once again he storytelling bug bit hard and then very shortly after that "The Storyteller" mask appeared in my life. With her came the realisation that though I might not be brave enough to tell stories, she was obviously born to do so..:) So she began to come to life. From the beginning I knew she was a very complete being and that for the first time ever I would make not only the mask but the full costume to go with it (rather ambitious seeing as my sewing experience consists of hemming the odd throw or bedspread!)And slowly, oh so slowly she is coming together and I am moving nearer to trying something I never believed I'd be able to. I've been teaching myself, trying to learn by heart  some of those tales I wish to share. Speaking them out load whenever I am alone and later this year I hope to go on a short Storytelling Workshop. It's very exciting, very scary and very new to me but as I always say I am rather fond of a challenge ;) So finally it seems my masks or at least one of them will have a voice and I shall share it with her :))

 Mulberry paper & wire leaves: Oak, Hawthorn, Beech & Hazel leaves waiting to be painted. Watercolour paper, ivy  leaves: waiting to have stems added.

Hand-painted glass eyes. Experimenting with making these as some of the leaves above will have eyes, capturing I hope that  magical feeling that everything seems to be watching you as you wander through the woods. The largest  here are 20mm, the smaller ones 16mm. The top one is the very first one I painted, the large red one was my second attempt, I'm now addicted to painting these and hope to make up some eye necklaces as well :)

Thursday, 10 October 2013

"Visions in Blue" part 2

Finally managed to get that photo session done and once again, Chris's beautiful photography has captured the true spirit of  the piece :) Only when worn does a mask truly come to life!

Visions In Blue

"Face in the window in the night


Caught for a second by the light

Ashes of memories still aglow
only for you

Portraits and pictures you once saw

 Visions in blue"

Lyrics from "Visions in Blue" by Ultravox
Photographs: Chris Dean
Mask & Model: Tanith Hicks
Inspiration: Ultravox :)

Sunday, 11 August 2013

"Visions in Blue" part 1

So here she is at last! I wish I could post larger pictures so  the details and textures could be better seen. Also the subtleties and complexities of the colours are a little lost, but that's my camera I'm afraid. Me and Chris will be doing a photo shoot of her together as soon as we can make the time :)

  Visions in Blue

I still remember the first time I heard the Ultravox track "Visions in Blue", I was so struck by the wonderful imagery conjured up by the very beautiful and evocative lyrics, and the gorgeously lush and haunting music. I have wanted for many years now to create a mask capturing the thoughts and feelings that this track inspires, but have never been able to do it, she just always seemed to remain very elusive. I think I needed those years to come to understand that rich tapestry of sadness, fear, lost loves, disappointment and self-doubt.,that intertwine with the joys, love, beauty, wonder and delight  that make a life what it is. All combine to create the bitter-sweet pleasure of memories. Near the end of last year everything just seem to come together at last for this mask, ideas came thick and fast and I realised that I was actually finally going to be able to make her !!!

From the beginning I never intended for her to be a  literal interpretation of the lyrics of the song. She was more about how the song made me feel personally and she has in fact turned out to be  probably the most intensely personal mask I've ever far.  Everything within the design of the mask does have a meaning, nothing is just, well, purely for decoration as it were. Really the whole piece is about memories about fragility, loss and the passing of time. I wanted her to have an almost ethereal, dreamlike quality. As the nature of memory is itself.  The imagery I've used, spider's web, moths, dog roses, pearls etc is all symbolic. I had intended to delve into the symbolism a bit here but now I'm not so sure if it's useful to sort of dissect her. Perhaps it is just better to let the piece speak for herself .

Although she is a piece that perhaps is inherently sad I had such pleasure creating her. She's one of the most intense masks I've ever worked on and she is also a mask that I'm very proud of. That is a rarity for me, because usually once a piece is finished and the usual excitement is over I just tend to see only the faults of the piece and what I feel I should have done differently. But not so with her, she is as she should be and that makes me very happy that I could justice to such a profound and beautiful piece of music :)


Mask: Paper, wire, string, Kozo fibre, paper clay, glass beads, faux pearl trim,  acrylic paints, crackle-glaze.
Moths: Model Magic,  mulberry tissue, wire, acrylic paint.
If you are interested in discovering more about the actual making of this mask, then please just click on the links below and take a look at  my previous posts which give a little more insight:)
EDIT : A number of people have asked if I will be offering this mask for sale. I will be, but I'm really hoping to be able to do something rather special with her. Keeping everything crossed that I can put my plan into action! Watch this space, is all I can really say for the time being.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The thorny road to journey's end.

I've realised that when I'm very close to finishing a mask I will find every possible excuse to be doing something else! That's not something that happens when I'm working my way through a piece. Even when I come up against difficulties and problems during the creation of a mask, I will stick with it through thick and thin, no mater how crazy it's making me! I love that challenge and I wouldn't run away from it :)  Even when I'm having to do something for the piece that is rather repetitive and boring, again I'll keep going with it. But when it comes to that time, when there are only a couple of small things to do to complete the piece, well I find that so, so difficult!

I feel I understand some of the reasons though. I know the finished piece will never come up to my expectations, will never fit the image of it in my imagination. So there will always be a strong sense of disappointment mixed with the feelings I have for what I have managed to achieve. Then there is that strange feeling of loss I experience when I realise that there is really no more I can do for a piece. When you have to let a it go (and I'm not talking about selling or gifting), just that moment when you have to stop and say 'that's it, it's done'.

Take as an example 'Visions I Blue', as she is the mask I cannot break with at the moment. She and I have shared a long and eventful journey together, and it just feels so difficult to say any sort of goodbye. She has been one of the most intensely personal masks I've ever created and she has taught me so much during our time together, both on an emotional level and on a more practical creative level. She's really quite different from previous large masks I've worked on. I've used and devised so many new techniques in her creation. She's been a real turning point in how I will make future masks and that seems to be making even more difficult for me to part with her than it has been before. She and I have been such close companions for so many months, it's not easy to feel her moving away from me.

There is still a photo shoot to do, and that is always fascinating, as actually wearing the mask will I know give me a whole new insight into her and the stories she has to share. But right now I feel rather sad and a little lost. I know it will pass, it always does because there are always other masks that want to be made. "The Storyteller" has been waiting very patiently in the wings as it were, for me to take her up again and we will begin a new journey together very soon, with no idea of the adventures we may share together. But for now I know I must just get my head down, get on with it, prepare to say my farewells and finally finish my "Visions"!