The Contessa's Confidant
I use the phrase a lot, no excuses. I feel like it's time to explain what I mean by that. I feel like it sounds... aggressive. Like I'm saying it to you. No excuses! But I'm not. I'm saying it to myself. I realized at a certain point that there were a lot of reasons NOT to work on my art. Life, kids, medical conditions. It was really easy to put off prioritizing my art, and if I let those reasons get in the way... I would put it off forever. So I made the conscious decision to stop finding the excuses not to make art and to just do it. That's where the 100 Days and 365 Days of Arts & Sciences comes in. Even if it's only 10 minutes a day (though so far, not a single day has been only 10 minutes!) I'm going to work on my art every day. I'm making it a priority. Any time I start to think, oh I'm tired, my back hurts, dishes still need to be done... I stop my self. Say "No Excuses" and just do it. There will always be reasons not to, it was time for me to find the reasons TO do it. I don't know that this mentality will work for everyone, but it's working for me. If it helps you too, then awesome! We all have to find what motivates us to be our best selves.
One of the questions I get most often is, "How do you make a mask?" On seeing them, some people don't realize that masks are made of leather. A lot of people think I use some kind of mold, or form. I don't, I often rest them on a Styrofoam head to dry, but just so they stay the way I formed them. Some designs I can let dry just standing up on my desk.
It can be a long process to explain, and I don't think the list really helps people picture it, so I've created a time lapse video of the whole process, start to finish. (The one step I don't show is spraying it with sealant, since I do that outside.)
The steps I go through are as follows:
• take a piece of 6-7 oz vegtan leather and soak it in cool water.
•dry off the leather so it's not dripping
•trace the pattern onto the leather
•cut out the mask
•carve the design into the mask
•round of the edges of the leather on the front and back (there is an edging tool for pieces with a simpler outline, but since it doesn't fit in between the feathers of the wings, I just use my Xacto blade for the whole thing. Also, I normally do this step before the carving, but making the video made me a little nervous so I did it out of order.)
•mold the mask into the desired shape
•set the mask to dry, usually overnight.
•dye the mask
•paint the mask, with multiple coats
•sign the mask
•(this is when I would seal the mask, not shown in the video)
•cut ribbons, melting the ends to prevent fraying
•The mask is finished!
I hope you enjoyed our video! If you have any questions or comments, we'd love to hear them. If you have an ideas for future blog posts, we'd love to hear that too!
One of the most common things I hear from disappointed would-be customers is “I can’t wear masks, I have glasses.” I completely understand this obstacle. I wear contacts myself, but there have been times when I was stuck with my glasses for a while and faced the same dilemma. Without my glasses, I can’t see more than foot away from my face. Just taking them off is not an option.
What made me first tackle the problem of masks and glasses, however, was my oldest son, T. He’s 6 now, and he’s had glasses since he was 4. He loves that I make masks. He’s been trying to “help” since he was 2, he’s made some very cool leather projects of his own, and he’s always giving me ideas for new designs. (His most recent idea is a zombie head with lanterns coming out of its ears.) He tells me he wants to make masks for people when he grows up. So how could I not find a way for him to be able to wear masks of his own?
What I discovered after various trials is that there are a multitude of ways to work around glasses: work the glasses over the mask, under the mask, have the mask around the glasses, even building prescription lenses into the mask itself! The way in which I would handle working with the glasses would depend entirely on the design, but it’s really exciting to me to be able to know there are options. Glasses don’t have to define your costume or your cosplay or your garb. Finding creative solutions is one of my favorite parts of the art making process, and I look forward to more opportunities to bring these creative visions to life.
One of my most popular designs, especially when seen in person, is my Wayfarer mask. This is the style that was voted on and will be given away on December 1st. (See our facebook page for details!) So, for my first blog post, I thought you all might like to know how this mask came to be.
5 years ago, a group of my friends embarked on an adventure. They decided to use their love of the classic quest adventure, and medieval fantasy to do good, and they called themselves the Wayfarers. They raised funds and awareness for cancer research, and in return, walked 500 miles through Ireland and Scotland while wearing medieval garb. As with all great quests, there were some unexpected mishaps, but in September of 2012 they walked their 500 miles and raised $17,000 in the process. It was such an exciting undertaking. I raised funds and spread the word about their work, but once it was over I wanted to find a way to commemorate their journey with my art.
So, I created the Wayfarer Mask. A brown leather mask with a hand carved map featuring the parts of Ireland and Scotland where they originally planned their expedition. The hand drawn look of the map was important to me. I wanted the mask to evoke a sense of adventure and mystery. Even though my hand cramps up every time I have to carve all those lakes and rivers, I still love making it. The dye is two colors of antiquing gel, to give it that aged monochrome look, while still letting the continents pop out from the ocean. The second dye is carefully brushed on with a small brush, going around each cove and peninsula, filling in each lake. A compass went perfectly with the design, it is a focal point, and a bit of brightness with the brass and copper colors I just love against the warm brown. More than that, however, it was a symbol of the Wayfarers, and it's a symbol I've always been drawn to. To me, it says that excitement and the unknown are coming. If you have a compass, you are ready for an adventure to begin!