I started on my journey to making masks when i was really quite young and my first one was a piece of jewellery which i made from FIMO clay, I’d never have guessed in a million years that i’d be making masks now, many moons later.
When I was maybe around 8 or 9, I used to visit this amazing little shop in Morningside, Edinburgh called ‘Scaramouche’ which I fell in love with, I didn’t know who or what it’s name meant but just loved the way it tripped off the tongue, the air of mystery it held for me and the fact it was the name of a tiny little art supply shop was enough for me. I used to spend as long as I could in there and would buy letraset to label all my mix-tapes and they had an amazing range of inks which i used with my dad’s calligraphy nibs and pen set to write letters , yes write letters lol, and keep my diary. Throughout my early teen years i had a newspaper round to feed my art habit and spent everything I earned in there… on sketch pads, pencils and putty erasers for sketching anything & everything; and for painting i just loved poster paints and little pots of enamel. Immersing myself in anything to do with art I fell in love with how Disney made their cels and wanted to do that, then I went to a careers seminar in 2nd year and decided I wanted to be a graphic designer, however the closest i got to that was creating posters for Edinburgh Youth Theatre productions in my late teens and chalking those funky blackboards in bars and clubs all around Edinburgh.
Anyway, I discovered FIMO in Scaramouche. It was a totally new innovation for me, a colourful modelling material that wasn’t as messy as clay? (particularly important when working on the dining room table, I’m sure many can relate to that) and I started making jewellery. I had a couple of books I’d got for Christmas one year: one was how to work with clay, making little buildings with thatched roofs created by squeezing clay through a sieve, a particular favourite, 3d relief tiles etc, the other was about making crafts and i remember particularly making felt brooches stuffed with kapok (which my mother being a keen seamstress who made stuffed knitted dolls, had in abundance) I made a peach and a pair of cherries, I thought I was the coolest with one of these on my denim jacket… now I recall them i did really love them. Anyway, these two books provided me with the introduction to making lots of different things from different materials, possibly the reason why I don’t settle for just choosing one discipline or favour using one type of material in my work today.
So, my first foray into FIMO jewellery was two mask brooches, I don’t know where the inspiration for them came from. There was a full face volto and a columbine half face mask with diamante detailing. I still have one of them and i’m sure the other is kicking around somewhere too. Obviously I didn’t know that’s what type of masks they were back then. Not quite ‘black & white era but certainly pre-internet. Strange to think that when i was making my little FIMO masks, the traditional method of making masks in Venice resurgence was also starting to take hold.
After many years of working in ‘proper’ jobs as my mother called them, i took a course in modelmaking at Glasgow College of Building and Printing, securing a job as an architectural modelmaker shortly after, before slowly working my way back to being creative in my own right. Learning to use various industry tools such as a cnc cutter to cut signs for Glasgow Central Station, learning automata to help produce a salmon leap interactive model for Pitlochry visitor centre and a laser cutter to cut pretty much any shape for architectural detail or little model kits for TGauge model railways.
A few years ago I started making jewellery from Swarovski elements pearls & crystals and semi precious stones with sterling silver findings and following a conversation with my sister who’s supported me forever she remarked that i perhaps ‘spread myself too thinly’ lol so I switched focus one more time…to incorporate everything into one discipline …and that is mask making. I can use all of my skills/techniques and artistic creativity to create something original and unique for the discerning art lover and i can quite honestly say that it’s been a journey and a half getting here but i hope to continue my artistic travels and instead of documenting my thoughts and ideas in a scrappy notebook here and there with no discernible system to them whatsoever i thought i’d do it here, where my work is now collated and available for sale.
I’m not saying that i’ll only be making masks for the foreseeable future as i have a few ideas up my sleeve for projects that are in my Mr Magorium Emporium realm but not strictly contained within the masquerade room. 😉
Next time i’ll be talking about my inspiration and where it comes from, and so i don’t forget I had a couple of dreams recently that paused in the middle for me to mentally photograph, they were so vivid and I think they may become future paintings…watch this space, or don’t, it’s entirely up to you if you’re interested in reading the ramblings of a fairly eccentric mask artist and maker. Hopefully I demonstrate that it’s never too late to be arty or creative even if you’ve not done it for a while and if I can inspire one person to pick up a pencil, a paintbrush, some ink or modelling clay I’m a happy bunny. Who knows that little doodle you do today could be shaping you up for the rest of your life, even if you don’t know it yet.
Stay creative, always!